What is this magic future-seer gizmo agents have and where can I get one?
I have the test results and they say "yes".
I have attended a few writing conferences this year and another one is coming up rather quickly in a few weeks 'round my parts of the sea. I always shell out the extra money to have a pitch session/practice with the agents brave enough to sit all day with eager writers. I've swam through the chum, followed The Shark (tm) query letter guidelines for over a year now and practiced, practiced, practiced my pitch along the way. Feeling confident-enough, I sent my letter out to agents. The responses are all over.
I have some replies that tell me "... I'm not sure how these types of books are doing with all the success of the xxx and xxx series out now. It sounds super interesting and I hope you hit on an agent that knows this market well," or , "The concept grabbed me, and you deserve an enthusiastic agent who can champion your work..."
I am not writing anything YA, distopian, Twilight-y at all. I am writing for another, younger, age group that I have at least 3 years of weekly hands-on experience with that equates market research for my book. I have adults in my critique group that try to pry the next scene from my carpel tunnel hands before the next group meeting because they cannot wait.
I'm sorry, but most of these agents I meet in person or have queried cannot possibly have had any interaction with a group of children like this since they were children themselves. Most are fresh off the college circuit (which is completely fine), travel frequently, etc. How do they know what my age group wants if they have no/ limited experience with the end user? Are agents just following trends? I know a variety of books are selling, but many would be selling anyway because that is all that is out there. How is a writer to know which seashell is a good sell down by the seashore?
You can't conflate the agents who attend writing conferences with the agents who are reading your queries/manuscripts. A lot of us aren't on the conference circuit. And guess who REALLY isn't on the conference circuit: agents with kids.
The other thing you're missing is that agents don't work in a bubble. We hear from readers via our authors, and we see the feedback from school visits, and we watch what librarians are interested in like hawks. Librarians and teachers make the buying decisions for a lot of middle grade books (which is what I assume you're writing)
In other words, its our job to pay attention to what sells, and we do.
Also you don't have test results. You have friends and people you know telling you they like the book. A book they didn't have to pay to read I might add. There's a world of difference between "did you like my book" and "hey, will you pay me $15 to read this?"
I've recommended the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators before. You should join and hear from the people who are in the field you're writing in.