You write a book. You polish it.Then you polish it some more. When it's good and shiny, you write a query letter. Then you polish it. Then you polish it some more. Then you gather up all of your resolve and you send the query to a prospective agent.
The problem is, which agent? Agents represent different and often very specific things. When I first started sending queries out into the transom, I got a fair pile of rejections that said something to the effect of "this isn't right for me" or "we may not be the right agency for this'. My bad. Querying, like writing, is a learning process. And I made a rookie mistake, I sent out to whoever at whatever agency and hoped beyond hope that something would stick.
I got older and a little wiser. One of the things I learned is that you have to target agents. The best way to do this is to go to the agent's website and find out what, exactly, they're interested in representing.
Seemed a good strategy. Problem is, that this information can be hard to ferret out. Agents can be a bit vague when asked to identify the books they'd love to see on their lists. They say things like "a good story" or "literary fiction with a strong commercial potential."They ask for things like 'literary horror' or 'steampunk with a sci-fi overtone'. All of which left me saying "Huh?"
The other problem I've had is in trying to define what it is I write. My stories tend to have some sort of love story in them, but they don't follow the exacting guidelines for romance. I tend to shy away from the term "literary fiction" because the notion that I'm writing something that could be called literature makes me snort my coffee out my nose. Women's fiction fits the bill, but not exactly, because there is a more 'literary' element to what I aspire to.
I kind of, sort of bridged the quandary by comparing my work to the work of other writers. My latest, a romantic comedy, is sort of Nick Hornby-like. Which gives you a notion, I suppose. But the thing is, it's not Nick Hornby's book. It's my book, which is something else entirely.
The other day, quite by accident, I stumbled upon it. The description I'd been looking for. An agent in a blog said she was looking for 'upmarket women's fiction'. I had no idea what that might be.At first blush, it had me imagining books about women who lived on the upper east side of Manhattan and shopped for shoes at Fifth Avenue boutiques.
Curious, I googled the term. I found it described on Wikipedia as "A cross between literary fiction and women's fiction." A second site described it as "women's fiction with a strong literary component". Holy sub-category, that was what I was writing.
So now I have a name for it. I am the proud purveyor of upmarket women's fiction. I'm going to have a t-shirt made. More importantly, I'm going to target agents and publishers who are looking for just that. I don't know how I'll fare, but it has got to be better than throwing stuff into the transom and hoping that something will stick
I'll keep you posted.