Dear Miss Snark,
As an aside, I was watching a television show (Dead Like Me) yesterday and one of the characters was killed by a stiletto heel flying into their forehead. It reminded me of you. (Miss Snark's shoes are registered with NYPD as lethal weapons)
But more properly, I have a question for you regarding genre. I write novels set in ordinary settings but extraordinary elements. I think this is called urban fantasy, based on what I read at this blog. (which is not mine, though I wish I'd come up with the phrase "elf-shagging.") Furthermore, I've been digging through internet articles and have read a couple from editors who say that this sort of blend of young adult/ children's fiction with fantasy is very popular right now.
So here's the question (finally, thinks Miss Snark as she motions for KY to bring the gin pail closer). As I'm mowing through stacks of publishers and agents that say "absolutely no fantasy," does that mean me? I have not so much has let my pen scribble their names onto my list of "to query" up to this point. And I may quibble, but I think my novels (which I think would be better called "supernatural" fiction . . . or something) bear no resemblance to the high fantasy trilogy and quintuplets and endless series to which these listings refer.
Is the cluegun now pointing at me with a flag saying "Follow the rules" poking out of the barrel?
Miss Snark does not claim to know anything about urban fantasy. Her idea of a good urban fantasy involves Mr. Clooney and Venice.
However Miss Snark is clever enough to know Miss Rachel Vater who does indeed know a thing or two about urban fantasy. Miss Snark sent Killer Yapp over with an engraved invite to "be Miss Snark". Herewith:
Are you actually querying publishers and agents at the same time? Stop it.
Focus on agents.
"Novels set in ordinary settings but extraordinary elements" could mean almost anything, even literary fiction like THE LOVELY BONES or THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Then there are paranormal thrillers (Heather Graham), romance novels (Sherrilyn Kenyon's DARK HUNTER series), and chick lit (Annette Blair's KITCHEN WITCH books). And yes, there's urban fantasy (Jim Butcher's DRESDEN FILES series.) To clarify what is meant by urban fantasy: there's usually a mystery or suspense element, usually a touch of romance, usually in a setting that's similar to our own modern cities in all their urban grittiness, and there's a pretty strong element of fantasy (vampires, magic, ghosts, werewolves, whatever) that's taken for granted as being part of that world.
Read some samples and figure out where your book would be shelved. If the agent handles other things in that genre, shoot 'em a query. The worst thing that can happen is you'll get a form rejection or no response. They will not put a number on your head or burn your house down out of spite if you send them a query outside of what they handle. They will probably not even bother to scrawl on your rejection letter, "What part of absolutely no fantasy don't you get, you time waster?!"
If you want to spare your ego the uncertainty, do a little research on the books those agents have handled and see if any have a spark of magic in them. What you're trying to do in sending out a query is to target agents most likely to be interested. You shouldn't have to send out 300 query letters to do that. So why focus on those who sound as though they wouldn't be interested? (How many agents are actually saying "absolutely no fantasy" anyway? If they're that adamant about it, why would you want an agent who doesn't like fantasy if you have a touch of fantasy in yours?) Choose agents who've handled and sold books you liked reading that had a similar style to yours, and write the strongest query you can. If you've got a good hook, you're most likely to get requests from those agents. If you're running out of agents to query and getting nothing but form rejections from everyone, then go revise your novel or your pitch and try again. If you've already done that, write your next novel, make it even better, and try your favorite agents again.