What kind of books do I look to represent? I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an agent panel where the question, “What are you looking for?” has not been asked. We agents probably irritate the pajamas off writers with our answers. “I’m looking for that book I can’t put down.” Oh, that’s specific. Or, “I’m looking for that next new voice.” Like we have any idea what that is.
Today let me be a little more specific with these two disclaimers:
- I, too, am often surprised by something I didn’t even think of seeking.
- Some of these are based on the current market, and some are because of my own personal taste and may not even be a sparkle in a publisher’s eye yet. Don’t take my mention of a particular category or genre as an indication of a hot new area of publishing.
Here’s what I’m not looking to represent:
- Picture books– love them, but it’s a tough market.
- Children’s books, middle grade, young adult– again, love these but I have to decide where to put my energy and it’s a specialized market.
- Fantasy– Not my cup of tea. I can’t curate it, analyze it, and don’t read enough to be able to know what is cliché and what is fresh.
- Science Fiction– I just don’t get it.
- Men’s fiction– action, political intrigue, etc.
- Bible studies– generally these are not something an agent represents. They are often created in house. But, caveat here, some of the publishing houses with which I work are looking for that perfect Bible study teacher to create a brand. I have several of my current authors who could fill one of those spots.
- Theological, academic and reference books– I’ll leave these for the more erudite agents.
- Issue fiction– I don’t want to see novels that are about abortion, sex trafficking, emotional or sexual abuse, etc., etc.. (These may figure in a book naturally but if your book is “about” that, it’s not for me.)
So now, on to what I am looking to represent in nonfiction:
- Great life stories. Stories of overcoming or of accomplishment. (This is different from autobiography or a faith journey about illness– these are the stories that capture our attention as well as the attention of the media.) Platform is still important.
- The book that grows out of a person’s lifelong ministry. If you are the go-to person for a certain idea or category, I know how to get things going.
- If you’ve already got a great following in the CBA market for your brand and your books I know how to take you to the next level.
- I’d love to see a book about art and the Christian walk, but again, it needs to be the person who already has built a name in that field.
- Deeper spirituality
- High concept books, whether they be devotionals, Christian Living or prescriptive. If the idea is different and knocks our socks off, I’d like to see it.
And in fiction for the inspirational market:
- That already-established author who is ready to take his or her career to the next level. I’ve got a very nice track record with doing this by focusing on reader engagement and some innovative expansion strategies.
- The author who can be the first, the foremost author in a long-fallow category. Again I have a great track record here– Jill Eileen Smith and Tessa Afshar in biblical when “no one is buying biblical.” Julianna Deering in British period mystery a la Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers. Julie Klassen, the reigning doyenne of the Inspirational British Regency (though I didn’t “discover” Julie, just came alongside). So I’ve always got an eye out for what’s next.
- Historical fiction, historical romance, historical mystery. I know the market is over-published in historical right now but it’s the genre I love and when I take an author on it’s for the long haul not for the market at this moment.
- Suspense and romantic suspense, especially with an interesting psychological twist. I’m a huge fan of this genre and would love to discover a writer who could create a compelling character and cast that would keep our interest across a whole series of books. (Read Louise Penny.)
- Contemporary. I look for redemptive, hope-filled books with characters we love by authors who write beautifully.I’m not fond of edgy, snarkey or characters with “attitude.” I don’t like the troubled hero. I like warm-hearted books that make us want to read them over again. (Read Amanda Dykes and Cynthia Ruchti.)
- Category romance: If you want to write category romance, I know how to build a long term career with this as your foundation.
- For the record: The fiction market is getting more competitive every day with lists shrinking and more debut authors trying to break in. Because of this, all of us are more critical than ever. In order to take on a not-yet-published author, you must take my breath away. With my nearly full list I’m having to say no to writers who would have been a shoo-in a few years ago.
All that said, I’m looking for that book I can’t put down and I’m looking for that next new voice. 😉
So how did I do? Does my wish list intersect with your offerings? Did I raise more questions than I answered?
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A literary agent spells out exactly what she’s looking for. Click to Tweet
What’s in and what’s out? A literary agent tells all. Click to Tweet