Q. What is a "boutique" literary agency?
A. "Boutique" is a strange word agents use when their agencies are small and/or specialized. See, there are a decent number of big agencies out there, with big-name clients, closing big-time deals. And then there are plenty of smaller agencies in pockets here and there, handling clients that sell modestly, getting medium advances, etc. The second category may call themselves a boutique.
Agents will start an agency Web site, and they want to describe their agency to the public. They can't call themselves a big powerhouse agency, but they don't want to classify themselves as a "small" agency, either. That's where the word boutique comes in. It means small, specialized, and loyal to its clients. It means, "We don't take on a whole lot of projects, and we don't get a whole lot of million-dollar advances, but we put out really good work and take pride in every project we handle."