Publishing is an industry that loves categories. Authors write certain types of books and, for the most part, agents and editors represent and acquire within relatively fixed categories. This system is not without benefit; I acquire upmarket and literary fiction and select narrative nonfiction, so agents probably should not send me books about science or self-help or golf.
But it’s also important to not let yourself get boxed in by these categories, both when it comes to your work and to your reading life. Yes, that inescapable mantra Read constantly in the category in which you acquire (or write or represent) is of the utmost importance. (You can’t edit short stories if you don’t read story collections, after all!) But know that your tastes might change and that your reading can be guided by what you want to read more than what you feel you should read.
Before the pandemic most of my pleasure reading consisted of novels about millennial ennui and crises of identity and just…lots of angst in general. I’d also watch a lot of films instead of movies. But the last year has been a time of self-discovery for me. Okay, not really, but I did have one big realization: I’m a sucker for what I used to categorize as Dad Entertainment. I still love and am looking to acquire literary fiction and domestic drama and all that, but in my free time I also really, really love reading nonfiction set at sea. Books about exploration. Books about survival in brutal conditions, preferably involving cannibalism. I love searching Longform with the tag “shipwreck” and going wild. Movies—not films—about war. Even better? Movies about war set at sea.
So yes, categories are helpful for everyone, and again, read books in the genres that you write/represent/edit. But don’t let those categories restrict you. Your tastes can change or expand! Just because you’re known to write or represent or edit books in a certain category, doesn’t mean you have to be relegated to that category forever. We aren’t static creatures; our interests evolve, and it’s more important for our work and lives to reflect our passions and curiosities than it is to have a totally consistent deal page on Publishers Marketplace. Sure, to know yourself is to love thyself or what have you, but to be okay with surprising thyself is also to love thyself, as the wise ancient Romans…did not say.
This might all sound a bit nebulous, so in case you’re looking for immediately actionable advice, here you go: Cancel your plans tonight, eat a bit of a fully legal gummy, and curl up with The Lost City of Z or in front of Master and Commander or even The Perfect Storm—look past the 47 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and Diane Lane’s abomination of a Boston accent, and I promise you’ll have a good time.
—Carina Guiterman, senior editor, Simon & Schuster