Wednesday, May 7, 2014

3 Love or Market: Which is More Important? Agents Reveal Their Thoughts

Hi! Lisa here. It's time for our May Agent Round Up.

The question this month is:

Given how often you have to read a manuscript that you take on, how important is marketability versus connection? Are you more likely to offer representation on a manuscript that you love in a genre that may not be selling well at the moment, or a well-written manuscript that you know editors are hungry for, but that you don't necessarily connect with as strongly? 

And here are some thoughtful answers from 3 awesome agents!

Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media 

The number one most important thing for me is to love the work and love the writing. Obviously, in a perfect world I'll find something that I love and something that is very marketable, but I would much rather have a manuscript I love and that I'll have to work hard to sell than one that's trendy. I'd rather hold out for the best of both worlds.

Jordy Albert of  The Booker Albert Literary Agency

I think marketability and connection are both incredibly important. However, I'd be more likely to offer representation on a manuscript that I love and connect with strongly. Even though that genre might not be selling well at the moment, doesn't mean it won't in a couple of years. Also, I'd be signing the author on the strength of his/her writing and storytelling ability, so I would definitely want to see more of their work, even if we aren't able to sell the manuscript I signed them for right away.

Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary

This is a smart hypothetical question, yet somehow doesn’t quite reflect how things work with me! I never take on a manuscript with which I don’t connect strongly. My fallback position is always, “If I see something to love here, if I respond emotionally, then I believe there will be an editor who feels the same way.” I find it impossible to somehow project myself into the mind of an editor loving something that leaves me cold (even though of course that happens occasionally; we all watch deals in Marketplace!). That kind of second-guessing feels like very wobbly grounds for decision making. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the position of loving a manuscript and turning it down simply because of genre. If a genre is currently really over-crowded it tends to mean I’m seeing tons of submissions in that area, and I’m instinctively raising the bar very high and reacting negatively to anything that feels derivative. Like many things in life, it’s a question of balance. Ideally I’ll find something great within a genre to which editors are open. But at a deeper level I’m looking for that moment when my heart surges with engagement, with a desire to throw myself into the ring for this author and their story. I believe a lot in my gut instinct, and I have learned to listen to it and treat it with respect!


  1. Great answers. I have to keep reminding myself not to write for the market, because the market I'm writing for will likely be completely different by the time my manuscript lands in front of an agent or editor. And if I don't love my writing, I can't expect anyone else to, either.

  2. 3 of my favorite agents and all great advice:)

  3. I'm excited by the agent's answers!! I often hear the genre I write in is dying and yet books are published in it all the time. I'm happy to know that it's the story that matters the most.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)