ELECTRIC LIT recently published an article featuring literary agent Kate McKean’s list of 10 kinds of novels that have crossed her desk hundreds of times. The list is funny and, for writers planning to submit to literary agents, somewhat informative. It’s useful to know what lit agents are sick of. But if literary agents have a list of kinds of books that they are sick of, then they are either in the wrong profession or, more importantly, they are thinking of the wrong audience. To put it plainly, the literary agent is not the audience.
Here’s why. As a professional in the literary world, it is an agents job to read hundreds of manuscripts. Often, they are even chasing a particular kind of book and will read hundreds of manuscripts just like that. Couple this reality with the fact that agents (and publishers) are often chasing trends as much as the writers are, then it should be plain to see why an agent could easily become burned out on a particular kind of book.
But the agent doesn’t matter; only the reader matters.
Yes, an agent is usually the book’s first audience, and in that sense, the agent matters very much to the author who sent in their query. But burnt-out agents have probably cost the world thousands, if not millions of wonderful books.
A reader doesn’t necessarily care if there are thousands of Twilight knockoffs on the shelves if those are the kinds of books that reader loves. Such a reader is likely to want a hundred more Twilight knockoffs and may still never become sick of them. It is the agent’s job, just as it is the writer’s job, to put their egos behind their readers. This doesn’t mean that you need to bring derivitive crap to the table. This doesn’t mean that you don’t write what you love. It means that the reader is first, and finding the intersection of what you love and what the readers love is your job.
Yes, burnout can happen. But always remember that the professionals, the authors, the agents, the publishers, are likely to become burnt out far more quickly than any reader ever will. And you aren’t the person that the books are for, they are.