I have a question for you.
What book ideas do you and your colleagues want to see more of that you would consider innovative and original? E.g., maybe you and your colleagues wish you saw more novels about men with sweater vest fetishes, because you think that could really sell.
When you guys talk around the water cooler (or however ideas come about - forgive my ignorance), what book ideas or topics or genres really strike you as something you'd be interested in seeing and selling? Or do you not do any talking like that at all and simply rely on fate to throw books your way, hoping that something strikes your fancy?
I guess I'm curious about the process of how you know what you're looking for when you dig through the slush, and what you consider to be original and innovative, since that seems to be one of the best ways to get a writer out of the slush pile and on the way to a book contract (of course, assuming that the writing itself is great).
Hm. On second thought, perhaps the better, easier question is to ask you what book ideas you never want to see EVER again. haha
This is a hard metaphysical question so I of course will use pornography as the metaphor.
Justice Blackmun I think it was (correction from the comments column-it was Justice Potter Stewart), when asked if he could define pornography, said "no, but I know it when I see it". Fresh and original voices and work are much the same thing.
One reason I try to read as much as I can in areas that I represent is so that I CAN know it when I see it. As a reader you have the exact same material available to you which is why I always suggest that if you want to be a writer, you must be a reader too.
When I heard Charlie Huston at BEA I didn't need to hear much of what he read to know he was amazing. Same with Jeff Lindsay and the Darkly Dreaming Dexter books.
The difference between reading just for pleasure and reading to keep your eye tuned is I have to think about what I'm reading in a more analytical fashion. That's why pink jacket Friday night escape books are so fun--I don't represent them, I don't have to think about them, I can just go away inside of them while Killer Yapp makes prank phone calls to Catwoman.
There's not much standing around the water cooler chat going on here; I'm a sole practioner. When I sit around with my colleagues we talk mostly about editors and other agents. We might share horror stories of query letter writers who were really strange, but there's very little esoteric talk about what makes something work or not.