A few weeks ago, I received a reader question asking about my wish list at BookEnds. Christine asked:
I have a story that I believe, according to your interests on the article, you would be interested in, especially if you like [underdogs, strong female characters and/or unreliable narrators.] It is also important for me to write characters that are relatable, that readers can see [reflected in the media they consume].
However, it is a first draft and I am currently in the process of preening it.
I’ve added you to my list of literary agents to query once all is said and done. Would you still be interested in those concepts listed on the WritersDigest article, after – say, two years?
So, in this case, I would say it’s very likely that two years from now I’ll still enjoy underdogs, strong female characters, unreliable narrators, and books with a diverse cast of characters. But these are broader concepts that are unlikely to change much at all during my career as an agent.
That said, some of my more narrow #mswl tweets might not be applicable two years from now. If I tweeted that I’m looking for a picture book biography on Madam Curie, then it’s possible that two years from now I would have already sold a pb on Madam Curie and would not want to put a competing book on my list. So it’s always good to recheck your agent research every time you’re about to submit!
That said, reasons why an agent’s wish list might change include:
- Going from not enough of something on their list, to too much of something. If you have an author that writes in a very specific niche (e.g. all their novels are set in France during the 1600’s), then you might not want to take on a book set in France during the 1680s, as you will be competing with yourself in terms of trying to place those books with editors.
- The market has shifted. If editors aren’t buying in a particular genre anymore, then an agent would be hesitant to take on a book in that genre. (There are always exceptions, but they’d have to be spectacular.)
- They’ve decided to step back from one genre to focus on another. This could be for personal interest reasons, shifting market conditions, changing agencies, etc.
There are certain, broader parts of an agent’s wishlist that might never change (e.g. as an agent that focuses on children’s literature, I will always be open to picture book, middle grade and young adult submissions). But as the years go by, the marketplace and my current list is going to shift what I’m looking for at any one moment in time.