Another fall is upon us, serving up a bounty of fiction debuts. Here's a look at six of them: their paths to publication, and where these newbies might go from here.
by Jessica Khoury (Razorbill)
What's the buzz? "Origin fulfilled the #1 criterion for a book we want to acquire," says Razorbill publisher Ben Schrank. "It was a completely compelling story we hadn't heard before." The author, now 22, has been writing feverishly since the age of four. Homeschooled from fourth grade through high school, and with a degree in English from a small Christian college in her hometown of Toccoa Falls, Ga., she struck gold with her novel about a teen living in a laboratory hidden in the Amazonian rainforest who is genetically engineered to never die. Schrank calls it "a classic YA novel, tackling themes of independence, identity, and immortality."
What's the plan? Penguin showed off Khoury at BEA and ALA, and she'll make the rounds as part of its fall Breathless Reads tour. There have been six foreign sales so far; film rights were bought by Stone Village Pictures. The initial print run of 100,000 has been upped to 250,000. Khoury is "ready for her fans," Schrank adds, with an active blog and a presence on Twitter and Pinterest.
What's next? Khoury has already delivered her second manuscript, a novel that follows the same evil corporation that appears in Origin as it spews mayhem in another part of the world, though it is not a sequel, according to Schrank. "She's actually written several other novels already. She's unusually young to be so poised and so sure of knowing what she wants to do and what kind of fiction she wants to write." In addition to her literary interests, Khoury is locally famous for her skills on the soccer field and was named an All-American three times. She also trods the boards, directing and acting in local stage productions.
by Gennifer Albin (FSG)
What's the buzz? Foundry Literary + Media agent Mollie Glick pitched this novel as " ‘The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games' and my first reaction was, did those two really have to meet?" says editor Janine O'Malley. "But Mollie was so excited, you could hear it in her voice." By the time O'Malley finished reading the next day, she remembers saying to her husband (FSG editor Wes Adams), " ‘I don't care what it costs. I have to have it.' It was just the right blend of literary and commercial, a novel full of intelligent ideas about what it means to be in control of your own life, which is one of the biggest questions every teenager has." O'Malley beat out four other publishers to win the book at auction.
What's the plan? Crewel is the Macmillan Children's Publishing Group's lead title this fall, and will be part of the Fierce Reads tour in mid-October. Albin, who founded the parenting blog Connected Mom, has already made the rounds at Comic-Con, ALA, and BEA, where O'Malley says Albin wound up leading her around. "She'd received all these exclusive invitations to blogger parties! She's got an enormous amount of blogger support."
What's next? Crewel is first in a trilogy, and Albin, who lives in Kansas City, Kans., with her husband and two kids, is hard at work on book two, according to O'Malley. The second book, as yet untitled, is scheduled for fall 2013.
by Stefan Bachmann (Greenwillow)
What's the buzz? Bachmann, currently a student at the Zurich Conservatory, wrote this steampunk fantasy, set in an alternate Victorian-era England, when he was 16. Nelson Literary agent Sara Megibow found his query in her slush pile. "Twelve hours later, I offered to represent him, and 12 hours after that, I had my first offer for the manuscript," which she refused. Greenwillow publisher Virginia Duncan won the book at auction. "I read the attachment the minute I got it," she says. "I kept thinking I'd be able to stop because there was no way someone that young could sustain this. I kept reading. He sustained it beautifully."
What's the plan? Duncan was so jazzed by The Peculiar's possibilities she sent bound manuscripts to select readers, like Carol Chittenden of Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth, Mass. – something she had never done before. "She loved it," Duncan says of Chittenden. "B&N loved it, the sales reps loved it; there's been a really nice snowball." Bachmann, who was born in Colorado but moved in early childhood to his father's native Switzerland, will come to the U.S. for a tour in October. Rights have been sold to eight countries so far; HarperCollins UK will publish simultaneously.
What's next? Duncan signed Bachmann up for two books – The Peculiar ends on a "rather heart-wrenching cliffhanger" – but he rejected the idea of a trilogy. "He didn't think he could possibly write more than two books in this setting. He'd be bored," Duncan says. Writing may not even be the way he eventually earns a living – he just turned 19 in June. Bachmann plays five instruments, including the organ and violin, but his main musical interest is in composing. "When I first read his book," Duncan says, "I thought, ‘This guy's going to have a huge career.' I can't even imagine what he's going to write for the rest of his life. But what he's going to write may be some fabulous scores."
by Fiona Paul (Philomel)
What's the buzz? Philomel executive editor Jill Santopolo was looking for a commercial YA series that was not magic, since she already edits Andrea Cremer's supernatural Nightshade series. She got hooked by this dark historical romance billed as "Gossip Girl meets Edgar Allan Poe in Renaissance-era Venice." Santopolo says she responded to Paul's "well-built world, so lush and developed. There was danger, action. It was the book I had been waiting for, one that felt fresh to me in a way that, at this point, a lot of dystopian novels don't."
What's the plan? Paul will take part in Penguin's Breathless Reads campaign this fall. Agent Stephen Barbara of Foundry Literary + Media has sold rights into nine foreign territories ("so far," Barbara adds). The Los Angeles Times highlighted the title as one to watch for this fall and the trailer was featured on USA Today's books blog.
What's next? Santopolo bought a trilogy on the strength of Paul's outline, and Penguin plans an accelerated publication schedule, with book two following just nine months after Venom's October release. The second book imagines a story around a real historical figure – the "Blood Countess," Elizabeth of Báthory, a 16th-century Hungarian suspected of being the most prolific female serial killer in history. "Supposedly she bathed in the blood of virgins because she thought it would keep her young," Santopolo said. Paul's "real job" – she's a registered nurse – is helping her get the details right: Santopolo says "all of her descriptions of dead bodies are based on things she's learned or experienced firsthand."
What's Left of Me
by Kat Zhang (HarperCollins)
What's the buzz? HarperCollins editor Kari Sutherland pre-empted Zhang's debut ahead of auction after falling in love with the narrator's voice, but it also helped that this was a dystopian novel told from a very personal point of view. Eva and Addie share a body; by early childhood, one soul should have "recessed," but Eva is still hanging around, refusing to go away. Kat (short for Kathy) Zhang, now 21, started writing her novel as she was finishing high school.
What's the plan? The publicity team has to work around Zhang's school schedule – she's a senior at Vanderbilt University, and in her spare time she performs spoken-word poetry. What's Left of Me was a BEA YA Buzz pick and will be part of HarperCollins's Epic Reads promotion this fall.
What's next? Zhang committed to her Hybrid Chronicles trilogy and is hammering out book two now while finishing her degree. "I don't know how she juggles it all but writing is her passion so she finds the time," Sutherland says. "She's told me she scribbled a lot of this story in the margins of her lab notebook in high school chemistry."
by Meagan Spooner (Carolrhoda Lab)
What's the buzz? Editor Andrew Karre says his imprint is "too small to chase trends," and he was decidedly not on the hunt for a dystopian series when Spooner's agent e-mailed him her manuscript. "I printed it out and read it on the way [to Italy], leaving bits of it in airports from Minneapolis to Bologna." By the time he arrived, he knew he wanted to acquire it. Skylark is not strictly a dystopian novel, Karre says. "Because it's not set in a society that started out as a utopia. A better term is probably ‘Aftermath Lit.' More important, it had the trajectory I'm always looking for in a YA novel: from a childish trust in the institutions of adults to bitter self-reliance."
What's the plan? Karre praises Spooner's initiative in social media. "She's a fantastic self-promoter and has laid a solid foundation on the Web and with Twitter." YA cover artist Sammy Yuen created a jacket and a trailer for Skylark, which was a BEA YA Buzz pick.
What's next? In addition to finishing this trilogy, Spooner has sold a trilogy she's co-writing with Amie Kaufman to Disney-Hyperion. Book two for Karre – Shadowlark – is already written, and scheduled for release in fall 2013.