Corinne 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?