on Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity:
(First published 12 April 2016 but still valid today)
Your manuscript is complete and polished, and now you are ready to embark on the task of sending query letters.
Before you send your query, you need to do a little research. Does the agent accept your genre? Does the agent have a track record? Does the agent clearly describe his or her submission requirements? And when the agent starts describing what it is he or she wants, what on earth are they talking about?
Agents, like publishers, use jargon – it’s one of the hazards of the trade. But as an author, you may have no idea what they mean by “high concept,” “upmarket,” “literary.” Reasonably speaking, your job is to write your book; theirs is to find a niche for it. Unfortunately, writers are expected to define not only their genre, and their audience, but also their market niche, which is something they may know nothing about.
It’s never too late to learn!
Here are some terms you may run across in agent bios when they describe what they are seeking: