Very closely related to the hoop jumping complaint about the query process is the lament that agents often have vague guidelines about what they’re looking for. Thus, an author may have to waste time querying agents who may not be a proper fit because they inadvertently send something that just happened to not be up that particular agent’s alley.
Let me first say that some agents are wonderfully specific about what they’re looking for. They can tell you their preferences right down to the general plot points.
I am not this way. I never know what I’m going to like until I’ve seen it, and thus, am open to queries for pretty much anything.
But let’s set that aside for a moment and pretend that I am obsessively following Publishers Marketplace and looking at what is selling and could tell you precisely what I wanted to acquire, down to the genre and spirit of the book. Let’s say you write that book in six months. Let’s say it takes a couple of months to sell. Let’s then say it takes a year to come out (because it will). That’s still a minimum of a year and a half from idea to publication.
Who in the heck knows what’s going to be popular a year and a half from now?? We could all be wearing levitating hats by then. (See my other trend watching admonition here).
Trying to time the market based on what’s hot right now is kind of like trying to drive down a highway while looking through a rearview mirror. By the time you see something it’s already too late.
If you’re even going to try and time the market the only thing you can do is lick your finger and hold it up in the air to see which way the cultural winds are blowing. Think a couple of moves ahead, and take your best guess about where the world will be in a couple of years. Or crash land yourself on the island on Lost. Either way.
And, again hypothetically, let’s say I could spell out precisely what I wanted, right down to the shade of your protagonist’s eyes. Is this really a world you’d want to write in? Even if I were more specific in genre and plot terms, wouldn’t you rather write in a publishing world where we’re not dictating to you that you should write what everyone else is writing?
Admittedly, there are times when a story misses the cultural mark by just a couple of years, and stories that might have worked in 2005 don’t work in 2009. The culture is always shifting.
But the great stories are not timely: they’re timeless.
I can’t tell you what to write, and I can’t tell you in advance what I’m going to like. Just pour your heart into telling a great story that you want to tell, and let the gods of culture and publishing take care of the rest. I just want to represent great stories that the author is passionate about. Isn’t that the way it should be?