Why is anyone sending Nancy paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, cozies, picture books, etc?
This is what is says on our website under Nancy's profile:
As an agent, I represent quality writers who have a story to tell, am always on the lookout for strong historicals or historical romances, haunting gothics, upmarket women's fiction, big commercial military thrillers, literary and mainstream fiction, epic family sagas and African-American fiction and romance. Above all, I'm looking for exquisite writing and a voice that grabs me, whatever the genre.
Just because it says "exquisite writing and a voice that grabs me, whatever the genre." does not mean "query me with whatever tickles your fancy!" It's clear to see from what she is looking for and already represents what she would gravitate to. And if you're going to push the boundaries of her interest, it should still make sense.
For example, a long-standing client, Thea Devine, wrote a dark, epic, juicy gothic vampire novel that comes out next year (THE DARKEST HEART, Gallery Books, June 2011). Nancy is not looking for genre vampire books or the equivalent, but she DOES love big, juicy, epic gothics. So the vampire element isn't the element that initially attracted her here...just an added bonus.
It's all about looking for the Pattern-of-Interest (this is a term made up by me, just now, at this moment, in order to clarify my point--so please don't think it's industry standard language.). And there are many different ways to research for this. My suggestion would be to do as MUCH research as possible on the agents you plan to query.
- What does it say they are looking for on their website?
- What does it say that are NOT looking for on their website?
- What authors do they currently represent? (There is a secondary step here--after discovering who they represent and have sold, research those titles and authors as well, and if you can, read or at least flip through a couple of the books. This will give you a good sense of what kinds of voice and styles they are attracted to.)
- What have they recently sold?
- If the agent has a blog, do you follow regularly to get a better sense of his/her personal taste, interests, and voice?
- Are there any interviews that express even further interests?
Once you've gone through that checklist of research, you should see a pretty strong Pattern-of-Interest. Which should bring you to the final question:
- Does my story satisfy enough of the agent's interest/taste that it would make sense to query him/her?
Sometimes this means sending outside of the agent's typical genre--because the voice is similar to others they've represented, or it's in alignment with the agent's favorite book or TV show (or whatever the reason may be), and that's OK.
Whatever you do, the research is key. And if you don't do it, trust me when I say: We. Can. Tell.