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I have made several unsuccessful attempts to find a literary agent, sending out queries, going to conferences, and asking other writers to introduce me to their agents.

For background, I have an established body of work and have never had an agent. I have been published by a big international publishing company, a regional publisher, a trade association press, and a historical society press. I've also self-published several books. My total sales to date across all of my books are creeping up on the million-copy mark.

You may be wondering why I need an agent, since I seem to be doing okay. There are quite a few reasons. I have gotten screwed by some contract fine print that an agent would have caught. I want to get into some new markets where publishers only accept submissions from agents. I want to expand into bilingual and international markets and don't have the contacts or expertise to do it myself. There's a long list, but in a nutshell, it's time to move forward and I need help doing it.

I finally found an agent willing to explain to me why he did not want to represent me: it would be too complicated because I don't fit into any one pigeonhole. I've written a series of children's picture books as well as non-fiction, historical fiction, and even a college textbook. The agent told me that he doesn't have the contacts to represent a portfolio that diverse, and no agent wants to share a client with another agent. I said that with the right agent, I'd be willing to limit myself to a single genre moving forward, but he told me that my existing books make my situation too complex.

Yes, I do explain to each agent that I'm willing to let them take over management of my existing work in addition to representing me on new work. That hasn't helped.

Have those of you who have been published in multiple genres managed to find representation? How did you go about it?

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Readers, and therefore agents and publishers, prefer a clear, predictable brand: when I pick up a book by author XY, I want to know what I get. For that reason the common advice is to create a different pen name for every genre or niche that you write in. And since what I assume is your real name has already been muddled, what I recommend is that you abandon that name (as a brand for your writing) and start with a clean name for each genre you want to write in.

There are many examples among high profile authors who write under several pen names or who have changed their pen name because the old one no longer sold. As an author you are like a company: many companies hold several brands for different types of products, and often brand names get dropped and products rebranded.

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  • Thank you for the response! To take the last point first, the overwhelming majority of my contact with agents has been through written queries, so my type of ADHD (what used to be called ADD, as it has no hyperactivity element) doesn't manifest.
    – Gary R.
    Mar 21, 2023 at 22:42
  • I do like the pen name idea. I think I'd need to keep my core genre in my name to maintain my platform. An agent would want that base of 20 books and 650,000 copies sold as a selling tool to the publishers. If I write anything else outside of children's nature/science books, I adopt a new pseudonym and don't bother my agent with it. Thanks again for the suggestions. Side note: I believe most authors that use pen names still only have one agent, but I could be wrong on that.
    – Gary R.
    Mar 21, 2023 at 22:50

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