Here's a very interesting and provocative interview with my first agent, Nat Sobel. He's a terrific agent and helped launch my career, so I'll always feel a fondness for the guy. Though I'm probably one of the "disappointments" he refers to in the interview.
One thing that this interview makes me consider is this question:
How do you make your work stand apart from the rest?
I used to think that good writing made the difference. But these days I'm not so sure. I don't think poetic, lyrical, or powerful prose on its own causes a book to suceed either with an individual editor, reviewer, or with readers in general.
Note in the Sobel interview his mention of "platform."
The other way of describing platform is "hook." Most editors these days are reading new material with a question lurking in the back of their minds: How could we promote and sell this book? What are we going to do to set it apart from all the others?
Twenty years in this business, and this platform, hook issue still bothers me. My solution is this. I just write about what catches my interest and hope my passion will stir others' passions. But to try to guess about what platform or hook will catch the fancy of the general reader...well, good luck with that.