Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

One Agent Enthusiastic, The Other Not So Much

STATUS: I have several interesting negotiations going on at the moment. Makes the day rather chaotic when I’m constantly having to switch gears from one deal to the other as editors call.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CRAZY by Shawn Colvin

As we are often reminded daily when we see a sale in deal lunch for a title we’ve passed on (LOL), agents can have different opinions on the same work. A couple of weeks ago, we got a full manuscript submission that both Sara and I had decided to read.

Sara started before I did and sent me an excited email about how much she was loving it, etc. I started it, read a good 75 pages, and I just wasn’t wild about it (regardless of how well-written the work was).

It seriously just came down to our personal tastes.

Sara had no hesitation so she offered representation and took on a new client. If left up to me, I probably would have passed.

So we mean it when we say “this biz is really subjective.” It also means it’s a good thing that there are two of us taking on clients and that our tastes don’t always match up. It means more opportunity for everyone.

20 Responses

  1. Kathryn said:

    A good thing!

    Interesting though, since a lot of agencies don’t allow writers to query multiple agents at one agency at the same time.

  2. Sandy Shin said:

    Thank you for sharing this perspective! Differing taste is definitely a good thing.

    An off-shoot of what Kathryn says: For some agencies, a “no” from one agent is a “no” from all. In this case, a writer could be missing out by querying the wrong agent in the agency. (Even after extensive research.)

  3. Kathryn said:

    @Sandy Shin,

    It sounds like the writer in this case emailed both Kristin and Sara at the same time, which is a no-no for some (probably most) agencies, right?

    Unless the writer queried only one and they both decided to read the full submission…? Maybe it was that.

  4. Meagan Spooner said:

    I think this is the sort of thing aspiring writers can’t be reminded of enough. As a species we tend to take rejections in an intensely personal way, and it can be hard to remember that sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with the manuscript and everything to do with personal taste and opinion.

    Thanks for posting this!

  5. Jeannie said:

    @ Kathryn

    Most likely the writer only queried one. Double check, but I believe Kristin and Sara both read fulls, just to make sure that something of interest to one of them doesn’t get rejected out of hand.

  6. scarlettprose said:

    This is a timely reminder for me. I just received a rejection on a partial because she didn’t like the futuristic setting or the militant feel of the book. I wondered why she bothered to request it in the first place, since those characteristics are made clear in my query. The point is, that same partial is still out to another agent who requested more after reading sample pages–the ones that show you right away we’re in the future and there’s gonna be guns. Completely different tastes, apparently.

  7. Krista V. said:

    Personal tastes aside, every agent is at a different place in his or her career, too, so that’s going to influence how many manuscripts they request and how many offers they make. I imagine Sara has a bit more room in her list than you do at the moment.

    (Which isn’t to say that Sara didn’t fall in love with the manuscript, of course. Newer agents are just a little hungrier than more established ones.)

    Best of luck to the newly agented writer:)

  8. Rosie E. Scott said:

    Definitely a reminder to me of how subjective this industry is, and the importance of finding the right Agent with whom to work with; they need to believe in and love the manuscript as much as the author.

  9. Erika Marks said:

    This is so true. I know it’s said over and over, but it only takes one agent to love a project, just as it only takes one editor to love it and push for it to see the light of day/page.

  10. Michael Coen said:

    I couldn’t agree more with your comment as it relates to how subjective this industry is. Timing also plays a role, but it can easily be categorized in the “subjective” category.

    My book just won a NIEA (Finalist Award). It was a great feeling to know that these judges enjoyed my book, considering the great competition from wonderful books they were considering.

    Anyway, talk about subjective, I have been contacted by an entertainment company who wants a screen play (almost done) inspired by my book but I’m still looking for an agent. Maybe Kindle is the next stop for me…….

  11. The Writers Canvas said:


    Thank you so much for this blog post. You have perfect timing.

    Alas, while my manuscript *did* have a B&B in it, it didn’t have any of the other factors–but I still received a rejection from y’all anyway.

    Your blog post makes perfect sense, and my submissions are gathering interest elsewhere. Everything is so subjective. We as writers and readers know this, but it’s still always saddening when we wish the “no” could have been “yes.”

    Keep up the great blogging work. Thanks again for the perfect timing!


  12. Anonymous said:

    If Sara passed after reading a partial is a writer allowed to query you with it, or is a no on a partial still a “no” for the whole agency?

    Purely hypothetical, of course… 🙂

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