Why do so many writers send their manuscript to agents who don’t represent their genre? Its just a waste of time for both parties. Despite what some people might think, the submission guidelines are not the pirate code from Pirates of the Caribbean. They are, in fact, rules to be followed.
Sometimes I think these mix-ups happen simply because a writer doesn’t do their research. But I think some writers make the mistake of thinking that their manuscript will be so good that the agent’s genre preference doesn’t matter. So to dispel this way of thinking, let’s talk about why agents represent specific genres.
When you get an agent, it’s the agent’s job to find someone to publish the MS. If they’ve been in the business a long time, or they’re new agents with an established agency, they have certain connections. That is, editors they go to first with projects. These editors specialize in certain genres just like agents do, partially because the publishing process is very different depending on the genre. Agents specialize in genres because they have strong connections built up with publishing houses who publish the same. If you send them something they don’t represent, they might not know the best way to get it published. Simple as that. Look for an agent who knows your genre and your audience. They’ll be the best match.
Agencies have different agents for different genres and categories. Some agents represent young adult, some adult. Some represent speculative fiction and some represent contemporary. There is often an overlap, but an agency tries to cover a lot of different genres with different agents. That way a writer looking to query the agency can find a good match. An agent who doesn’t rep adult fiction might very well read adult fiction. But its not what they represent for their job. Again, pick your best match. That’s what will take you far.
In the end it’s all about passion. Agents read ALL KINDS of books. But they have preferences and certain tropes that really stick with them and tickle their fancy. An agent reps a certain genre or type of book because they have to LOVE the book. Not just enjoy reading it. They have to love it enough to read it over and over again and champion it as it goes to publishers. They need to want to fight for it. And they can’t do that for a genre they don’t love no matter how good the book is.
Bottom line: You want someone to fall in love with your book. There are many reasons agents only represent specific genres but the other thing is, there are agents who love your genre. Great agents. Seek out the ones who will be passionate enough to champion your book. It will work out best for everyone in the end.