On the surface, The Adulterants is a dry, witty, coming-of-age story about a manchild. But manchildren aren’t going to buy the book for themselves. They probably wouldn’t ever walk into a bookstore of their own volition, and they certainly wouldn’t openly identify themselves as a manchild in need of self-reflection. Instead, Tin House targeted the people in their lives who wanted to intervene before it was too late.
Realistically, most first-time authors seeking out a literary agent to pitch their book probably aren’t going to know all there is to know about their respective genre, and that is where the agent comes into play.