Hecht left her position as executive director of children’s and YA scouting at Mary Anne Thompson Associates at the end of June to launch her own company, Rachel Hecht Children’s Scouting. We asked her to share some thoughts on her new venture and on the current market for children’s and teen books.
What led you to strike out on your own, and what’s the market like right now, from a children’s scouting perspective?
I’m a passionate specialist in children’s literature and believe in the importance of connecting good books with readers from around the world. Launching a scouting agency dedicated to this area has long been a dream of mine; I feel lucky to have had a true mentor in Mary Anne Thompson, my former boss, as well as a roster of clients who were ready to make the leap and make this dream a reality.
On the whole, I have a positive view on the market. Thanks to technology, we are ever increasingly more connected – that in combination with a generally positive recovery from the economic downturn has resulted in an international marketplace that is in many ways more competitive than ever before. It’s in these situations that a scout thrives, and I’m proud to be on the front lines for my clients.
It seems as if everyone is looking for the “next big thing” in YA. It also seems that readers are tiring of big dystopian YA series. What’s your take on this? Are you seeing any trends pointing to what the next big YA series might be? Are you seeing any specific sub-genres gaining traction?
That’s the million-dollar question! These mega-trend cycles are an established part of the YA landscape, although with the faltering of some of the recent big movie adaptations, I do wonder if we will see things start to open up a bit more.
I think we can all acknowledge that contemporary YA is definitely still having a moment, thanks to the staying power of heavyweights such as John Green and Rainbow Rowell. I see many placing bets on sci-fi as the “next big thing,” and also have noted a renewed interest in YA horror, though I think we still have to see how these genres are received by readers once these projects hit the shelves.
Many foreign territories, and publishers within those territories, can be fairly specific about what they are looking for. But are there any global trends you can talk about, in terms of types of books that are either selling or that you are hearing about strong demand for?
Well, I believe that quality storytelling never goes out of style. It might be dressed as fantasy or as middle grade humor, but I think that good writing or an exciting new voice will always rise to the top (at least in my reading pile, anyway). Globally, the steady increase in sales of Harry Potter from last year – well ahead of the publication of the Cursed Child play script or forthcoming release of the Fantastic Beasts movie – has been interesting to track. Will this usher in a new era of middle grade fantasy, or are we simply seeing a new generation being introduced to this landmark series? [...reaches for crystal ball...]
Are there any foreign books or series that you think might make a splash in the U.S., or at least should? What’s going on internationally that U.S. readers should be aware of?
Always an interesting question! I am delighted that this year’s Costa winner, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, has just been published here in the U.S., and I hope that readers will race to pick up Abrams’s edition. Scandinavia has been a particular hotbed of activity on the children’s side recently with quality projects being repped by a strong pool of agents, and I’m looking forward to seeing those English-language editions hitting our market. Finally, I’ve been having an ongoing love affair with some of the most gorgeous picture books from around the world (the hazards of international travel with a toddler), and have been quite enchanted by the work of Australian author-illustrator Marc Martin. If I could buy up enough editions of A River (Chronicle, Mar. 2017) to wallpaper my house in those spreads, I happily would.