Years ago when erotic romance first became incredibly popular I remember talking with an author, someone who had been published, but was in a difficult place in her career, about the market. Understandably she was upset and looking for concrete reasons as to why her publisher hadn’t picked her up again and why it was hard to find someone else to take her on. Well, this author’s entire focus seemed to be on what was hot and on what she was hearing about what I was doing. Whenever we talked she would repeatedly say, angrily, that she could not do erotica. That wasn’t her style. No matter how much I tried to assure her that I had interests well beyond erotic romance and that there were plenty of publishers buying things besides erotic romance (in fact, at the time only two publishers were interested in this genre), she wouldn’t hear it. The buzz at RWA that year was all about the erotic market, and since I was one of the agents leading the way at the time I probably wasn’t the right person to talk to.
Well, I’ve found that the same holds true every time I write a “What I’m Looking for” blog post. It seems that no matter how many times I say that I’m looking for new clients in every area on my list, the only submissions I receive are those that fit the topics I highlight. Does everyone else go into hiding or does it just feel like that’s what happens? A few weeks ago I posted a “What I’m Looking For” piece, and when perusing my equeries this weekend all I saw were thrillers and urban fantasy. Interesting, because this weekend I was really in the mood for a historical romance.
Authors often say that they wish agents would get more specific about what they’re looking for. That they like those posts because it gives an inside peek. But there is a reason agents like to keep their areas of interest a little vague, and that’s because moods and interests can change in a heartbeat. The minute I get inundated with thriller proposals, for example, I find I want to switch things up. A weekend of reading thriller proposals can quickly wear me out and put me in the mood for something incredibly different. In this case historical romance.
While some agents specialize in very narrow fields, I think most have variety on their list for a reason. I find it refreshes me to change things up. I love everything I represent, but don’t want to be locked into any one of those areas. Today I’m in the mood for historical romance, tomorrow it might be contemporary women’s fiction, and next weekend it could easily be supernatural paranormal.
Another reason that our lists of represented genres sounds too broad to you—romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy, etc.—is because it really is that broad. I can’t tell you specifically what type of romance I want because it is about voice and writing and I’ll know it when I see it. I also can’t tell you in a written list because the market can turn around that fast. I remember when erotic romance first became trendy, I was talking to one publisher who told me that they weren’t looking for any erotic romance at all. Well, literally two weeks later they not only announced that they were looking for the genre but that they were talking about starting an imprint dedicated to it. Was the editor lying? No, things can change that quickly. So while the rejections are difficult, I would advise you to relish in the broad lists. It gives you more opportunities to discover that one person who might be right for you.