I get the Publisher's Lunch deal news report, which lists some of the publishing deals made recently. It gives a good peek at what traditional publishers are buying these days. Here are a few recent deals:
* Director and producer Chris Columbus's HOUSE OF SECRETS, co-authored by Ned Vizzini, about siblings who go to live in a creepy old house built by a troubled fantasy writer when their father loses his job;
* National Book Award finalist Ken Kalfus's EQUILATERAL, an intellectual comedy set in 1890s Egypt about an astronomer who sets out to communicate with life on Mars;
* Rosemary Sullivan's STALIN'S DAUGHTER, about Svetlana Stalina's journey from the beloved daughter of a fierce autocrat to her death in small-town Wisconsin;
* Claudia Hammond's TIME WARPED: Adventures in the New Psychology of Time, also to Harper;
* Jim Ziolkowski's WALK IN THEIR SHOES, written with Willie Mays, James Hirsch, recounting the author's life journey from risk-seeking backpacker to the leader of buildOn, helping inner-city kids transform their own neighborhoods and the world.
* An oral history of MTV by the four surviving original MTV veejays, written with contributing editor at Rolling Stone Gavin Edwards;
* Hip hop star Lil Wayne's GONE TILL NOVEMBER, based on diaries he kept during his eight months on Rikers Island;
* Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell's thought experiment on the scientific knowledge survivors of a global catastrophe would need to rebuild a technological society from scratch;
* Emma Chapman's HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE, a novel following a woman who can barely remember life before her marriage -- until she begins to have eerie visions that make her question her past;
* NYT bestselling author Kate Carlisle's KILLER COOKBOOK and books 8 and 9 in the Bibliophile Mystery series;
* Leah Stewart's WHERE YOU'LL FIND ME, a novel about three adult siblings who return to their childhood home.
The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency website featured a survey of what UK book publishers are looking for. Here are some excerpts:
"What interests me, as always, are books which are focussed on alternative views of how we should live our lives and are also focussed on community and local identity." Hugh Andrew, Managing Editor, Birlinn (publisher based in Scotland).
"It is striking how stories that seem to have waned from people’s memories can have a massive resurgence – so perhaps new takes on old stories might be a vein to mine." Myles Archibald, Associate Editor, Harper Collins.
"We’re especially good at selling entertaining, accessible and informative true stories, and based on what did well for us last spring, these are the areas I’m looking in." - Jennifer Barclay, Commissioning Editor, Summersdale (She also mentions true crime, travel (especially British travel), quirky narrative books about gardening, pets, nature, and sport.)
"My focus is on commercial non-fiction, spanning a wide range of genres from true crime, sport and humour to biography and memoir. In terms of memoir, I’m always looking for original and compelling stories - whether the focus is inspirational, nostalgic, military or otherwise, and whether the subject is a celebrity or just an ordinary person with an extraordinary story to tell." - Dan Bunyard, Editor, Michael Joseph
I won't cover all 20, you can read them here: http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/2012/01/10/what-editors-want-2012.
Some common elements are:
* more interest in non-fiction than fiction (this has always been true, partly because non-fiction titles are easier to promote)
* books whose title and subject matter will make them stand out
* authors who have a platform and are comfortable discussing their topic in the media
* popular science
* history, especially from a unique perspective, including nostalgia and historical true crime.
* celebrity and sports memoirs (even though there have been some huge flops in celebrity memoirs, a few every year take off and make a fortune)
* and (of course) terrific writing.
I wouldn't advise trying to write to order; rather, see whether a project you are working or would like write fits these needs. Go to each publisher's website to find out the submission process. Some will consider only material submitted by agents, so you may have to start with getting one of those.
(Need a guidebook to take you through the confusing process of going from ideas through to publication? You're in luck--it's called "Your Writing Coach" and you'll find it at Amazon and other booksellers.)