Book a chat

Madeleine Milburn on 2022 Publishing Trends

literary agents madeleine milburn publishing trends Apr 03, 2022
Madeleine Milburn

Madeleine Milburn is the literary agent responsible for discovering some of the highest-selling and award-wining contemporary authors who consistently hit the bestseller lists in the New York TimesThe Sunday Times and The Globe and Mail. These authors include the No.1 New York Times bestselling author Nita Prose (The Maid), Costa Book Award winner and multi-million copy bestseller Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Ashley Audrain (The Push), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory) and Fiona Barton (The Widow). The Novelry is proud to partner with the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.

From the desk of Madeleine Milburn.

The past two years have had an undeniable impact on the publishing industry. Global turbulence in so many areas of our lives has influenced trends on all sides of the industry, from agencies, to publishers, to bookshops.

The future feels more uncertain than ever, and we are all looking for ways to overcome – or at least handle – that uncertainty. Thrillers feel like a great space within which to explore our deepest fears and our resilience, and inclusion and mental wellbeing are two topics on everyone’s minds.

Cosy crime

The cosy crime genre has seen a marked increase in popularity over the past few years, and this shows no signs of slowing. Cosy crime novels, which take place in familiar yet intriguing settings, have charmed readers with their quirky and loveable characters. I think people particularly appreciate the satisfying endings, which offer an alternative to the feelings of uncertainty that have characterised recent times.

The whirlwind successes of our very own Nita Prose’s The Maid and many other comparable titles are testament to this popularity. These books have consistently featured on international bestseller lists since their publication, and The Maid is set to be adapted into a film by Universal Studios, starring Florence Pugh.

High-octane thrillers

On the other end of the crime spectrum, however, I am seeing a real demand for heart-racing, high-octane thrillers that are impossible to put down and keep you up at night.

New and upcoming thrillers from our agency’s brand name authors such as C.L. Taylor (The Guilty Couple), Mark Edwards (No Place to Run), C.J. Tudor (The Drift), Caroline Mitchell (The Village) and Fiona Barton (Local Gone Missing), were snapped up by publishers and producers alike. We have also had an exciting influx of newer voices in the thriller and suspense genre: Stephanie Wrobel (This Might Hurt), Robin Morgan-Bentley (The Guest House) and Jack Jordan (Do No Harm), publishing this year to rave reviews.

Escapism

There is no denying that the term ‘escapism’ has been used liberally in the two years since the pandemic started, however I believe this is justified. During times of crisis, uplifting stories with thought-provoking themes truly hold the power to transform minds.

With the overwhelming success of shows like Bridgerton, the Regency era has been a particularly fruitful focal point, whisking readers away to a more whimsical time and place. Sophie Irwin’s debut A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, which publishes this May, is a perfect example of this thirst for thrilling romance set against the highly visual backdrop of the 19th century. 

During times of crisis, uplifting stories with thought-provoking themes truly hold the power to transform minds.
—Madeleine Milburn

Contemporary escapist fiction about the power of relationships and community is also high up on the wish lists of publishers and agents. We are lucky enough to represent several such authors, including Beth Morrey (Em and Me), Radhika Sanghani (30 Things I Love About Myself), Clare Pooley (Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting – publishing as The People on Platform 5 in the UK) and Freya Sampson (The Girl on the 88 Bus), whose feel-good yet emotive prose has been resonating with both readers and publishers this year.

Contemporary escapist fiction about the power of relationships and community is also high up on the wish lists of publishers and agents.
—Madeleine Milburn

Diverse voices

Recent years have also prompted a reckoning in how publishing approaches diversity. Rather than empty, tokenistic gestures, companies are committing to the long-overdue need to diversify the industry, both in terms of staff intake and literary output. There has been a huge appetite for books that span cultures, tales from the diaspora, and underrepresented voices – both from readers who belong to minority communities, as well as those with a desire to educate themselves.

Fiction (including our recent releases Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson and Wahala by Nikki May) has offered readers the chance to explore unique stories from the perspectives of characters in the diaspora, and how their cultures clash and harmonise with those in the US and UK. However, non-fiction is also seeing a lot of traction. Katherine May’s beautiful and deeply personal memoirs The Electricity of Every Living Thing and Wintering, which touch on her experience of being diagnosed with autism as an adult, shows the increased awareness and representation of neurodiversity in literature.

While diversity should never be considered a mere trend, it is wonderful to see the publishing industry finally begin to give talented underrepresented voices the attention they deserve.

While diversity should never be considered a mere trend, it is wonderful to see the publishing industry finally begin to give talented underrepresented voices the attention they deserve.
—Madeleine Milburn

What's harder to sell

I am sensing less demand for the overly distressing. After two years of tragic loss, readers have turned to their bookshelves to escape the hardships of pandemic life. For this reason, manuscripts with gratuitous death or hopelessness are unlikely to receive much commercial attention. Anything dark ought to be buoyed up through humour, shocking twists, or a pertinent psychological insight into our own experiences.

 


With our thanks to Madeleine. The Madeline Milburn Literary Agency is one of our literary agency partners to whom we are delighted to submit the work of our wonderful creative writing course graduates.

Madeleine Milburn joins us for a live session on April 25th at 6 pm UTC.

With membership at The Novelry you'll enjoy a varied calendar of guest Q&As, writing classes and workshops. Membership is included with our famous creative writing courses. Sign up now to finish the book you've always wanted to write.

Explore the website to choose the course and payment plan that works for you, or book a free call to meet one of our award-winning author tutors.

Share this article

Find your course

We take beginners and experienced authors all the way from an inkling of an idea to a book in a year and on towards literary agency representation with our online creative writing courses.

Start today!

Subscribe to the blog

Sign up to get the Sunday paper for writers to your inbox.



Subscribe

Related blogs

5 Ways to Create Suspense in Fiction

May 15, 2022

Writing Your Next Novel

May 08, 2022

What is a Trope?

May 01, 2022