Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Answer to Nan's Agent Question

Nan asked about the willingness of an agent to accept writers who cross genres.

Probably not.

I offer two reasons.

1. Think of those who will read your books. Most fiction readers stay within the lines of fiction and it’s also true with nonfiction readers.

2. When you sign with an agent you want to build your platform/identity. You build it with a focus on one genre and each time you write another book within your identified field, you add loyal readers.

Although I’m an exception in that I cross genres within the nonfiction area, I’m primarily identified with ghostwriting and collaboration. That’s still within the nonfiction area. A couple of years ago I published 3 cozy mysteries and they haven’t done particularly well—certainly not in comparison with nonfiction books under my own name. Readers don’t follow writers when they depart from their identifiable area.

Few writers cross the line successfully with both fiction and nonfiction. If you feel you want to widen your range, build your reputation in one genre. After you’re established you might try to expand. John Grisham and James Patterson have both published a nonfiction book within the past three years. They did well because of name recognition—but nothing like the sales of their novels.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Cec. When I asked the question about crossing over genres, I saw my platform as a common denominator - like a hub with the different genres branching out from it. The novel I am working on is a historical fiction which depicts the faith of the Hasidic Jews during the Holocaust. It teaches (which is its primary purpose) and celebrates the similarities Christians and Jews share in their faith. The bible study series emphasizes the Jewish roots of our Christian faith by delving deeply into the Old Testament and its support of New Testament truths. The books for children are but a twinkle in my eye at this point. I am also a speaker. Again, my speaking topics are rooted in the Old Testament and then woven in and out of the New with an emphasis on our Jewish roots. The bible study series is based on my speaking topics.

    Whew! That was a mouthful! After my explanation, does your answer remain the same? My platform is clearly defined. I see its expression in the different genres. Do I need to narrow my vision? Does someone like me seek out different representation for different projects? I know that, first and foremost, I am a teacher. Make that a teacher that appreciates Cec Murphey's guidance.

    Thanks. You're a blessing.


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