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The more things change…

It’s the beginning of a new year and I thought that I would look back to when I began as an agent in 1986 to see what I was representing and selling then compared to where my interests and successes are today.  It has been fun to look back.

When I started out, practical non-fiction – self-help – was all the rage and I certainly represented my fair share of books in that category.  Soon, I began to represent cookbooks and one author spoke to another who recommended me to another and another and before I knew it I had a fairly large cookbook list.

Then there were the true crime titles.  Again, I picked up a lot of writers who were interested in this category (one that sold very well for years and years).  Initially, these books were published in hardcover, followed by paperback editions, but after a number of years, they were only published as original mass market paperbacks.

I did some business books, both practical and narrative non-fiction along with some biographies.  I slowly started adding some fiction, genre and non-genre.

All of this is vastly different today, both because the marketplace has changed enormously – current reading tastes are very different than they were over twenty years ago – and because my tastes in what I want to represent have changed as well.

Looking at what I have sold in the last couple of years I find:

Fiction:  Women’s fiction, thrillers, mystery, romance – historical and contemporary —  fantasy, including urban fantasy and historical fantasy, literary fiction, and some horror.

I am also representing many more memoirs than I have in the past.

A constant on my list, then and now, is narrative non-fiction by award-winning journalists. This has always been something I have been interested in and over the years I have represented a number of Pulitzer Prize winning authors.

And, yes, though I am handling far fewer cookbooks, I still am representing some of my favorite authors in the food world.  I am still handling true crime as well (although it seems the distribution system for true crime has totally collapsed making it harder and harder to sell into this category).

In short, it is very interesting to look back and see how my interests have changed as reading tastes have changed.  And it is exciting to look forward as well.  What are you reading now that you didn’t read 10 or 20 years ago?  How have your tastes changed?

6 Responses to The more things change…

  1. Jim Hofer says:

    I’ve always been a fan of fantasy and to some degree sci/fi. Once I became a parent, I started reading a lot to my children which opened me up to a lot of books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Now that they don’t need me to read to them every night, I still pick up the books they are reading, especially if they talk about them a lot. They’ve introduced me to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “The Hunger Games”, “The City of Ember”, “Percy Jackson”, and even “Twilight” (although I think Stephanie Meyer could have taken some lessons from R.A. Salvatore to actually do something with her action scenes once she has set them up).

    My youngest daughter brought home a book called, “POP”, that I only read because I thought it odd that she would have a book with two football players on it.

  2. I used to be pretty exclusive in my SF and fantasy reading, but these days I do read a lot more literary and non-genre fiction. I’d like to read more narrative non-fiction as well, but have had trouble squeezing it in to my already bloated to-be-read list.

  3. Catherine Whitney says:

    I think reading interests change and then change back. But great books can always break out amid the trends. You’ve been smart to keep such a varied, limber list. I love the variety.

  4. ryan field says:

    I’m reading more and more YA, which I never thought I would be reading ten years ago.

  5. Andrea says:

    Literary criticism. Never thought that I would ever want to pick that up, but I love it. Better than books about how to write fiction.
    Fantasy. I´d just never realized there was such a thing as fantasy for adults… I thought I was going to have to read children´s books for the rest of my life to be able to read about anything magical. (I´m from The Netherlands, where any novel that´s a depressing post-WW II story is considered literature and fantasy is considered childish)
    Poetry, thanks to W.B. Yeats.
    Shakespeare. What can I say?

  6. Anonymous says:

    After college, when I did not have to read text books, I didcovered the New York times bestseller list and for a long time read fiction exclusively from that list. I went through a short spell of reading literaly journals and discovered that the genra holds no interest for me — I like crass commercialism!

    Then I spent a season or two with Romance and still do check out my favorite authors from time to time — expecially the SF Romance.

    But my enduring favorte are the epic family stories with characters that develop and grow in an historic setting.

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