STATUS: Spring in Denver. It’s Friday! I should pop out early. On Monday, it’s going to be 70 degrees. How could I possibly work? Time to take the laptop and hit the park.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE IS STRANGE By Mickey & Sylvia
(and yes, that’s from the DIRTY DANCING soundtrack)
So this morning, Sara and I got into a big discussion about why it might be important for authors to know where their books fit in the market.
Certainly it’s the agent’s job to understand that (and some would argue—more so than the writers) but why are we, as agents, adamant that writers should to?
Well, we had a lively discussion because we wanted to tackle the concept from all angles. Should that responsibility be lifted from the writers’ shoulders? But then we delved into our query letters and what a difference it makes when writers do demonstrate that knowledge.
I hate to harp on all the queries we receive because isn’t that a dead horse. No need to keep beating it, but ultimately we decided that when writers have that market knowledge and use it correctly, it makes a difference in terms of helping your query letter stand out.
So, here’s our list of why writers should know where their books fit in the market.
1. Knowing clearly demonstrates your publishing professionalism
Right or wrong, we are suckers for that. I want to work with writers who are savvy about the world they want to be a part of. Call me crazy but the more you know as a writer, the easier my job is to help you get published.
2. Here’s a surprise that came up in our discussion. This might be a big assumption and a strange bias but we both agreed with it. Knowing shows that you are a reader and we naturally assume that folks who are good readers will potentially be good writers.
You’d be amazed at how many people I talk to who are “dying” to write a novel and yet don’t read on a regular basis. I’m not certain I get the disconnect there.
3. Not knowing shows your ignorance (and I don’t mean these people are stupid—just that they are lacking in knowledge).
Now, we understand that there will always be people who don’t know what they don’t know and that’s not a reason to dismiss the query letter. We will still read and consider it but right there, we now expect the writing in the query to rise above the standard to compensate.
Is that fair? Probably not but I’m just trying to tell you how it is. If a writer doesn’t know the genre or the book’s place in the market, it would be better to not even try and label it rather than mislabeling or doing so with a strange genre assortment.
Let the story speak for itself by writing a darn good query letter.