Knowing Your Market

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 05 2006

A recent response to my post Submitting Before Completion elicited a terrific question:

I was wondering if you could answer a question for me—It has to do with the query letter to an agent. I realize that my question is not something that boarders on the “necessary” to include in the letter, but I once came across the idea from some other agent and liked it. It is about adding where you think your book is a good fit.

What if you have searched the publishers and feel it could possibly fit with several—do you just mention one or several? And on this same line of thinking—do you think it wise for the writer to submit the book to some of these publishers before or at the same time they are enquiring with an agent they like?

I think it’s always a good idea to help show an agent the marketability of your book. When people ask what I do for a living, one of the things I always say to describe agenting is that my job is essentially sales and marketing. I’m selling books and marketing my clients and their manuscripts to publishers. If you are querying agents you are doing the same. So yes, if you know that a certain publisher publishes the kind of book you have written, you should absolutely mention that in your letter. Not only does it show the agent the marketability of your book, but it shows that you, the author, have a knowledge and understanding of the market.

As to whether or not you should submit directly to the publisher, I always have hesitations about that. The first is because few publishers actually accept unsolicited or unagented material, and by doing so it’s very likely you’ll simply end up in a slush pile read by a freelance reader and not an editor. The other, much larger concern is that getting it to the publisher is one thing, but do you know which editor to send to? It’s often easy to know which publishers publish the kind of material you write, but not always as easy to know which editors are interested in that genre. Just because Berkley is buying paranormal romance doesn’t mean that every romance editor at Berkley is interested in paranormals. It can also make it difficult for an agent to submit to a publisher if you’ve already done so. Of course, if you make a connection with an editor who is interested, you should always send it.


5 responses to “Knowing Your Market”

  1. Avatar John Meuser says:

    Great post! When I decided to write a book, but did not know the first thing about publishing I bought every “how to” book you can think of to assist me in the process. But, since I have found your agency/website I have put those books aside and all I do now is read your blog every day for insight and information. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  2. Jessica! Thank you so much for answering my question! I really appreciate it and your advice. 🙂 I love checking out this blog each day to see what new thing I can learn today! Thanks!

  3. Avatar elysabeth says:

    I agree – I have found some very useful information (although I haven’t submitted anything to an agent or publisher yet since I haven’t anything completed) – It helps to see some good information come out of agencies – because for the most part, we contact agents and publishers and really don’t have a feel how they operate – thanks for this blog. (I have met Jacky personally at the mystery weekend in Greenwood last November and am still hoping my friend does submit her ms to your group since I believe she would get picked up rather quickly – her stories are that good – lol (but then again, I’m her friend and what can I say?)) — looking forward to the next post – E 🙂

  4. Thank you for the valuable information Jessica. Your posts help me as I seek an agent and I have actually submitted to you. Thanks again!

    Heidi C. Dahlquist

  5. Avatar Sheridan Ford says:

    I have a question that kinda goes with the “Knowing your market”.

    Is it feasible to put in your query to an agent that you also have a completed manuscript in another genre or other genre’s?

    For instance – if the manuscript you submitted for possible representation is an erotic romantic suspense novel but you also have a completed multicultural young adult novel that you hope to sell. What if the agency doesn’t represent children’s literature? Would a young adult novel still be considered children’s lit or would an author need another agent for the young adult novel?