Ask Daphne! About Areas of Interest

April 21st, 2010 • Kate

interesting shoesCorinne writes to ask:

Could you maybe shed some light on why an agent might love a certain genre, but choose not to represent it?

For example, in your bio on the site, you say that you’re interested in urban fantasy and would love work by, say, Joss Whedon, but it’s not what you’re looking for as an agent. (On a personal note, this bums me out enormously, because I have an urban fantasy I think you might enjoy based on those interests–but, er, that’s not entirely relevant to the question at hand.) I’ve seen the same with other agents; they profess a love for a certain genre but don’t represent it. Is it simply a matter of knowing the right editors? Maybe they already have enough of that genre? Could you share some thoughts on what might be behind such a decision?

Thanks in advance if you choose to answer this question, and for the blog in general. It’s always very helpful!

Corinne, thanks for the question! I can’t speak for all agents, but for me, I state more of my interests than what I seek to represent because in YA and MG, for example, there’s room for lots of different genres. To some extent, I feel the same way about the adult genres I represent. If you can make a case that your urban fantasy, for example, might be considered witty women’s fiction, I might take a look.

My love for Joss, though some would concentrate on the fantasy elements, is based hugely on his strong female characters and his wit — something I look for in YA and pop-culture narrative nonfiction, for instance.

I spend a lot of time expanding my contacts within the YA and MG worlds, getting to know the editors who are looking to acquire in those areas. When I take on an urban fantasy, or when a client wants to write something outside their previous genre, I put in additional work in creating a submission list. It’s not just about being able to automatically put together a list of 6 to 10 editors I think would be perfect, but about researching possibilities, learning about their tastes, etc.

Think of it in terms of restaurants. If you go to a steak house, your best bet for a fantastic meal is likely going to be steak. If you ask for a salad, or pasta, or Japanese noodles, you may be disappointed that it’s not the best salad, pasta, or ramen you’ve ever had. But if you wanted that, wouldn’t you go to Wagamama? (Ok, now I’m hungry.) Agents list their areas of interest as specialties. In some cases, there’s overlap, and you may find a pretty fantastic Spaghetti Bolognese on the menu. Other times, branching out beyond what they say they do best is getting a sub-par, wilted salad.

Does that help?

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2 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Areas of Interest”

  1. Corinne Says:

    It definitely does! With Whedon, my mind automatically went to "cast of adults with improbable-yet-witty dialogue in spec setting" instead of those elements you described, which makes perfect sense. Thanks so much for the detailed response 🙂

    (Even if it does have me aching for steak now…)

    I tried commenting on this earlier today but it didn't seem to work. Third time's the charm?

  2. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Love those shoes! So cute. Sorry had to get that out first.

    Good question Corinne! I was bummed as well and wondered the same thing. (another urban fantasy writer here)

    Happy to know I don't have to take Kate off my agent wish list.