Such titles as The Hunger Games, the Pretty Little Liars series, and the Fallen trilogy quickly spring to mind as young adult success stories. The major players are enthusiastically publishing into the marketplace as the YA category continues to flourish: across its HarperTeen and other imprints, HarperCollins will release approximately 100 hardcover and original paperback young adult books in 2011, and Penguin’s various imprints, including Razorbill, will have a tally of 75. Yet there are plenty of other houses whose authors may not be household names that boast thriving YA programs. Here’s a look at the directions in which some of those companies are moving, and a sampling of highlights of their fall and future lists.
Series are clearly a cornerstone of Kensington Teen, a YA imprint that launched last spring. One that editorial director Alicia Condon reports “a lot of buzz” for is Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy, which debuted in August with Touch of Frost and continues in December with Kiss of Frost. Set in a school of myth, magic, and warrior whiz kids, the series has a novel twist, Condon says: “Jennifer uses Greek mythology as part of the world-building, which sets it apart. She also has a successful adult urban fantasy series, Elemental Assassin, and a lot of her adult readers are excited about this new series.”
Due this fall from Dafina Books, Kensington’s multicultural imprint, which recently began publishing into the YA market, is My Own Worst Frenemy by Kimberly Reid, which launches the Langdon Prep series. Creeping with the Enemy and Sweet 16 to Life will follow in spring and fall 2012, respectively. And Kensington Teen’s spring list will feature Awkward, a first novel by 21-year-old Marni Bates, centering on a girl who is catapulted far out of her comfort zone when her antics go viral on YouTube.
Since releasing its first book in 2004, Tanglewood Press, in Terre Haute, Ind., has focused more on picture books and middle-grade than teen, yet publisher Peggy Tierney is interested in skewing her list a bit older. “We’ve been doing at least one YA a year and have at least three coming out in 2012,” she says. Garnering glowing pre-pub reviews is Ashfall by Mike Mullin, a dystopian novel that caught Tierney’s attention because “it has something slightly different in it than other dystopians, and I'm always looking for something different from the hot trends. Instead of an apocalyptic event changing the world, this novel is scientifically based, centering on a super volcano that erupts and changes the planet.” A sequel, Ashen Winter, will be released in fall 2012. On Tanglewood’s spring 2012 list is The Rock of Ivanore by debut author Laurisa White Reyes, which Tierney describes as “a quest-type fantasy.”
Located in Victoria, B.C., Orca is finding new ways to “utilize the content of our books in different ways and get it outside the book,” says publisher Andrew Wooldridge. The company is producing audio components based on its bestselling titles, is translating its Soundings line into Spanish and French editions, and has launched Text2Reader, a subscription program for educators that provides reading selections and activities based on Orca books. Two dystopian novels top Orca Teen’s fall list: Scott Ely’s The Elephant Mountains and All Good Children by Catherine Austen. "These are both a bit different for us," Wooldridge notes. “With the popularity of dystopian fantasy, it’s a crowded market, but I do believe there is still room for strong stories in the genre.”
A growing list—18 titles are due out this year, and 21 in 2012—has enabled Harlequin Teen to broaden the scope of its publishing program. “We continue to focus on strong contemporary romances, but we’re able to have more breadth to our list as it expands,” says senior editor Natashya Wilson. "We are open to any book that appeals to our audience, which is 13-18-year-old girls, including dystopian, historical fantasy, or whatever is really fun."
Series are clearly a strong suit for the imprint. Highlights of the fall list are Gena Showalter’s Twisted, a new Intertwined novel; If I Die by Rachel Vincent, an addition to Soul Screamers; and Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Knight, which joins the Iron Fey. Spring will bring Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules, launching the Blood of Eden series; Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter, book two of the Goddess Test novels; and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross, the second volume of the Steampunk Chronicles. "We're seeing an increasing adult audience, along with our core teen audience, as more adult authors are writing YA and bringing their fan bases with them," Wilson says.
Novels with what senior editor Leah Hultenschmidt calls “a boy-girl element” remain the mainstay of Sourcebooks Fire’s list, which debuted in spring 2010. “Having that boy-girl element really speaks to teen readers, whether female or male,” she observes. "What we strive to do on the Fire list is create a diversity of titles. It's such a competitive market right now, and we really don't want to flood it just because YA is the hot thing. We are careful in our acquisitions."
Fire publishes between 12 and 15 titles a year and may expand its list in 2013. A lead title for fall is Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber, a romance set in Victorian-era New York City. A spring 2012 highlight is Embrace, a debut novel by Jessica Shirvington that launches a paranormal series. Supported by a $100,000 marketing campaign, the book will be followed by Enticed in fall 2012 and Emblaze in spring 2013.
Founded in 2008, Crimson Oak aims to publish books that, according to CEO Erik Johnson, “give readers a message of hope. We look for books YA readers can really enjoy, sympathize with, and take something positive away from.” The company publishes two or three YA titles annually. Its latest release, which pubbed last month, is Abra Ebner’s Ladybird, Ladybird, a fantasy romance with a rural setting and paranormal elements. “We’ve had very good feedback to the novel from bloggers, and we’ve released a movie-style book trailer on YouTube that received 130,000 views in the first few weeks,” says Johnson. "We plan to do more video trailers as promotional tools for our YA books." Due in spring is a still untitled addition to Ebner’s paranormal Knight Angel series, which also includes Book of Love and Book of Revenge.
An imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, Minnesota-based Flux expects to grow its list over the coming year, says acquisitions editor Brian Farrey-Latz, who anticipates the annual output will eventually reach 30 titles. “We’re striving to expand the scope of the list and are committed to publishing a little something for everyone,” he notes. Flux’s first science fiction release, Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by debut author Nick James, came out last month; Crimson Rising will follow in fall 2012. In spring 2012, Flux will introduce another first-time author, Scott Tracey, with the publication of Witch Eyes, an urban fantasy offering a gay twist on the Romeo and Juliet theme.
“We are always looking for new talent,” Farrey-Latz says. “I’d say 60%–70% of the authors I work with are first-time authors. In fact, we launched writers like Maggie Stiefvater and Simone Elkeles, who published first with Flux before moving on to other houses.”
“As an editor, I’d rather be a pioneer than follow trends,” comments Ginee Seo, Chronicle’s publishing director. Noting that the Chronicle YA list, which launched in fall 2009, is “still developing,” Seo says the house aims to publish between 10 and 12 titles each year. This fall’s offerings include Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love, a biography of the African-American cowboy by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., and Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl, a novel based on the life of aviatrix Beryl Markham. Due in spring 2013 is MacColl's I'm Nobody, the story of how Emily Dickinson solves a murder mystery, which Seo calls "an interesting take on historical fiction."
Featured on the spring 2012 list is Girl Meets Boy, edited by Kelly Milner Halls, a collection of love stories told from both a boy’s and a girl’s perspective, from 12 prominent YA authors. Another title is the tentatively named Would I Lie to You? by Jonathan Bernstein, the story of a father-daughter con artist team, slated for fall 2012. And The Gaslight Guild by Colleen Gleason, which Seo says “combines historical fiction with elements of steampunk and vampirism in a completely different way,” is due out in fall 2013.
Cinco Puntos Press
“We’re known for our Latino and bilingual books, but our net is spreading wider all the time,” notes Bobby Byrd, copublisher, with his wife, Lee Byrd, of Cinco Puntos Press. John Byrd, their son, also acquires and edits books for the house. “We are trying to grow as the market changes, and we’re going to publish more YA and do more e-books for that audience,” Byrd adds.
This fall, the company released The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick, a novel inspired by the true story of a Jewish boy falsely accused of murder in 1928. Byrd describes another fall title, Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico by Beto O’Rourke and Susie Byrd, as “an important crossover book that we’re marketing to both the YA and adult audiences. I expect we’ll be doing more nonfiction for young adults.” Falling into that category is That Mad Game: Growing Up in a War Zone by J.L. Powers, due next spring.
Last month marked the release of the inaugural list from Lee & Low’s Tu Books, and the imprint is off to a running start. “Reviews of all our first books look really good so far,” says editorial director Stacy Whitman. The debut releases are Wolf Mark, a paranormal thriller by Joseph Bruchac; Galaxy Games, a space adventure by Greg Fishbone; and Karen Sandler’s Tankborn, a dystopian novel. “It seems that dystopia is as strong as ever, though I keep expecting to see it subside,” Whitman remarks. “In the future, I’m anticipating that urban fantasy with a twist will be strong.”
Spring will bring Vodnik by Bryce Moore, a contemporary fantasy set in Europe, and Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off, in which a girl who can talk to cats solves the disappearance of a celebrity blogger. “This book has mystery, celebrity, and fantasy elements—it’s a mashup of genres. I’ll be on the lookout for more of those,” Whitman notes.
Having recently found a niche with paperback YA-themed anthologies, Running Press is expanding its program for teens, reports editor Lisa Cheng. “This fall we have a paranormal romance, Blood on the Moon by 23-year-old Jennifer Knight, which is getting very good feedback and attention from bloggers,” says Cheng. Due this month is Steampunk: Poe, illustrated by Zdenko Basic and Manuel Sumberac; these illustrators’ Steampunk: Frankenstein will follow in May.
“We’ve acquired some contemporary realistic fiction as well,” says Cheng, citing The Downside of Being Charlie, a coming-of-age novel by Jenny Torres Sanchez, which pubs in May. Also slated for 2012 release are two anthologies, Brave New Love: 15 Dystopian Tales of Desire, edited by Paula Guran, and Cornered: 14 Stories of Intimidation and Escape, edited by Rhoda Belleza. "We want to find books that will last and feed our backlist," Cheng says.
A publisher of teen self-help books for more than five years, HCI Teen made its initial foray into YA fiction this summer with Dark Territory by J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel. This was the inaugural release of the Tracks series, which meshes star-crossed love, supernatural evil, and martial arts. Gates’s stand-alone YA horror novel, The Sleepwalkers, is due this month, and Ghost Crown, the second installment of the Tracks, will pub in March. Scheduled for fall 2012 is Gates’s Blood Zero Sky, a dystopian novel about corporate America. “For now, Gates is our main fiction author,” says executive editor Allison Janse. “He’s a prolific writer, a masterful storyteller, and an amazing promoter.”
"We're continuing to cultivate our teen self-help line, since that's a lot of who we are," Janse adds. "But in the YA market, fiction is where the growth has been."
Established in 2003, Medallion Press in December will debut its Ya-Ya imprint, so named because it features books by young adults writing for young adults. The launch title is The White Fox by James Bartholomeusz, a fantasy with tinges of SF and romance. “We’re excited to give young writers a platform so they can reach readers and grow as writers,” says editorial director Emily Steele, who notes that the imprint will issue approximately two titles annually.
In addition to Ya-Ya, Medallion publishes other YA titles. Due in February is Vamplayers by Rusty Fischer, about a girl vampire who takes on womanizing boy vampires. Steele also points to Rachele Alpine’s Canary, due in August 2013, which centers on a teenage girl living in a single-parent home who struggles with feeling isolated and with dating problems. “We aim to publish books that address issues that teens are dealing with,” she says.
A division of Deseret Books, Salt Lake City’s Shadow Mountain releases between two and five YA titles annually and specializes in fantasy, dystopian, and paranormal romance. Chris Schoebinger, publishing director and acquisitions editor, observes, “We look to publish books that encourage a return to virtue.” As an example, he points to Lisa Magnum’s Hourglass Door trilogy, whose third installment, The Forgotten Locket, pubs next May. The publisher will release a paperback box set of this paranormal time-travel saga in September 2012. Shadow Mountain’s winter and spring 2012 releases attest to its focus on series publishing. Due out are Ambush, the conclusion of Obert Skye’s Pillage trilogy; Albrek’s Tomb, the third Adventurers Wanted book by M.L. Forman; and Journey to the Fringe, launching Kelli Swofford Nielson’s the Stone Mage trilogy, a supernatural romance starring a gifted princess.
Albert Whitman Teen
Albert Whitman entered the YA ring in July, when it published Anna Perera’s Guantánamo Boy under its Albert Whitman Teen imprint. Set six months after 9/11, the novel introduces a teen who is incarcerated as an “enemy combatant.” Released in September, The Poisoned House by Michael Ford is a ghost story that takes place in Victorian London. “Albert Whitman has for years published books about issues that matter to kids,” says senior editor Wendy McClure of the imprint’s launch. “Albert Whitman Teen is a different take on our same mission, and addresses issues that are important to teens.”
McClure anticipates that the imprint will publish four titles annually and may eventually include nonfiction as well as fiction. Due in spring is Perera’s second novel, The Glass Collector, which introduces a teen living in modern-day Cairo, and Deborah Blumenthal’s The Lifeguard, featuring a teenage lifeguard with shamanic skills.
“Smart and edgy nonfiction” is the core of Zest Books’ program, says publisher and creative director Hallie Warshaw, who debuted the inaugural list in 2007. “We publish teen advice books on timely topics. We want to push the envelope right up to the line—but not cross it. Basically, our books offer advice that you’d want from a very cool older sister.” Zest relies on input from a teen advisory board, which is “integrally involved in what we do,” Warshaw explains.
Heading up this San Francisco company’s fall list are How to Fight, Lie, and Cry Your Way to Popularity (and a Prom Date): Lousy Life Lessons from 50 Teen Movies by Nikki Roddy; 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment by Lexi Petronis with Jill Buck; and Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Hallie Fryd. "All our books are graphically interactive, and even the most serious topics are covered with some amount of levity," says Warshaw.
Up and running since January, Sterling’s Splinter imprint made a splash with its inaugural release, Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse, a fantasy romance that reached the New York Times and PW bestseller lists. The publisher quickly followed up this series launch with Tiger’s Quest last spring and will issue Tiger’s Voyage in November with a 100,000-copy first printing. “We envision Splinter as edgy in terms of the books we’re acquiring, but also in the way we are marketing them,” says v-p and publisher Frances Gilbert. “There were a lot of raised eyebrows when we announced we’d publish three books in this series in the first year, but it allowed our marketing and publicity efforts to snowball into each new book.”
Another highlight of Splinter’s fall list is Gregg Olsen’s YA debut, Envy, a crime thriller launching the Empty Coffin series. The publisher will cross-market the novel to adult readers, given the author’s solid track record with his adult books in this genre. In spring 2012, Splinter will add Tiger’s Destiny to Houck’s series and is debuting a new paperback venture, Classic Lines, with Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. “These are books with sumptuous production values and a couture fashion look,” says Gilbert.
“We rolled out some successes in a variety of genres,” says editorial director Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda Lab’s first two seasons. “Last fall, we had a quite dark and older debut list, then a lighter, younger spring list, and they both worked well. My approach continues to be to cover a broad spectrum of the teen experience, focusing on authors doing things in the spirit of experimentation.” The editor plans to publish six to eight titles annually.
A title on this fall’s list that Karre notes “highlights the spirit of the imprint” is Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff. “He tells a love story between two teenagers, and neither of their genders is revealed. Readers are left to make their own assumptions, which is fascinating.” Also out this fall is Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson, which Karre says “takes science fiction to an unusual place and has a strong female protagonist, which I like to see in SF.” On next spring’s list is Ilsa J. Bick’s Drowning Instinct, which the editor notes “is very fast and very smart. We have high hopes for it.”
Science fiction and fantasy publisher Baen Books is testing the YA waters for the first time this month with the release of A Beautiful Friendship by bestselling adult author David Weber. Launching the Star Kingdom series, this SF title stars an ancestor of Honor Harrington, the eponymous heroine of an earlier series for adults by Weber. Next out in the new series is the tentatively titled Fire Season, co-written by Weber and Jane Lindskold and due in October 2012. “Any number of titles we’ve published as adult books are suitable for YA, though we haven’t actually marketed them as YA books,” says executive editor Toni Weisskopf. “Our books offer a positive view of the future and humanity’s place in it. People looking for an answer to dystopian fiction will find it in Baen YA novels.”