View Full Version : AGENTS PER GENRE

07-01-2005, 11:29 PM
Below is a list of the aproximate number of agents representing different genres. I did this to get an overall view of what genres are most popular today with legitimate non-fee agents. My source was Agent Query. I was curious about trends. This is by no means ALL the agents, only those listed in this source. These values are aproximate.

Historical Fiction--144 agents
Children's Books--104
Chick Lit--106
Women's Fiction--192
Gay Lesbian--16
Off beat/Quirky--64
True Crime--48
Commerical (Mainstream?)--384
Young Adult--128
Short Story Collections--56
Family Saga--65

Wow, you go girls. Between romance, women's and chick lit, there is a huge female oriented market out there. No suprise--women do buy more books.
Looks like Commericial/mainstream dominates the field. No suprise there. I'm surprised that horror is neck-and-neck with romance. I think that romance, generally speaking, outsells horror, and that they lumped women's fiction in there and I'll bet that romance is crossing over into this category. What's really the shocker for me is that if you cross-over thriller/suspense with mystery, you have a "put me on a thrill ride page-turner" mentality. Look at literary, almost as large as commercial. Are literary books the salt of best-sellers and classics? Another big suprise was the historical category and how large it was, but couldn't historical also be termed literary?

Now, I'll just guess that family saga means "memoire", eh? Has memoire had a rise in the last 15 years? I don't remember it being that popular. Now, by Military/espionage, would that also include "techno-thriller"? You know, the Clancy type material?

The biggest hurt on me would be the extremely narrow agent market for Adventure, or what I like to call and write--Action/Adventure. Truly, hard darts on me. Remind me to never refer to my novel as an action/adventure. I'll play it safe and call it Thriller/suspense.

It's obvious that some of these categories bleed into each other, and why they try to distinquish them within these parameters is anybody's guess. But this site was a survey site, so I assume that each of these agents were asked using these designations. It's certainly relative, isn't it? I would defy anyone to give me ax-stroke divisions between each and every one of these genre descriptions. Remember the days when editors were king and bought books? Now we have marketing Gods to contend with. I remember being told by my agent 15 years ago, "Don't you dare cross-over." Just recently I found a publisher who PREFERS cross-over manuscripts, and takes straight genre as a secondary consideration. Are trends changing? And where's experimental?
Would that be Off beat/quirky?

Does anyone have any other statistics on agents and what genres they represent? It would be nice to see another survey.


07-02-2005, 06:57 AM
Below is a list of the aproximate number of agents representing different genres. I did this to get an overall view of what genres are most popular today with legitimate non-fee agents.I don't know what this list really proves, as probably there are many repeats--i.e., agents who rep a number of different categories and are being listed for each. Besides, assuming that the largest number of agents = most popular genre, literary fiction would come right after commercial/mainstream. Literary fiction is actually an even smaller market than SF/fantasy, which makes up (I think) around 6% of the total fiction market. Also, an expressed interest in a genre or category doesn't mean necessarily imply a large volume of sales in that genre or category.

A better way to get the info you seek is to look at book sales stats.

Another big suprise was the historical category and how large it wasI'm surprised too. Especially since I've been told by some well-known historical writers that this is a seriously dwindling market. But what one person means by historical fiction is not necessarily what another person means. Crown, for instance, publishes a goodly number of faux-historical novels--books about mythical characters such as Tristan and Isolde, with the mythical characters inserted into more or less authentic historical settings. I wouldn't really call something like that a historical novel--not in the sense that, say, Cecelia Holland's books are historical novels. But terminology is fluid.[/QUOTE]

Now, I'll just guess that family saga means "memoire", eh? Has memoire had a rise in the last 15 years? No. Memoirs are very hard to sell. "Family Saga" means books like the ones by R.H. Delderfield. Very long, dense novels about families, often across several generations.

- Victoria

07-02-2005, 02:11 PM
Appreciate your insights, Victoria. These are rather nebulous estimations about who is representing what. I agree that book stats would be a better counter about what's hot at the present. I've seen fantasy on a steady rise, matter of fact, it has been pretty good staple in the last decade.


07-02-2005, 07:32 PM
Romance Writers of America, which keeps a close eye on the market, provides these stats (http://www.rwanational.org/statistics/industry_stats.htm) for 2003.

Briefly, they go thusly:

Romance--34% of all popular fiction (excluding children's)
General fiction (which I'm assuming includes literary fiction)--25%
Science Fiction/Fantasy--6%
Other genres (historical, occult, adventure, westerns, movie and media tie-ins)--10%

You can see that despite the large number of agents who are apparently interested in historical fiction, historical fiction comprises a tiny sliver of the market. Trying to judge the popularity of a genre by the number of agents who are willing to represent books in that genre really doesn't work.

I confess I'm really quite puzzled by the large number of agents expressing an interest in historical fiction, since everything I'm hearing indicates that this is an ailing market. I was also a bit puzzled by how many agents list an interest in science fiction and fantasy (very likely, the agents listing "science fiction" are the same as the agents listing "fantasy", since most agents who work in this field sell both genres), until it occurred to me that this might have something to do with the recent explosion of children's fantasy, which in the past couple of years has been selling like hotcakes.

Another reason not to rely on the numbers from this list: AgentQuery is a great resource, but it by no means lists all successful working agents.

- Victoria

07-02-2005, 08:13 PM
Just a couple of cautionary notes on the RWA list:

(1) It's a bit political; it lumps a lot of stuff into "other" that really belongs elsewhere, which in turn distorts the proportions. For example, "movie and media tie-ins" form an increasingly important market segment that is disproportionately fantasy and/or science fiction; a lot of what those who write in the field call "dark fantasy" is "occult"; and so on.

(2) I also question the sources of their numbers; they're pretty selective in not including specialty bookstores, which (again) are disproportionately oriented toward categories other than romance. That said, there really isn't an honest, comprehensive source of numbers—certainly not royalty statements!

(3) The biggest problem is that these figures are pre-returns, which is a subtle political choice. Some categories have higher sell-throughs and longer shelf lives than others; for example, bookstores tend to keep "literary fiction" by even unknowns for a lot longer than they do romances by any but the top five or six authors. In fact, "romance", of all of the categories cited, has the shortest median shelf-life, and a considerably higher return rate (that is, considerably lower sell-through) than mysteries.

None of this is to say that romance is an unimportant marketing category; it is only to say that the figures provided probably greatly overstate its market share, while understating the speculative fiction market share. For whatever that matters… because the real problem is that the returns system is practically an invitation to fraud and other varieties of deceit.