Advice for Writers from Literary Agent Victoria Marini


Blue Mesa Review asked Literary Agent Victoria Marini some questions about what’s happening in the publishing industry today.

BMR: You’ve talked about New Adult Fiction before,what exactly is New Adult Fiction?

VM: “Exactly” no one can say. As with many genres (and, perhaps, pornography) you know it when you see it. As far as I am aware, New Adult fiction includes, but is not limited to: protagonist(s) between the ages of 20 – 23, collegiate or post-collegiate settings and themes, sexy times, and a “commercial” sensibility. SIDE NOTE: “commercial” vs. “literary” is an entirely separate and equally tough topic!

BMR: How do you think this new genre came about?

VM:The Sweet Valley High Twins, that’s how. I’m serious. About 3 or 4 years ago, Dan Weiss at St.Martin’s re-introduced The Sweet Valley High Twins with novels that featured the girls, now in their early twenties. For those of you who were not my 12-year-old self: Sweet Valley High was a teen series for young girls featuring identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, dealing with mean girls, crushes, peer pressure, and gym class nightmares. So, this reincarnation came out: the girls were in their twenties, having sex, and drinking, and doing other college-y type things. At this point, it was still a marketing initiative (read: a fancy way to make these books stand-out and get people to buy them). But it created an awareness and a discussion around a particularly difficult area of fiction: that blurred line between Young Adult and Adult fiction. Many authors run into trouble selling novels that occur within this grey zone because, traditionally, it’s been difficult to pin down the audience.

BMR: What, in your opinion, is the most exciting thing happening in publishing today?

VM:Goodness. There’s a lot going on: Rising E-book royalties. Small and independent presses flourishing. Lower advances, but stronger back-end offerings. Hybrid novels like PURE or THE PASSAGE. Oh Oh! The peak of paranormal. I’m very excited that we’re over that lot. I no longer get 25 queries a day about werewolf vampire babies fighting armies of Demon-mermaids or whatever. Oh! And the resurgence of classic literary suspense and horror, that has me pumped. I love suspense.

BMR: Do you have any essential writing/publishing advice for our readers?

VM:Read. Read everything. Read Closely. Pay attention to how those authors who inspire you work their magic. Read Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE or Joyce Carrol Oates’ WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN if you want a lesson in domestic creepiness. Read John Le Carre when you want to know how to advance a plot with as little explanation as possible. I really recommend Francine Prose’s READING LIKE A WRITER for more examples of how to pay attention to your reading.

Also, be part of a discussion. Know what is going on in the world of writing and publishing. There’s this sense – and truth, I suppose – that writing is a solitary experience. But it’s likely that you need critique partners, you need feedback, you need champions, and you need to know, at least marginally, what people are looking for and what they’re refusing.

BMR: What are you reading right now?

VM:I am going to assume you mean other than manuscripts and clients’ work, I have a rotating cast to get through: THE COLLECTIVE by Don Lee, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple, CITY OF DARK MAGIC by Magnus Flyte, and MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan.

Victoria Marini is a literary agent representing both Adult and Young Adult fiction, and her tastes range from literary to commercial. Her clients include Corey Ann Haydu, Meredith Zeitlin, Lucas Mann, Kathleen Alcott, and Castle Freeman Jr. She lives in Brooklyn and likes music, animals and Thai food. For more information, check out