Monday, March 15, 2010

Question from a Writer

I have a question along the lines of finding representation. I have a friend, Jackie, who primarily writes fantasy and does it well. She has numerous accolades and awards for her short stories and a wonderful manuscript she's been querying. Agents and editors do personalize a response which is usually, "I really enjoyed your submission but cannot find a place to market it at this time."
After a year of submitting, Jackie is demoralized. Rather than continue down this path, she has opted to start another project in the romance genre. As a gifted writer, I know she'll produce a quality manuscript.
My overall question is, at what point do you give up on a genre where you feel most comfortable to pursue something marketable for an agent?

This is an interesting question with, I believe, several factors that come into play here. First of all, let me stress that it is demoralizing when you think you have a great piece of writing and a lot of people are saying so, but the "right people" - the agents and editors - are passing on the projects. I would first have to tell her to keep on writing. Remember that this business is tough and there are no certainties.

Let's start with the accolades. I am assuming these are contest wins. While you might be able to win numerous contests, this does not mean that the writing is something that will be marketable out there. I kow of several writers that have mentioned that contest wins don't mean anything to them in submissions. Simply put, a 1st place in XYZ contest simply means you were the best of that group. Too often final round judges are faced with stories that really aren't that good, but they have to give a 1st, 2nd and 3rd to the manuscripts. So, while the accolades may be a sign of something good, we can't hold that much faith in the projects.

Now let's talk about the rejections. I would obviously have to see the exact comments coming from the agents and editors about the project. If the comments state that this person, as a writer is not good, then we have a huge problem here. I would bet that is not the case. Instead, it might be either that the story that was submitted will not work, or that the sub-genre the writer has picked is not going to work. These are two different issues.

In most cases, the issue is really the individual piece of writing. Simply put, THIS STORY, not the genre is not going to work for the agent or editor. It might be they already have a full line of similar authors, or something about the story just didn't fit with what they wanted. Recently, when Greyhaus sold BETTER THAN TV by Stephanie Stiles, we had a ton of rejections. All simply said they liked the writing but the story didn't work. Only one editor loved it. In this case, it fit with what they wanted.

With your friend, I would simply look at marketing a new proposal in the genre they love and adapting the work to meet the comments she received from those agents and editors. Just keep on writing.

On the other hand, if the editors or agents are telling her that the genre is simply not going to sell, then and only then would I recommend moving to a new genre. In this case, let's just mention Chick Lit and you get the idea.

Yes, you should always write something that you are close to and you have a connection with. On that note, though, stories still have to be marketable. Agents have to know they can sell it to the editors and editors have to know the book buyers will want it. Writers have to find that fine line between the two =,

1 comment:

  1. Scott just wrote a great critique of my first 50 pages for the Titans. Im not trying to kiss up since I dont write Romance novels!The point is that Bob's criticism was mainly that I wasnt clear on what audience I wanted. And if Im not clear, the Publisher wont want it. So, either this writer's genre is just not working or her expression of it is not coming across.