At a recent conference, I heard pretty much the last thing an agent wants to hear in a pitch session. No, I’m not talking about “…and they sparkle,” I’m referring to the writer who has no manuscript, has no idea for a manuscript, but wants to know what’s hot right now because he “can write pretty much anything, just let [him] know.”
Folks, that’s not how it works, and I’ll break down why.
First of all, with very few exceptions, don’t write for a current trend. Chances are, by the time you notice a trend and then produce something to match it, the trend will have long since passed you by.
This message is brought to you by all the agents still getting vampire queries.
Second, we can usually tell when someone is writing something because they love the genre so much that they simply can’t not write it vs. someone who is trying to flip a manuscript for a quick(ish) buck. If you’re in the former camp, chances are, you’re so well-read in the genre that you:
- Know what the audience expects of that kind of book, so you produce something they can naturally connect with. You’re coming at this from the perspective of a fan, so you know what makes readers of the genre totally geek out and what they consider lame or cliché. You speak to them in their own language, rather than pandering or talking down to them.
- Know what your competition is offering, so you produce something that has a place in the market. You know what’s already been done and can tell the tipping point between homage and just plain being a copycat. This is also where the writers who say, “I write just like [bestselling author]” fail. We simply don’t need them, because we already have [bestselling author].
And third, it often takes an author several successful books in the same genre before they build up the kind of brand that causes readers to seek them out for that type of product. Think Stephen King. See how I don’t even need to mention a genre? That’s what you should be aiming for, and you just don’t get that by writing whatever is popular when each trend hits.
Like a good author, a good agent is in this for the long haul. If you’ve been following us, you know that our philosophy of management centers around building sustained, successful careers, rather than flipping manuscripts and then walking away. We want authors who care so much about their genre that they’re looking to achieve the same. This usually means that they can’t write just anything. Instead, they can’t not write what they’re passionate about.