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How to Get Published in Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy
My field research paper on breaking into print in the young adult sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Before a writer can write science fiction or fantasy, he must know what each entails. Berthe Amoss and Eric Suben explain in their book Ten Steps to Publishing Children's Books that science fiction and fantasy do differ but are often grouped together "because they are not of this world."1 Science fiction portrays more futuristic concepts, worlds, and technology. Fantasy deals with According to Daniel Darigan, Michael Tunnel, and James Jacobs in their book Children's Literature fantasy must contain at least one of the six basic motifsÂÂÂÂÂ- magic, other worlds, good versus evil, heroism and the hero's quest, special character types, and fantastic objects.2 Many current books contain both science fiction and fantasy elements creating science fantasy.
Once a writer has a grasp of what young adult science fiction and fantasy entails he can begin his quest towards creating a publishable piece by researching his genre. Alice Pope editor of the 2005 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market states that a writer wanting to break into the science fiction/ fantasy genre should read extensively a variety of not only children's books but also adult books to glean ideas and get a feel for what is being published. While reading children's books the writer should pay close attention to the different aspects of the books such as character creation, plot development, rhythm pacing, what works in this genre, and what does not work.3 The writer should also consider asking advice of bookstore salespeople on young adult science fiction/fantasy. Alice Pope also suggests to"see what's out and measure your work according to them."4 In addition to observing the trends, a writer should observe science fiction/ fantasy publishers' guidelines and styles in order to slant his writing in the right direction.
Once a writer has researched the science fiction/fantasy genre, he should consider the actual creation of his story. One of the main aspects of young adult science fiction/fantasy that readers enjoy and publishers promote is the gift of storytelling. Storytelling allows the book to flow and captivates the readers. In addition to storytelling, Jeane DePrace advises writers in her article "Let It Shine!" to tell "a compelling story and create a believable world."5 Amos and Suben state in their book Children's Writer's Reference that one of the greatest challenges for writers is remaining consistent with their depictions of their worlds, the rules of that world, character limitations, and limitations in elements such as magic.6 Darigan, Tunnell, and Jacobs advise that an underlying truth or virtue should be present in the story.7 Young adults and adults alike do not enjoy reading fluff but prefer to read about people who overcome everyday problems and endure everyday situations. This adds meat to the story and gives the reader something to relate to.
When a writer writes young adult science fiction and fantasy, he should keep the editor in mind at all times. Sue Bradford Edwards in her article "The Pitch" suggests that the writer hook the editor with the characters, the characters' challenges and tests of character, and the climax.8 Each of these elements will show the editor the strength of the story. Young adults appreciate books that have strong characters, conflicts, and climaxes. When preparing the story for publication, Alice Pope encourages writers to, "Perfect your craft, and don't submit until your work is its best."9 In addition, a writer should consider the current and future trends in young adult science fiction and fantasy.
Since J.K. Rowling introduced America to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, young adult science fiction and fantasy have become popular reading material to readers not only within the young adult level but also to elementary readers and adults. Most bookstore salespeople vouch that young adult science fiction is now being written on a higher reading level because of the vast plane of reading levels that now reader young adult science fiction and fantasy. But, the current trends do not restrict themselves to reading levels.
Rebecca Thomas and Catherine Barr in their book Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers claim that the current trendy topics in this genre are anything that branch out of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.10 Magic, dragons, alternate worlds, and unusual people and situations have grabbed the interests of readers of all ages. Of these topics, magic reigns supreme. According to the magazines Publisher's Weekly and Booklist, top books at the end of 2004 and through April 2005 with the emphasis in magic include the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Book Without Words: A Book of Medieval Magic by Avi, Magyk by Angie Sage, and A Hatful of Sky by Pratchett Terry.11 As more books containing magic appear on the market, the more the magic has become as in Magyk and A Book Without Words: A Book of Medieval Magic.
Dragons have also captured the imaginations of millions of readers. Books such as the Inheritance Trilogy by Christopher Paolini, Dragonology by Candlewick, Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson, and The Complete Book of Dragons by Dr. Ernest Drakes have ranked as some of the top books with the emphasis on dragons. According to Publisher's Weekly, Eragon, the first book in the Inheritance Trilogy, sold 1.4 million copies in 2004 alone and remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for sixty-five weeks.12
Another popular topic in the science fiction and fantasy genre is alternate worlds. Books such as the Spiderwick Chronicles, Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence are a few examples of books containing alternate worlds. Books with alternate worlds usually have the main character either transport into another world or two worlds coexist.
Books that contain unusual character or unusual situations meet the current trends. The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix, the Charlie Boon series by Jenny Nimmo, and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket rank highly among readers. According to Publishers Weekly, Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events sold 300,000 copies in 2004.13
Diane Robach in her article "The Kids Are Alright, But..." quotes Barbara Marcus, president of Scholastic Children's Books, as saying, "When are we going to see the turn in the market? It hasn't turned yet."14 The future trends of science fiction and fantasy are difficult to determine according to editors, publishers, and booksellers. Since the popularity of science fiction and fantasy boomed the market has not changed. Robach says that editors are getting choosier in what they accept in case the market dies.15 Editors are accepting pieces that meet the current trends in comparison to earlier in the science fiction/fantasy boom. Booksellers foresee more books that bridge between younger young adult and the older young adult but are not sure how soon they come to pass. A writer should not only consider trends but also the publishers and their pay ranges.
The publishers that accept freelance writers for science fiction and fantasy vary as vastly as their pay. Listed below are some of the top freelance friendly publishers, their percentage of first time writers, and their pay range. This listing was listed in Writer's Digest, a magazine branched off of The Writer's Market.16
Stylewriter 45-65% royalties on wholesale and $500-10,000 advance.
Timberwolf 57% first time, negotiated royalties on wholesale and negotiated advance
Boyds Mills Press 40% first time, negotiated royalties on retail price
Wizards of the Coast 25% first time, 4-8% royalties on retail and $4,000-6,000 advance
Peachtree 25% first time, royalties and advances negotiated and vary
Alber, Whitman, and Co. 20% first time, 10% royalties
Lerner Publishing Group 20% first time, 5-10% royalties on retail and advances vary
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 10% first time, 3-10% royalties on retail and $3,000-25,000 advance.
Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Adults 5% first time, 2-10% on retail and $3,000-25,000 advance.
The young adult science fiction and fantasy genre has created a rage in American society. A writer should consider the technique of writing science fiction and fantasy, the current and future trends in science fiction and fantasy, and publishers that accept freelance writers and their pay ranges. With these tools, he can break into this hot market.
1. Berthe Amoss and Eric Suben, Ten Steps to Publishing Children's Books, (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 1997), 26.
2. Daniel L. Darigan, Michael O. Tunnell, and James S. Jacobs, Children's Literature, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall, 2002), 201-202.
3. Alice Pope, "Just Starting," 2005 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 2004), 3-4.
4. Pope, 4.
5. Jeane DePrace, "Let It Shine," 2005 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, Alice Pope ed., (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 2004), 188.
6. Berthe Amoss and Eric Suben, The Chidren's Writer's Reference, (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 1999), 85.
7. Darigan, Tunnell, and Jacobs, 200.
8. Sue Bradford Edwards, "The Pitch," 2005 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, Alice Pope ed., (Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 2004), 8.
9. Pope, 4.
10. Rebecca Thomas and Catherine Barr, Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers, (Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2005),
11. Publisher's Weekly, 17 January 2005, 22-23.
Booklist, 1 March 2005, 1188.
"ALA's 2005 Best Lists," Publisher's Weekly, 15 February 2005, 1007-1014.
12. Publisher's Weekly, 16 January 2005, 4.
14. Diane Robach, "The Kids Are Alright, But...," Publisher's Weekly, 21 March 2005, 75.
16. Maria Witte, "Top Freelance Markets," Writer's Digest, March 2004, 26-32.