Friday, February 06, 2009

What Agents Read

In my post on An Agent’s Taste a reader made a comment that I started to respond to, and then I thought later that more people could benefit from it, so I created this post instead.

To either refresh your memory or bring it to your attention if you don’t read the comments, the reader said,

I've noticed that now that Twilight and its sister novels are mega-hits with editors and readers, that many agents, especially those who blog, have mentioned that they are now reading them. I find this interesting and weirdly disingenuous. And I wonder if they would have read the manuscripts had they come across their desks. Probably not.

So why bother reading them now?

It's not like there aren't fresh manuscripts with unique premises to read. WHY do agents read the latest hot tomes, then say they want something different? Aren't agents looking for something other than Twilight look-alikes? Personally, I doubt it. I think very many want Twilight, Harry Potter, Inkheart, etc., and that's okay, but I wish agents were honest about this part of the business and what they're really looking for from new authors.

Agents are reading Twilight, read other hit novels, and just plain read for a number of reasons, the biggest probably being that it’s for their own enjoyment. I read books all the time that I probably would have rejected as an agent, or have no interest in representing, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the book. For agents who represent that genre or aren’t reading strictly for pleasure, they are probably reading for market research.

Just like readers, there is no way agents and editors can read every book that’s published, but when something becomes a hit and much talked about, not just by the publishing community, we want to know why. It’s important for us to read these books to gain a better understanding of what is grabbing readers. For me, reading published books also helps my editing skills. I will often pick up tidbits like what’s working for a character or a plot or not working and learn to hone my own editing skills.

You should also know that there are a number of books I read now that I would never read in manuscript form or never have requested had they crossed my desk. Some aren’t my taste, some are genres I’m not interested in agenting, even if I do like to read, and some were published or sold years ago and at the time it definitely didn’t fit my style.

I appreciate your questions, but wish you trusted agents a little more. It’s going to be awfully difficult to work with one when you trust them so little. Just because we read what’s hot in the market doesn’t mean we don’t want something different.