8. How do you know what agents and publishers want? Some key websites.

Let’s say you’re writing a vampire novel (please don’t, it’s been done to death). How do you find out whether this is what the market is looking for? Are you spending hours writing a dark mystery novel when what everyone wants right now is spy thrillers? One editor, for example, fourteen hours ago was looking for “original fantasy! No elves, no orcs, no dwarfs, no euro-centric worlds. Give me something new!” and “non-military space opera! Well-developed characters, intriguing plot, original world building”. A day ago, another was looking for “a romantic comedy featuring hockey players! Bonus points for an enemies to lovers conflict”.

How do I know this? The Internet of course. All this information, and loads more, is on a website called MS WishList (http://www.mswishlist.com/). It is one of several such sites. Another is Agent and Editor Wishlist (http://agentandeditorwishlist.tumblr.com/). And then there’s the twitter frenzy of #mswl. Agents and publishers post their interests on these sites. There’s even an online pitching party four times a year on twitter at #pitmad (short for pitch madness) where you can pitch your completed manuscript directly. The next one is on Thursday 4 June from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. UK time).

Of course, the agents and publishers who use these sites are generally the smaller ones. But some of the larger companies also periodically indicate what they’re looking for. Agents at Curtis Brown, one of the largest literary agencies, recently published a list of books they loved and what they would like to see more of (http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/blog/the-last-book-i-loved-recommendations-from-the-curtis-brown-agents/)

And then there’s the industry trade magazine, the Bookseller (http://www.thebookseller.com/) if you want to keep up with what’s hot and what’s not. You’ll find a lot of articles there about how the publishing world has been transformed by the e-publishing and self-publishing technological revolutions, and arguments about whether power in the industry has been transferred from publishers to readers, or to authors.

When I discovered all these websites, in addition to those of agents, publishers and magazines I had researched as being of interest to me, my heart sank. Were there really enough hours in the day to keep up with them all, and leave the odd minute here or there to do some writing? Of course, if you’re diligent you will keep up with them all. However, if you’re indolent like me, you’ll want something more digested. I confess the only thing I read regularly is the weekly (free) newsletter from Authors Publish, which I mentioned in a previous post. They highlight different publishers and magazines you can approach. That’s how I found the publishers to whom I submitted A Prize of Sovereigns. They have a really useful overview of publishers you can approach directly (http://www.authorspublish.com/the-top-20-publishers-for-new-authors/).

You do have to somehow keep tabs on what the market wants. Going to talks at Literary Festivals can be the sluggard’s way of doing this. The Winchester Writers’ Festival is coming up in a month’s time, and I’ll be there. I have one-to-one meetings lined up with an agent and a publisher. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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