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Books that Defy “Rules”

Agents often talk about expectations or guidelines, especially for debut authors. This could mean anything from word count to plot points. That being said, we all know that there are books, lots of them, that defy all rules. Books that, despite all guidelines, agents and editors couldn’t resist and had to publish.

A reader asks:

Could you talk about those in-between books, like The Historian or Time Traveler’s Wife, which defy the usual things like genre or word count–what do you do as an agent, when you’re reading/reviewing, and love the book, but find it’s outside of the usual parameters… do you try to fix it, so it does fit, or make exceptions, or create a marketing plan, to reach editors… I guess I’m asking about those kinds of books that aren’t necessarily like the usual fair… and this, assuming that it’s clear the author has worked with integrity, mastered the craft, and has done something unusual, like in the above examples. There are probably others… Hunger Games might’ve been rejected for kids-killing-kids… do you shy away from things like this, or say, thank goodness, something original has finally broken through the gates? (Ha ha!) Thanks for your sincerity and time.
I wish I could even begin to tell you how many conversations at BookEnds talk about the weird, wacky, or unconventional manuscripts we need to represent. In all of those cases, no matter how the rules are broken, we know it would be a mistake to change a book to fit anyone else’s rules. Can you imagine the Hunger Games without the killing? There is really only one rule in publishing and that’s to write a book that many people can connect with. Guidelines are there to establish a structure, especially for those outside the industry, but the best authors are always willing to push the envelope. They aren’t writing something so far outside of the expectations of readers so as to turn them off, but they are pushing the boundaries of the rules just enough to grab someone’s attention and make their book special.

Category: Blog



  1. I think it is easier to push the boundaries and break the rules if you haven’t really learnt what the rules are to start with. At least it would be for someone like me who is a rule follower. Now I know what the “rules” are I don’t think I could break them – at least, not for my land-an-agent-book.

  2. Thanks for this. The Dalai Lama has been quoted as suggesting we learn the rules first so we can break them properly! I take that to mean we should try to break rules for good reasons and not accidentally.

  3. So…what if you write True Crime, but with a twist? AS in, the author is a psychic medium detective who also uses spirit and the deceased to help solve their murders and bring actionable evidence to law enforcement? And, they are written in real time progressive revelation, so that the reader understands what the investigator understands at the time they understand it?
    There are very fascinating books, with page turning excitement and the outrageous element of these books is that everything contained is the truth; including the clairvoyant, clairsentient and clairaudient interaction between spirit and the investigative author that uses their information to help solve their own murders… including hers in another life.
    Non-Fiction at its best and most cutting edge in the use of mediumship and law enforcement investigative techniques
    This author is finally coming out of the spiritual closet and has cutting edge information and a solid background in Investigative Forensics.

    Books on
    Both by T.A. Powell

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