Ask an Agent: April 2024

In this monthly column, we check in with one of our resident agents to answer those questions you’re too afraid to ask for yourself. This month, Laura Bennett of the Liverpool Literary Agency tackles questions asked by BFS members in our dedicated Discord channel.

Name: Laura Bennett
Agency: Liverpool Literary Agency
Specialism: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Location: North West England
Follow: Threads: Losbennett / Twitter: Losbennett

Read more about Laura in her BFS member profile, here.

Q: Does a book require magic to be considered fantasy by the publishing world?

In my opinion, it doesn’t. Although then you could get into arguments about whether having mythical creatures or being in an alternate world is inherently magical … But my broad answer is no. It just needs to have something different than the mundane world. There could be dragons, and no other magic. It could be set in a world with elves and dwarves, but no other magic. As long as it’s not just our world, then you can call it fantasy.

Q: As a follow-on to the above, is it necessary to define your work as a particular sub-genre, or is it enough to call it “fantasy”?

It depends on the sub-genre. If you feel like it fits comfortably into one, then I would absolutely narrow it down. It will help the agent when pitching it out. But if you find you’re describing it as “romantic portal fantasy with steampunk and post-apocalyptic elements and climate fiction,” then you’re probably doing too much. Try and keep it to one or two sub-genres at most. At the end of the day, an agent or publisher will define it as the genre they think is most likely to sell, anyway.

Q: I saw you mention regarding Angry Robot’s open submissions that if you had an offer from them you’d have time then to find an agent. In that situation, if you’d already queried agents with that project and they’d passed on it, would it be acceptable to re-approach them from the, I now have an offer to publish this but I’d really like you in my corner, would you reconsider now the situation has changed?’ angle?

I think it would depend on the agent. Personally, if I had already passed on something then I would be unlikely to take it on, even with a publisher offer. If I felt strongly enough about it, I probably would have already agreed! I don’t think there is any harm in reaching out, though. The worst they can do is say no. My question, however, would be – do you want representation from somebody who isn’t enthusiastic about your work already?

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