When I left my position as senior editor at Berkley Publishing, I felt pretty confident of my grasp of the publishing industry. Leslie Gelbman, the president of Penguin’s paperback division, and all of my editor friends there were terrific mentors.
Nevertheless, I was new to the agenting biz. Shifting my perspective took a little getting used to, but I found that the essential quality for agenting and editing is the same: knowing a great, marketable book when I see it. When I first started looking for clients, it was exhilarating to have the freedom of taking on any project my little heart desired. I opened myself up to all sorts of genres: mysteries, romance, horror, young adult, prescriptive nonfiction. But as the submissions started pouring in and I began making sales, I started to see where my strengths and interests really lay. Inevitably, my focus narrowed. I’m no longer seeking horror, but am still open to big suspense novels with paranormal elements. I’m not so interested in YA, but would be willing to help my client branch out in that direction if she/he chose. And in most cases, I’m more likely to pass on prescriptive nonfiction to Jacky or Jessica.
This kind of evolution is common in both agents and editors. Tastes change, the market changes, and sometimes we find we just have more luck concentrating in certain areas. I’m not the only publishing professional who’s still learning as she goes. A smart agent/editor/author/bookseller is always open to new ideas. The publishing industry is unpredictable. That’s what makes it so exciting! That’s why I love my job!
From time to time authors still come across my first bio for BookEnds. We get a lot of questions like “Are you still looking for horror?” My best advice is to always go straight to the agency Web site. Most agents will keep their interests updated on a regular basis.
I’m wondering how often writers evolve. Are most of you loyal to a very specific type of writing? Or are you still finding your niche?