Pub Rants

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

Here’s A Genre I Didn’t Think Of!

STATUS: From the blog silence, you can imagine how hectic this trip as been. Meetings all day. Catching up on emails in the evening, and you have to fit a little bit of fun in there too!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALL ME MAYBE by Carly Rae Jepsen

I’ve been in New York for the past 3 weeks doing meetings with a lot of different editors at all the different houses. I started off with the editors who acquire young adult and middle grade.

Of course I ask, “What have you been seeing lately?”

Imagine my surprise when no less than three editors (all from different houses) responded with, “crap.”

At first, I wasn’t quite certain how to reply. That wasn’t exactly the answer I was expecting! I opted for, “would you care to define ‘crap.’

And they did. They mentioned recently that they’ve seen a whole slew of submissions that weren’t really ready for an editor to see. By the way, these were submissions from agents.

I asked why they thought that was so. I got three main reasons:

1) They were seeing hot genre stuff, such as dystopian, that they felt like the agents were not vetting as thoroughly as they should.

In other words, in any hot genre, the market gets crowded yet those submitting hope that because the genre is hot, it will sell.

2) There were some agents submitting young adult projects that don’t traditionally rep it and to be blunt, it’s different than repping fiction in the adult realm.

3) A lot of submissions could have benefited from a solid edit and revision before submitting. In other words, they were not in strong shape even if the concept or idea was solid.

Some agents don’t edit before submitting. Some do.

So interesting. I’m definitely looking to avoid submitting crap.


I think I can do that!

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32 Responses

  1. JeffO said:

    That would make for an interesting query: “I am seeking representation for MY GREAT BOOK. Complete at 90,000 words, it is a work of Crap.”

  2. Lauren B. said:

    I can’t decide if this is heartening or disheartening :/

    I also wonder if it’s a matter of agents/writers sending out something they know might need work but hope is ‘good enough’, or if they DO think it’s in strong shape and the editors just disagree.

  3. S.M. Carrière said:

    Oh… Now I’m sad.

    I agree with Lauren, though. I wonder if the agents send this stuff out knowing that it’s not quite there, but hoping that it’s good enough to make it out into the market before that particular genre fad fizzles out…

  4. Danielle said:

    I feel the same way as a reader. I roll my eyes at all the ‘hot new genres’ these days too. Steampunk, dystopian, angel-anything… I’m not so blind that I can’t see authors are just following trends and going with the herd.

    Interesting stuff.

    P.S. – I love ‘Call Me Maybe’! I have that song stuck in my head all day long.

  5. Joseph L. Selby said:

    I have to admit, I picked up a dystopian YA novel the other day (and I like dystopian fiction) and I just found myself bored. They’re all starting to sound alike.

  6. Kirk Kraft said:


    I guess I’m a bit flabbergasted as to why agents would submit material that hasn’t been fully vetted or edited. I was under the wrong assumption, this was a given.

    With dystopian being the hot thing, it’s to be expected there would be a lot of submissions (and yes, that means a lot of crap as well) but color me surprised by the reactions you received.

    To me, it’s no different than writers submitting unfinished manuscripts or novels they’ve revised only once.

  7. Krista Van Dolzer said:

    Frankly, I’m shocked agents are still shopping dystopians. I was trying to query one this time LAST YEAR, and it was pretty clear that the market had moved on.

    And like Lauren and S.M. said, I wonder if the agents are just being lazy or if they have a different opinion of what’s submission-ready. (I can’t decide which is worse…)

  8. Rebecca Burke said:

    Sorry to hear about the load of crap hitting the NY editors’ desks. Not surprised, however. My former agent’s emails to me read like they’d been written in the dark on public transportation. Maybe another reason there’s a tsunami of crap? Maybe the vetters need vetting…

    On a brighter note, here is a link for all of you who love the song “Call Me Maybe.” For their senior class prank, my daughter and her friends produced a music video with it and then replaced the video with school awards with “Call Me Maybe.” All the sleepy high school kids sitting in their homerooms waiting to be bored by watching their fellow students’ parade of brags were instead treated to this video over the classroom monitors. The energy in the whole school picked up a million notches!

    (The FB version has slightly better definition, but it’s still pretty good on YouTube.)

  9. DragonDork said:

    Yay, you’re blogging again! I was starting to wonder if you had been buried in an avalanche of submissions. (: Good to hear from you!

    Yep, lots of authors are figuring that they don’t need to edit or revise much. I wonder why that is… (sarcasm). The rule of thumb I use is, go through at least three rounds of editing. Four is better.

    Thanks for the update!

  10. Ric 'The Turtle' Ryan said:

    Your research is writing. I just returned home from a writer’s conference in NC. Several of the agents said the same thing but in a different way. They said they are tired of people throwing things at a wall just to see if anything sticks. They also said they turn down a lot of good books, with good stories mainly because the writer’s are to weak in their craft. In other words they do not know the basics of grammar. They said getting a manuscript edited before submission would be common sense, but a lot of writers don’t bother. These comments were made by publishers, agents and editors alike. They stressed sending a well prepared piece to the agent as a starting point to success

  11. A. M. Perkins said:

    I’m liking JeffO’s idea: the completely honest query letter.

    “Dear Agent, please consider my book: A STORY DERIVATIVE OF A BEST-SELLER FROM LAST YEAR. I haven’t had time to revise or edit it, since I wanted to strike while the wallets were hot. Even if you think it’s crap, I’m still hoping the similarities to another success story will motivate you to act against your better judgment.”

    I am not in any way implying this accounts for a majority of the writers out there…but I suspect it applies to more than I’d like to think.

  12. Lucy said:

    Yeah, somehow I think you won’t be submitting much in that genre, either. *grin*

    Glad you’re back! 🙂

  13. Kate said:

    I’ve definitely seen an uptick in manuscripts that aren’t quite there – both from agents and in direct submissions from writers. People, you DO need to edit first…yes, you’ll end up rewriting and editing with an editor later, but if you submit a hot mess, even if it’s got a great concept, it’s not going to go anywhere.

    Yes, even if it’s about angels in dystopia.


    Sort of glad to know I’m not the only one seeing this, though.

  14. Maureen said:

    Is YA a growing market at the moment? It sounds a lot like they’re not bothering to edit properly because they feel they don’t have the time for it – submit asap because otherwise the supernatural/dystopian/zombie/angel trend will be dying down. But maybe that’s reason to hope really, if you’re not writing for a very specific market trend…

    But it’s still a bit shocking that it seems an actually big issue at the moment. It feels so unprofessional.

  15. Anonymous said:

    Could it be it’s a directly proportional sample of what they’re getting? A lot of authors are defecting and going indie or self–even some well-known ones.

  16. Christiana Barkley said:

    First time chiming in here: I was curious before, but especially now that I’ve read this post and the comments that followed. I realize you don’t want to submit a manuscript that is utterly incoherent, but other than that, what is expected from someone submitting a manuscript? Should I actually hire an editor to go through my novel before submitting it, or do I just go through it several times as best as I can before submission? Please leave me feedback. Thank you! Richard

  17. seilann said:

    I’m at once both eager and anxious to get my work out there — while I want it to be in top shape and actually ready for publication, I’m also hoping to avoid submitting it amongst a ton of similar themes. Gotta stay ahead of the curve!

  18. Luvelle Raevan said:

    Maybe the hot trend is ‘dysotopian’ because it’s a reflection of the turmoil and unprecedented collapse of economic structure in the world starting with world banking networks. Hello?! Historically novels have portrayed the signs of the times. To treat this current trend with frivolity, or to dismiss this trend is a mistake by publishing houses, so they are trying to sort it out. Unfortunately, they can’t see anything but crap. Guess why, because times are crap right now. Meanwhile, authors are saying we’ve had enough of people telling us what to write in order to be published. So editors don’t have a clue what to do and they’re in a panic.

  19. Stina Lindenblatt said:

    I was once offered representation by an agent who didn’t really rep YA books (other than for one author I’d never heard of). I didn’t query her, but the agent I did query left the industry and passed my novel to the senior agent. Because I want an agent who lives for YA, and not one who is repping it because the genre is hot, I declined on the offer.

  20. Anonymous said:

    Kristen, Here’s a question that’s been milling around my writers group …
    Does self-publishing e-books hurt the chances of traditional rep and publishing?

    After reading this, the 50 shades post & I know your handling wool, Your thoughts would be so appreciated!

  21. Matt Sinclair said:

    I think what shocked me most about this post is that editors are saying this — not agents. To me, that means that the agents are accepting crap or not recognizing how bad it stinks. Neither is good. I can only assume they think that they’re trying to get manuscripts into publishable format earlier because writers are getting impatient since they can e-publish (their crap) sooner than traditional publishing would take.

  22. Owl said:

    I think the agents do need to take some repsonsibility. I mean if you look at what is exciting them in contests and what not…both in terms of theme and quality, you start to question whether the inmates are running the asylum.

  23. Lucy said:

    @Richard/Christiana Barkley

    Whether Kristin has time to answer questions on the blog or not, this is a fairly basic one that many of us can help you with.

    1. Using a professional editor has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever been required, and can actually have some handicaps: a) it takes some skill and knowledge on your part to find the right editor; b) even a good editor can’t fix everything; and c) you don’t learn how to edit for yourself, which you should.

    2. Making several passes over a manuscript only helps if you know how to edit your own work.

    3. Part of your business as a writer is to learn how to self-edit; the other part is to find knowledgeable beta readers who can give you critiques and help you spot the things you’d otherwise miss.

    4. This all sounds challenging; sometimes it is.

    My recommendation is that you look for local writing groups in your area, but also consider joining a forum like AbsoluteWrite where you’ll learn much that’s to your advantage–both in technique and through using the critique system in place (Share Your Work, available after 50 posts). You can also meet potential beta readers there, though it’s best that you take time to learn the rules, build relationshipa, and just generally get acquainted before asking.

    Best of luck, and I hope this helps!

  24. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for taking the time to post this. I can only hope that my book will not be crap. I have two people editing my book ever since I started. I also have done my own editing. I have taken advice from every person I possibly could (Internet, readers, writers, family) I want the best for the reader that reads my book. To get caught up in the world and story I have created for them, the charaters and all that the fantasy world has in it. I dont want to send out crap. I’ve worked too hard to do that and don’t believe the agents, editors, or readers deserve for me to. I have learned a lot in writing and will continue to. All criticism is constructive in my point of view. The more I know from agents and others, the better I will be in writing. I believe in my story and I hope others one day will too. Thanks for all the info and keep it coming.

  25. Carmen said:

    Well, this is definitely something that has me concerned for a while. I began writing a dystopian YA novel even before I knew what Hunger Games was, and now – after all the editing and time invested – I’m not sure I should send it to an agent. I hate that my idea is now a ‘hot genre’.
    The worse part it’s wondering if an agent will even bother reading it, or if they’ll just toss it aside with a “get this piece of unoriginal crap out of my face” kind of look.

  26. Dawn Kunda said:

    I have a suspicion that so much Crap writing is coming from the ability to self-publish and not know how to properly edit, yet the writing can get attention (50 Shades…)and it’s spilling over into the traditional market.
    I will always do my best as far as editing and expect that from any trade publishing, even though I’ve seen a decline in good editing in the Big Houses.

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