July 25, 2011

The Growing Number of YA Major Deals

As a creature of habit, I tend to check the same websites in the morning. I start out with the HuffPo, meander over to EW.com (I need my entertainment fix!), read some writing blogs, and then check out the latest publishing deals on Publisher's Marketplace.

In the past few months, I've noticed an interesting trend in YA deals. First, there are a lot more of them--lots and lots of YA novels are getting bought left and right. And second, there has been a big spike in the number of YA major deals. ("Major deal" = $500,000 and up.) It seems like every other week, I see another YA major deal crop up on Publisher's Marketplace. Which made me wonder...

How many YA major deals have sold in previous years? So I did a quick search on PM, counted up the deals, and then made a nifty graph on ChartGo.com. Here are the results:

Fascinating, right?*

Aside from a dip in 2009, the number of YA major deals has steadily increased since 2004. We're only midway through 2011 and there have already been fifteen major deals! We are well on our way to shattering last year's total of twenty-two deals.

This uptick in big deals has gotten me thinking. Why the spike in numbers? Why the interest in YA? A few random thoughts:

The YA market is growing at a fast rate. More readers. More books. More interest. Not only are teens gobbling down these books, adults are too. And so, it makes sense for publishers to want to find the next big thing. The next big Twilight. The next big Hunger Games.

Building on the last point, I've read on a few blogs (forgive me, I can't remember where) that the children's publishing market is one of the few genres making money these days. Thus, I can understand why publishers are pouring more money into the YA market. If YA books are bringing you money, then you have money to spend on more YA books.

So what do you think about this trend in "big" YA novels? Do you see it lasting into the future? Or pittering out? And why do you think we're seeing such a spike in these major deals?

*Not all deals are announced on Publisher's Marketplace, which means my numbers are not wholly representative of all YA major deals.


  1. I think Amanda Hocking summed it up at Comic-Con this year, and this is total paraphrasing on my part. People love YA because it meets them where they are as teens having so many FIRST experiences and the emotions that go with them, or it allows them, as adults, to go back in time to when they were teens and vicariously relive some of those firsts. We never forget our firsts and so many of those happen when we are teens.

    I really agree. I'm "mfrmm" years old (kids grown) and I LOVE YA literature. It speaks to my teen heart that glowed and suffered and enthused and "angsted" from one minute to the next. It doesn't matter that a gazillion years have passed.

  2. I don't know why, but I think you and I should get out there and capitalize on this stat. There are yachts that need buying, Caroline. Lonely, lonely yachts.

  3. Really interesting post, Caroline. I think you hit it on the head. Everyone is reading this genre as of lately, and if something's selling, of course more money is invested in that market.

    That being said, it would be interesting to see how many of these major deals end up a "major" success. Of course, that is probably an impossible thing to determine, but I often wonder what happens with all these books in terms of sales -- if they earn out their advance, if the author is set up well for their next project or if their fabulous deal ends up hurting them. You could sell TONS of books and still not sell "enough," if you know what I mean.

    Not trying to be a downer, it's just an interesting side to this conversation that I feel people don't discuss too often. I read an interview with Rosemary Stimola awhile back and she commented on this exact situation. I can't find the original interview, but the snippet I'm recalling is on Literary Rambles: "You don't want to over-burden a book (firsts, in particular) with a too-heavy advance. If it doesn't earn out, it makes the the path to subsequent books more difficult. And there are ways to build in back end monies. On the other side, you want enough upfront to warrant some more than basic marketing attention. It's like walking a tightrope and it varies from book to book."

    Just some more food for thought. Great post!

  4. I totally agree with you that publishers want The Next Big Thing in YA -- and would rather spend money on probable books in auctions than to miss out on an opportunity.

    Like Erin, I'm also curious how many of these major deals actually become successes. Of last year's deals that were published already--I think DIVERGENT can be considered a success, having been on the NYT bestseller list for ongoing 11 weeks. On the other hand, there was a recent debut that was bought for a 7-figure deal, but it didn't appear on the NYT bestseller list upon release.

    Of course, the NYT isn't, by far, the only indication of success, because books that appear on the NYT might not earn out their advances. But it does give us a way of comparing different books with "major" deals.

  5. Such an interesting post, Caroline, and I love data! This was cool to see. I was also very interested in Emy's comment--that it would pay to know how many of those major deals went on to be successes, and how many didn't. Of course, success is defined differently if your publisher has handed over high dollar amounts to acquire, right?

    Anyway, I'm so happy to see YA blooming as a category, and I agree that both adults and teens are reading it. I know I am!

  6. That's really interesting. I really want to think that the upswing is because YA books are just plain awesome and suddenly everyone has realized that. But I think it's a lot about money.

    Most TV shows and movies are aimed at tween to teen crowd because that's where the money is. Parents are more willing to spend money on their kids' entertainment than their own. Maybe the same holds true for YA books. If movie studios are trying to hook the teen crowd more than, say, twenty- or thirtysomethings then maybe book publishers are doing the same thing. I mean, after Twilight it was everyone's dream to publish a book that not only led to awesome sales but also movie deals and products like T-shirts and lunch boxes, or whatever.

    That's totally a guess, though!

  7. Great post! I truly hope this boom in YA lasts since this is what I primarily write. :) I think that adolescence is one of the most fascinating developmental stages--we learn so much, and the stakes always seem really high at that age. I think that's why YA is so popular.

  8. Carol, I am SO jealous that you got to go to Comic-Con! I love how you talk about YA novels revolve around the "firsts" in our lives and that's why so many people are drawn to this genre. Totally agree!

    Rick, WE. MUST. GET. A. YACHT!

    Erin, very very interesting point you make about how successful these deals are! Admittedly, as I perused the older major deals, I couldn't help but wonder how some of these books fared. I recognized some titles immediately (like Wicked Lovely) but others I had never heard of. Makes me wonder about the slew of major books coming out now...

  9. Emy, I thought of the seven-figure YA novel as well! It's intriguing to me how some major deals seem to fare so well while others seem to take awhile to gain their footing. I suppose this could be a reason why there are more major deals happening---publishers can only make educated guesses on what's going to be big so they're trying to spread out their chances. Maybe?

  10. Sarah, I've been thinking about writing a post about how some of these major deals have fared but I'm a little afraid to write it! Haha. I guess I just don't want to step on any toes? And I've also heard that some novels just take time to find their audience. Still, it would be an interesting post to research!

  11. Tracey, oh, I wholeheartedly agree! It took me awhile but I've come to realize that publishing really is a business. It has to make money. So it makes total sense why publishers would want to put money into YA novels---this is where the money is getting made!

    Pam, me too! I can't help but hope that one of my books will land a major deal! Haha. Here's to hoping for the both of us!!

  12. I'm curious... what is this secret seven-figure YA novel that didn't quite succeeded? O: can you write it in code or something?

    Caroline, you should totally write that post! It sounds VEEEEEEEEEERY interesting!

  13. Anonymous11:54 PM

    melannie, just a guess, but 'Starcrossed' got a lot of hype, a seven-figure deal, and as far as I am aware, is not a NYT bestseller or the next Twilight as people anticipated. Am I wrong?