Sunday, November 22, 2015

Finding X a Spot

By Kasie Whitener

I’ve been querying my GenX novel After December to small press publishers. I made the decision after doing an agent-pitch last spring.

The agent said nobody wants to read about the ’90s. It’s too recent to be considered historic and too long ago to be considered relevant.

To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the ’90s. We have Trivial Pursuit the ’90s Edition and it’s ridiculously hard.

In the “Tinkering With History” panel at Atoma-CON last weekend, the four writers disagreed that the ’90s wasn’t history. It’s pre-9/11 so the lens isn’t yet blurred by terrorism and war. It’s all dot-com hangover sliding toward reality TV.

They said the agent may not have been the right sales person for my work. Well, duh.

Agent: “Why can’t this guy just be 22 now?”
Me: “Like, a Millennial?”
Agent: “Yeah.”
Me: “But there’d be social media and a big part of the story is his detachment from his friends.”
Agent: “Maybe he’s just not into social media.”
Me: “A Millennial?”

I know some Millenials and they’re basically good kids. But come on. Their value system is very very different from mine. Stripping GenX from Brian Listo is like making Elizabeth Bennett a lesbian. While it might be a doable version of the story, it would be a very different story.

Agent: “Who would read this novel?”
Me: “Book clubs, you know, those GenX moms who drink wine and remember their high school boyfriends? Also possibly college kids now. My beta readers were college kids.”
Agent: “So Millenials are a target audience?”
Me: “Sure, I mean, I read Ethan Hawke’s college-kid-finds-love-and-loses-it novel The Hottest State when I was in college and it resonated.”
Agent: “So then the main character should be one of them.”
Me: (face palm)

You don’t have to make a book about the Millenials. They’ll make the book about themselves. For crying out loud, most of them think DiCaprio originated the role of Jay Gatsby.

The trouble with that agent wasn’t just that she didn’t get it. She couldn’t sell it. And if an agent doesn’t think she can sell your work, she isn’t going to try to rep it.

Industry insiders keep saying that agents reflect what the publishers say they want. So I need to find a publisher who wants to take a risk on a GenX novel.

Publisher: “This isn’t really the kind of work we normally print.”
Me: “I know. You’ll be the first ones in on this new trend.”
Publisher: “We like being first.”
Me: “Honda is putting Strawberry Shortcake and Skeletor in their minivan ads. Marketing to GenX will sell books.”
Publisher: “We like anything that sells.”

So I found a few publishers whose line card includes some edgy stuff and made a list. Now I just have to craft the perfect query and send them the work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out how does Skeletor convince someone to buy a car. He-man, now that would have made me go to the bank.