Reader Question: Switching Genres

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 05 2007

What do you say to an author you represent who wishes to write something in another genre that you don’t represent, for example, a chick lit author who is wanting to write a fantasy?

Just curious how that situation works with agents.

I say, “Let me take a look at it and we’ll see.” If the fantasy has a heavy romance it’s possible that I might be able to take it to editors in both genres. If, however, I don’t feel like I can connect with the genre or don’t know it well enough to do my best work, then I’ll be honest with you about that. It’s always sad to see an author go, but if you switch genres and are writing something that I’m not all that familiar with (children’s books, for example), I would not do either of us any good by keeping you.

There’s no easy answer to the question, it’s a case-by-case basis.


9 responses to “Reader Question: Switching Genres”

  1. Avatar Kimber An says:

    Good advice. I might add that I’ve read it’s a good idea for an author to stay in her own genre and even sub-genre until she’s firmly established. How long that takes varies.

  2. Avatar Lesley says:

    I think that’s great. I am very new to the publishing world, but it seems to me that the better you know a genre and who is buying what, the more chance you have of selling books. We can’t all be experts in everything, but it’s wonderful that you’re willing to take a look at something your writer is interested in doing even if it turns out that it’s not for you.

  3. Avatar jbstanley says:

    Hi Y’all,

    I am one of Jessica’s clients and though I write cozy mysteries, I wanted to try my hand at a YA novel. Jessica told me that she has limited connections in that field, but immediately got in touch with those she has regarding my proposal.

    If it gets rejected and I have to begin again with a different agent, I know she will give me excellent advice on how to proceed. This is just a testimony that agents are open to other genres if you’re open to revising and rethinking when it’s necessary.

    Above all, don’t be afraid to try something new. Even if it doesn’t get published, you’ll be glad to “get it out of your system” or otherwise celebrate the success of your gamble. Cheers!

  4. J.B.,

    I think that you just answered what was going to be my question to Jessica, but I wanted to make sure: you’re saying that you are actually simultaneously a client of more than one agent (depending on the genre of the book), right? I had wondered about such a situation, and Jessica seemed to be implying that this was not a working possibility–that those authors that switched genres were just gone after finding another agent.

    It sounds like this is not so for you, but is this common? I have presently written a science fantasy book that I am trying to get an agent for, but I have intentions of doing some stuff in other genres that some of my potential agents don’t handle. I really don’t want to be switching around agents a bunch.

    Thanks for your insight!

    My blog on writing

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    So, what do authors who want to write in more than one genre do? Or what about a cross-genre book say fantasy/mystery. If it didn’t sell to a mystery publisher there might still be hope for a fantasy publisher to pick it up. (Happened to Charlaine Harris) Would the author have to find a new agent to query the fantasy publishers if the mystery all said no thanks?

  6. Avatar jfaust says:

    Actually it’s very, very rare for authors to be represented by more than one agent at a time and not something that most agents, or publishers, would recommend. JB is represented only by me and although I don’t do much YA I am working with the contacts I have to submit her YA. Her primary focus is mystery.

    If you are writing in more than one genre it is recommended you find an agent who handles all of those genres. The other suggestion is that when it’s time to find an agent and start building a career that you follow Kimber an’s advice and stick with one thing so that you can build your brand. While I don’t believe Carl Hiassen’s agent represents children’s books traditionally it probably wasn’t difficult for her/him to sell and negotiate Carl’s children’s book. And once you have built a brand the same will be true of you. Rather than start out in five different things it’s better to stick to one focus and branch out later.

    The reason that agents and publishers don’t recommend more than one agent is career building. Publishers are balking these days at authors who feel it necessary to publish with more than one house and agents would feel the same about authors who want more than one agent. If you are doing a lot of writing, coordination has to be made with option clauses, due dates, pub dates, publicity, etc and that’s difficult to do if you are juggling houses and agents.

    Anonymous–that depends on the agent. I have authors switching around in much the same way you are describing and I am taking them on that journey myself. Most agents represent a variety of things.

  7. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m playing catch up here.

    Thanks for the information. I’m one of those who writes in two different genre’s. Erotic Romance and Young Adult.

    I don’t have an agent but I have a list of “dream agents” that I will be submitting too soon.

    But knowing that BookEnds has limited contacts with YA would probably make me not submit with them since you want the best representation & greatest amount of contacts/exposure for your work so you can get a sell.

    So what if your potential client writes in multi-genres and one of them you don’t represent or don’t know well do you decline them as a client even though you like their voice, work and them? Or recommend someone who handles both? Or take them on and contract out the work to another agency/agent? Or take them on and use your contacts but if it doesn’t get a sell you end a good relationship b/c after all publishing and writing is a business?

  8. Avatar jfaust says:

    If I’m making an offer to a client I’m usually making an offer based on the work that was sent to me. I wouldn’t necessarily turn down someone because they were interested in writing in multiple genres however I do think there’s a certain strength in starting out in one genre and eventually branching out. Also keep in mind that even agents change and evolve and there’s no reason that I wouldn’t start repping a genre.

    Again, I can’t answer definitively since I would take this situation on a case-by-case basis.

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    thx for the response