If you've ever read one of my books, you can probably tell that I have trouble with genres.
I think it may contribute to me not yet landing an agent. I have gotten a fair amount of personalized feedback (I'm not talking your generic form letter) from actual publishing professionals such as best selling authors/teacher, agents and editors that all say the same thing--you write really well. I've had these people praise the mechanics of my writing, my use of prose, the uniqueness of my ideas. So what, for the love of all that is holy is the problem? In the end, maybe it boils down to something more illusive than genre, or make it truly is related to personal interest. What an agent or editor decides to rep or acquire is understandably quite subjective. But I have a hunch it may be something more simple than that. I think it's genre. (Caveat- maybe I'm just a terrible writer and I don't know what I'm talking about ;)
I think the issue is this-- that agents and editors, though they want the next "new" thing, are to some degree stuck in genre expectations. To some degree I get it. If you say that a paranormal romance, for example, must have x, y, and z plot elements, what you are really saying is that this is what books that have sold well to date are doing, and therefore, this is what readers expect, etc. So when they say "new" they mean "just like this but with a little twist." From a money and marketing standpoint it makes sense. From a "how do I find another book just like this one I loved" standpoint it makes sense.
But as a writer, gah it's frustrating! I'll back up a minute, and show you what I mean, for those who don't get what I'm saying. Let's say you write paranormal romance, since I used that example earlier. So what makes it paranormal romance? Technically, just the fact that there is romance and some sort of paranormal element, right? But if you were to want to submit to a well-known publisher in that genre, you might find something like this guideline at harlequin-- please note, I've seen worse in terms of leading you by the nose, but here it is:
Dark, sexy, atmospheric paranormal romances that feature larger-than-life characters struggling with life-and-death issues.