In Search of Specific Information
Lately I’ve been hearing complaints from writers that agents are not specific enough in telling writers what kinds of projects they’re looking for. On my post “Too Much Information?” I received several comments that echoed this opinion from A3Writer:
Agents are sometimes a little closed-mouthed about what they are looking for. I love the agents that are highly specific on their detailed pages, but others simply put out “looking for commercial fiction” or “most genre fiction.”
I believe I can speak for the majority of agents when I say this: You are simply not going to get more specific information.
To give more specific lists of “what I’m looking for” would be to defeat the whole purpose of my job. Let’s get this straight:
It’s the writer’s job to come up with the best book idea they can, and write it as well as they can.
It’s the agent’s job to sift through all the manuscripts and proposals, and find the ones they want to represent in the marketplace.
To be more specific about the kinds of books I’m looking for would be extremely limiting. I’d be cutting myself off from a vast array of creative ideas out there – the ideas that are so terrific, I’d never have thought of them myself.
In other words, it is out of respect for you, the writer, that I refuse to be more specific in what I’m looking for. You’re the idea person, not me. You need to write what you write, then send it out and find someone who loves it enough to advocate for it. Impress us! Wow us! Blow us away with your creativity and talent. That’s what we want – to be swept off our feet.
Most of us are specific enough about what we represent and what we don’t. For example, some agents rep only romance, some specialize in mysteries and thrillers, some represent only books for the Christian market. Many of us are specific about what we don’t want, such as the fact that I don’t look at fantasy, sci-fi, or YA.
Other than that, I’m open to being surprised by finding something I love that’s perhaps not what I would have itemized on a specific list of “what I’m looking for.” In fact, I believe that’s my only hope of being successful as an agent – having an eye for talent, and being open-minded enough to consider book ideas I’d never have thought of myself.
I encourage you to avoid worrying about exactly what each agent or editor wants. There is enough information out there for you to know in general whether you should send them your project. Beyond that, be thankful that most of us are sincerely hoping to be blown away by a project we absolutely love. And our best chance of that is to be open to a wide variety of ideas and genres.
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent