Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Agent's Wish List

Workout Song of the Day: "Armada Latina" Cypress Hill ftg. Pitbull and Marc Anthony

Okay, so I'm doing something a little different today. On Mondays, I usually do a profile of an agent on my wish list. But today, I've been sent home from work today with the worse allergies since the dawn of allergies. Needless to say, I'm feeling a little grumpy. And I've also been seeing a lot of these:

And that makes me not only grumpy, but a little depressed. So, instead of highlighting agents that I wish would someday represent me, I'm turning the tables. While researching agents that I'm considering to query, I sometimes come across something on their wish list. I've seen agents that want more humorous stories; I've seen agents that want more "edgy" stories; I've seen agents who want more stories with male protagonists; I've especially seen agents who are looking for more middle grade.
So, I think one of two things when I see these kinds of items: 1. But I do write "insert genre here" and you rejected me, or 2. Hmm, a middle grade series featuring a blind boy who fights crime? Hey, I can write that!
Is the latter a crime? I did read about a writer who took a stab at a story just because they saw it on an agent's wish list, and now she's published! But I also always read that you should write what you want to write--what feels authentic to you. I am currently considering writing a second manuscript based on an agent's preference, but I'm still trying to stay true to my own style of writing, as well.
What do you think? Do you cater to what agents are looking for, or do you just keep writing what's in your heart and keep your fingers crossed that an agent will love it as much as you do? I need answers--and something to cheer me up a bit. :(


Melanie said...

I write what I am interested in just because I can't imagine that writing what someone else wants would garner much quality from me. It would almost be like doing assigned work in school - not fun!

But it might be something to look into seeing as how I am not doing very well finishing a second manuscript. I always did well on assigned writing projects in school.

Uh, I have confused myself, what was the question???

Marquita Hockaday said...

I think it's a difficult choice to make, it would be great if agents wanted EXACTLY what you write and find nothing wrong with it, but I guess that would make things too easy. However, I feel like as writers we should never feel compromised. We should write what we feel passionate about- but, I do think at some point we may have to write things to cater to agents every now and then- especially if we want to be represented and if we want to have some kind of success. I don't really know what I'm talking about but I hope I sound educated :)

Pam Harris said...

Thanks ladies, I think you have both answered my questions very well--even though I'm not even sure myself what I was asking exactly! :) But I do agree that quality writing comes from both passion and discipline--you need to write what you love, but be able to pull yourself away from it enough to be aware of its flaws.

Jaime Reed said...

Great post! Researching for the right agent is important and a pain in the butt. Agents request different thing based on their interests and their publishing CONNECTIONS. If they can’t pitch a SF books, why submit a SF manuscript? There are times as a new writer you have to set your masterpiece aside and do something a little more commercial just to get you foot in the door. That’s how I got picked up.

Pam Harris said...

Jaime, you really hit the nail on the head with that one. I feel motivated to start my new idea now (based on an agent's wish list). Thanks! :)

Phoebe North said...

Great post.

I have to admit that I started working on my current WIP--a paranormal romance involving (cough) a merman--in part because Ginger Clark keeps tweeting that she wants mermaid stuff. That being said, it's been an idea that's been germinating since I was 16 or so--I recently found some notes on the story in a high school notebook; weird feeling!--and I needed a project to keep me busy while querying. It really only works for me because I was already feeling somewhat enthusiastic about the idea. For example, plenty of agents seem to be grabbing angel/demon/reaper stuff right now. I draw a complete creative blank on that one, and it's just not my own tastes, so I don't know if I'd be able to twist my own arm about it.

Glenna said...

It's scary how much querying is like dating. Just like in dating, you are most likely (unless people are very lucky- and you may join be in wishing foot boils upon those lucky people) going to go through a BUNCH of people before you find someone who you can work with long term, and the keyword there is work. There will always be compromise, but just like in dating, I advise everyone to not change their whole self for the sake of a relationship, or an agent.

Of course, don't let that stop you from testing the waters. If it feels right to send it out, send it out. The awesome part is, sometimes people find out what they thought they wanted isn't what they want- and what the get, serendipitously, is. Allow for that serendipity! Take chances! Send queries!

And, finally, does it always come down to genre? You might find that someone who usually represents, say, middle grade blind boys fighting crime, might do so because those are all similar length, or tone, mood, etc. There are a lot more factors than genre, right?

So there's my epic comment. (:

Pam Harris said...

That was, indeed, an epic comment Samurai--filled with many tidbits that I've taken to heart. I LOVED the dating analogy. I'm still looking for "the one" in that department, too! :)

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Hi Pam - hope you're feeling MUCH BETTER now. I've been suffering the allergy blues myself a bit lately.

Keep seeing you around the blogosphere and thought it high time to pop on over and join up. Have just read some of your older posts and really enjoyed what I saw.

Jaime Reed echoed my thoughts exactly on what you were asking today. Of course, personally I have a full-time teaching schedule and a couple of kids who keep me busy....so, I think that a lot depends on the time restraints you have, too. Would you work on 2 projects at the same time? The commercial and the 'personal' - or would you give the personal a backseat ride and pay more attention to the possible 'seller?'

Interesting question. THANKS!

Pam Harris said...

Hello Ann Marie! So glad you've joined me! :) And I juggle a busy schedule as well: I work full-time AND part-time, and I'm also returning to school for creative writing. I commend everyone who has kids and keeps up a writing schedule. To answer your question, no matter how hard I try, it's hard for me to juggle two projects at once. Right now, I'm finally putting aside my "baby" (just for a little bit) to have fun with a new project. Maybe when I'm halfway done on my new WIP, I can dive back in for more revisions. Good question!

Unknown said...

I write what's in my heart. Since the chance of being published is slim, I might as well write what is meaningful to me. Of course I make sure I'm not writing something that's already been done, unless I can do it in a different way. :D

Tahereh said...

i can understand your predicament, bestie. this is tough. non-stop rejections can put a damper on your spirit, but i don't think you should stop writing what you love. make sure that what you love is marketable, but don't cater your writing to one specific person. this industry is SO SO SO subjective. hang in there -- you want an agent who will love your work the way it is.

plus, you might be able to churn out one MS that's not true to your wants, but could you do that for the rest of your life? best to stick to your guns at the early stage, i think.

i swear, i was thinking all of these things, ready to call it quits and call myself crazy when i got my offer of rep. you just never know.

besides, i have no doubt you'll be amazing. just keep trucking.

don't doubt your potential!!


Jon Paul said...

Pam--Great post, and I hope you get to feeling better.

I would definitely choose option B: write what you want and forget what agents are looking for.

There are two reasons why that is my choice: 1) When you write for someone else, you may not be writing to your own strengths, and I definitely feel this affects the final product and 2) due to the long lead-time required to prepare a MS for the querying process (2-3 years), I think it's impossible to match agent needs to MS idea. What's hot today will be old news tomorrow, so I say go with your gut.

Thanks for sharing.

Pam Harris said...

Thank you so much everyone for your input! I definitely feel much better, and I think I have an idea of what my next step will be. I'm going to start something new, but it's going to be a combination of what I want to do as well as what may be a bit more "commercial." You guys are the best! :)