Literary agents may not be aware of this trend yet. Androids (human-like robots), are everywhere. Recent android movies include AI, I Robot, Ex Machina, Age of Ultron, Chappie, and let’s not forget the whole Terminator series, topped up with the forthcoming Terminator Genisys.
I’ve been trying to get a literary agent interested in my new android novel, THE NEWCOMER. So far, no luck. One problem may be that it’s a character-driven story, set in a realistic near-future, and the android is really just a device to explore human consciousness. There are no explosions, no robots on the rampage. There is no plan to take over the world.
There were plenty of “sensitive” vampire movies, and they did well during the vampire epidemic, which I believe is winding down. I just watched a sensitive vampire movie last night, an Iranian film called “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” Good movie, but if the Iranians are picking up a trend, it’s over.
I don’t know anybody in the publishing business so my strategy is the classic cold-call. I send out my one-page query letter to lists of agents who claim to be interested in sci-fi. I cull the names from agentquery.com and querytracker.net. Even so, nearly every agent claims to be interested in every genre, and why wouldn’t they be? They’re not about to turn up their nose at any decent opportunity to make a buck. So I never know how much an agent’s expressed interest is interest! or just interest. Especially if there are no rocket ships or death rays.
Some agents say they want only the query letter. They’re so swamped with submissions, they can only absorb a few paragraphs, probably only a few lines. It’s sobering to think that the fate of a manuscript that took years to build, depends on some assistant’s mood when they read one or two lines of an email.
If there’s a tidal wave of manuscripts inundating agents, don’t we need more agents? The problem is, of course, that 95% of those manuscripts are not immediately salable, and that problem arises from the structure of the publishing industry, which must sell into the middle of the bell curve of the reading public, a public which is shrinking every year, and whose members are less able and willing than ever before to purchase new books. No wonder writers prefer to avoid the business side of the profession. It’s discouraging. It’s depressing.
About half of agents ask the author to include a writing sample, anywhere from the first five pages to the first fifty. About a quarter ask for a synopsis, just to see if you really have a full story with an ending. About ten percent ask for an author bio, although I’m not sure what they hope to learn from that. It’s probably just to make sure you’re not somebody famous that they shouldn’t pass up.
Ninety-five percent of agents are female, and most say they are keen to publish children’s books, young adult, new adult, and books from women writers, with women’s themes, involving female characters. That makes intuitive sense, and while I’m sure no serious agent is going to turn down a good manuscript because of gender bias, the whole book industry leans that way because the vast majority of novels are purchased by women. They are the target market, and everything else follows from that.
It is utterly self-defeating, I believe, to write to the market. A writer must write what needs to be written regardless of what’s hot at the moment. Still, if by chance you happen to catch a wave, like androids overtaking vampires, why not advertise it?