R is for Representative Categories

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

By Laura Zats

Ok guys, I’m going to have some realtalk with you today. It’s a BAD IDEA to throw your query letter at a bunch of agents and hope that it’ll stick to one of them.

This is because we each have something called “representative categories” which are genres/categories that we represent as agents (duh). Anything not on that list, we do not want to see in a query letter. Ever. Period. Stern face.

Some of us exclude things from our categories because we don’t like to read a particular type of book. But usually, our decisions of what kind of books to represent are very strategic. As agents, we need to be constantly maintaining our personal and business relationships with editors. If you weren’t sure before, let me tell you: there are a LOT of publishing houses, and EVEN MORE editors.

If we were to represent everything under the sun, we would have only a very cursory idea of what each subsection of the industry is like. As it is right now, agents try to know a few genres very well, because that very specific and specialized knowledge is why we can negotiate kick-ass contracts and provide the very valuable service that we do.

So for the love of all that is good in this world, only query agents if they represent the type of book your wrote! If you’re not sure what kind of book you wrote, ask some people. Try to find books that are similar to yours, and if you are thinking to yourself, “but there’s NOTHING like my book out there,” look harder.

It’ll save you lots of time in the end, it’ll stop us from pulling our hair out, and you won’t make it to the super-secret agent blacklist that gets passed around. You want to find an agent, we want you to find an agent, so be strategic about it your search!

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