Pub Rants

The Ones that Got Away (Part Two)

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STATUS: Fast-paced day. I did manage to get up at 6 a.m., leave the house by 7:15 a.m. to catch the bus to the airport, make my flight, arrive in Orlando on time only to discover that the person whom I’m meeting at the airport won’t be here for another two hours because her plane is delayed. Best laid plans…

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Since I’m sitting at the Orlando airport typing this, I’m listening to CNN headline news or something similar being piped in through the speakers.

In good news, this gives me plenty of time to blog (although I have my tablet PC with me and I should be reading the full manuscripts I’ve requested). I’ll do that in 15 minutes when I finish this entry.

Definition 2: The Ones that Got Away can mean the projects I read 30 pages of and decided it wasn’t for me so I passed.

As I mentioned yesterday, agents rarely expend a lot of time worrying about sample pages we passed on. I often track full manuscripts I’ve read and then passed on, but sample pages–no.

Every once in a while I’ll see a sale posted on deal lunch and I’ll remember that yeah, I didn’t request a full for that one.

In fact, I have no ego. I’m happy to share the covers of two books I had the pleasure of reading sample pages of but didn’t end up asking for a full or offering representation.

So here they are.

I actually know both the authors too. Mario is part of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is beyond a delightful gentleman. Carrie is a part of Backspace: The Writer’s Place and so we often interact online. Great people. Great books. They found a perfect agent to rep them.

For whatever reason, the stories just didn’t work for me (and it obviously wasn’t because of the writing or because it wasn’t publishable). I just wasn’t 100% in love with what I read to ask for the full.

In fact, I think the only reason these two stand out in my mind is because Mario’s novel had a unique title and Carrie’s novel was fairly early in my career and I wasn’t reading nearly as many partials as I do now. I’d be hard pressed to remember stuff today given the current volume of what I receive and read.

But back to my point. This business is so subjective. For agents, it’s all about our individual tastes.

Heck, do a test yourself. Walk into a bookstore. Not every book on the shelf is going to tickle your fancy. Some authors you loathe and wonder how ANYONE can read through such dreck, but it’s your best friend’s favorite author of all time.

Now you are getting the picture.

I think I need to debunk some myths that writers hold in their minds.

1. Agents will take on any project they think they can sell.

Nope. It takes an awful lot to champion a novel. Often, I’ve read the darn thing twice before it even goes on submission. I have to love something 100% to take it on knowing that I might be reading this project a couple of more times if necessary. If it doesn’t sell right away, I have to stay enthusiastic enough to reread and work with the author on another edit. Also, I have to make the assumption that I’ll love future works by this author (even if the first book doesn’t sell).

If I’m only lukewarm about project despite the fact that I think it can sell…

2. Agents won’t pass on good writing.

Wrong. I pass on stuff that’s written well all the time. Maybe I don’t see a big enough story. Maybe I like it but I don’t LOVE it. Maybe I can totally see the value but have no idea what editor would love it so the author is best served by another agent. It’s not a novel I would pick up and buy at the Bookstore. Blah, blah, blah. The list goes on.

3. Agents are infallible in their judgment.

Ha. That’s silly. I was just reading the most recent Publishers Weekly and there was a tidbit on E. Lynn Harris who failed to find an agent or a publisher for his first novel INVISIBLE LIFE. He publishing it himself in 1991, sold well, and then was later picked up by a publisher in 1994. Now his current book I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER is on the bestseller lists. Harris can now boast more than three million copies in print of his books.

Right. Infallible.

The market constantly surprises agents, but I’m not going to kick myself on the stuff I passed on (especially if I only read 30 pages of it). Why? Because I know that another great project that I’m going to love is just around the corner and I’ll sign that author and then sell the work (for big money–LOL) and then sell all the foreign rights and then sell the film rights and then it will hit the bestseller list and then…

And that’s what makes this job so delightful.


13 Responses

  1. 2readornot said:

    I love reading this — even though I already know it’s true. I keep reminding myself that it only takes one agent to love what I write…and that’s the right agent for me, of course. I wonder what agents do when someone comes to them with a contract/offer in hand from an editor — and they don’t love the writing? Does that happen often? anyone have any experience with that?

  2. Amra Pajalic said:

    Thank you so much for blogging about this. We all know how subjective writing is and have all had the experience of hating a book someone else raved about or vice versa. While it will always be hard for a aspiring author to accept rejection as not personal at least this helps us see the big picture and keep searching for the right agent/publisher for us, regardless of how many rejections that might take.

  3. Ally Carter said:

    Other agents rejected me before I found Kristin, and I’m glad they did. I ended up where I was supposed to be. Cheesy? Probably. True? You bet.

    It’s a matter of getting your material good enough, first. And then when that happens, it’s just a matter of time until you find someone who is a good fit.

  4. Sam said:

    Great post.
    I hope this helps some of the authors who might be afraid of rejection and who don’t query to get up the nerve to try!

  5. kathie said:

    Does anyone have a “definition” of what it means when a book is “small” or “big?” Kristen, I don’t know if you take questions from the comment thread, but I’d love to hear what you think. Or anyone reading.

  6. Stuart said:

    Thanks for reminding me about Mario’s book. I met him last summer at the RMFW’s writer’s conference. He has a fantastic sense of humor and had everyone rolling during his seminar. Glad his book is finally out so I can go pick it up.

  7. Vayenne said:

    “although I have my tablet PC with me and I should be reading the full manuscripts I’ve requested”

    The few, the proud, the Tablet PC owners! I have a Toshiba one myself, but it’s so rare to come across anyone else with whom to compare notes. How do you like yours? I adore text-recognition, and it’s absolutely the most wonderful thing in the world for digital drawing and inking. But I have found Tablet XP to be a little … quirky. Is it just me, or have you noticed the same?

    Anyway, thanks for blogging. I learn a lot from your entries, so that I may someday not annoy an agent like you. 😉

    Happy returns,
    ~Vay

  8. [email protected] said:

    But it was a lovely rejection, Kristin, and very encouraging! :oD

    It was because I hadn’t finished writing the manuscript…and being the impatient whatsit I am, exactly how I submitted the second -Tarts and Sinners- to my agent, and the same with a YA. This method is NOT recommended!

    Warm wishes,

    Carrie

  9. Anonymous said:

    If you hated The DaVinciCode, and Dan Brown wanted to change agents, and queried you on the sequel, would you pass?

  10. pennyoz said:

    I cannot resist this one.

    If the lottery office rang up and said:

    “You’ve just won ten million dollars.”

    Would you say no?