Choosing a Career Path

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 10 2010

I finished my first novel, a humorous women’s fiction (chick lit), earlier this year and began querying agents. I received my fair share of rejections off the bat, and I began to think that part of my problem is that chick lit has taken a drastic dive in popularity. But, as I had spent a year of my life writing the blasted thing, I persisted. In the meantime, I started and almost finished my second novel, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde that would probably appeal to the YA market.

In recent weeks, I have had several agents respond to my first query, asking to see partials and fulls, and one offer of representation.

My question is this: Should I abandon my second novel for now and start writing some more humorous fiction in order to build a following? Or should I finish my YA ms. and then switch back to chick lit? I hate being confined to one genre, because after spending a year writing in one style, it is very tempting to try something new. But I don’t want to confuse my fans (assuming, of course, that I get any).

The simple answer to this question is that you need to talk to your agent if you choose to sign with one. Personally, I think there’s definitely a correlation between what was once chick lit and what people are writing as YA now. We’re seeing a lot of former chick lit authors go in that direction. However, yes, it could be a problem if you’re published as a women’s fiction author and suddenly switch to YA, unless you feel that you could write two books a year, let’s say, and do one of each.

If you choose to sign with an agent, or are considering signing with one, this is a discussion you should have before signing. Find out how the agent envisions your career and what she thinks about your two directions. Having this discussion may help you decide if she’s the right agent for you or what you should be doing.


9 responses to “Choosing a Career Path”

  1. Avatar Magan says:

    This is a question I've been wondering about myself. Thanks for your answer that definitely pointed me in the right direction!

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I have at least a dozen author friends who write women's fiction and YA. Very common these days with YA being so hot.

  3. If you think you might like to write both genres, be sure you query only agents who rep both.

    While my former agent was shopping my YA ms, I decided to switch gears to women's fiction. She left the business, and no one else in that agency repped commercial women's fiction. In retrospect, I should have either gone with a more diverse agency or else stuck with YA for a few successful books, before trying something new.

    I've spent the last two years experimenting with my writing, so as I begin querying again this winter, I'll better understand where my interests and skills lay.

  4. Avatar Toby Speed says:

    This is something I wonder about. Do some people have different agents for all their different genres? Because, even if you find an agent who likes your work in two genres, you may at some point want to try something else. There are children's book authors who also write for adults, and fiction writers who are also poets. Why limit ourselves, is how I see it.

    I'll be interested to read further comments.

  5. Avatar K.L. Brady says:

    I'm in that same exact position. Just sold a women's fiction/chick lit book. Then wrote a YA novel which is chick lit-ish. Now I'm writing a sequel to the first, which is WF/CL. The long and short of it is, I've decided to write at least two books a year, one in each genre. But I have fans who are looking forward to the YA as much as they're looking forward to the sequel. So, I don't think they're always mutually exclusive depending on what you write.

  6. Avatar Levonne says:

    Oh to have this problem of deciding what to do with one's career by utilizing your agent. I would love that problem! This was an inspiring post. I need to keep at it!

  7. Avatar M.A.Leslie says:

    I don't know if it is great advice as I have never been in the position and would love to be in it, but have you considered writing one genre under one pen name and then the other under another? I can't stand that people feel like they have to write a certain genre because it’s popular or because they found their success with it and now have to stick with it.
    I love to read everything out there that I am able to get my hands on and in turn I enjoy writing it all too. I think as long as you stay true to your voice then you will stay true to the people that enjoy reading your work.

  8. Avatar Stephanie says:

    I think a lot of women read both Chick Lit and YA…I know I do and I really enjoy both. Though I do stick with writing CL/WF….I tried writing Ya, but my themes just get too mature….too much, in my opinion, for 14-16 y/o's to read.

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    ". . .Find out how the agent envisions your career. . ."

    The agent, one would hope, will have useful insight, but don't let the tail wag the dog. Always keep the whip hand.

    The 'book a year per genre' deal is problem and you'll have to find a balance between art and career. It's generally doable. As with anything else, there will be some people who can't and some people who won't.