Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Question from a Writer - Follow up to blog post

So, when agents market the book and they are rejected by the publishers that are "supposed to be the one," what is your alternative plan?

This is a good question.

Unfortunately, there are many cases when we find a project, know it is right for a publisher and then get a rejection. Did this mean that we missed the mark and sent it to someone that wasn't right? Not necessarily. There are many reasons why an editor might pass on a project.

Sometimes, the publisher already has a line up of that particular genre. In one case, I sent a project to an editor and she loved the concept but had to pass on it. Her comment, "if I had that 2-3 weeks ago, I could have signed it, but we have filled all of the slots." Ugh!

Also remember that this is a subjective business and there will be times when we read a project and just don't like it. It might be due to the time of day we read it, it might be due to the weather, it might be due to the fact that we just read several awful stories of the same genre. We do our best to avoid that happening and I know that many other editors and agents will often reserve sending out that rejection immediately if there was something in the story that might be there and it was jsut a bad time. I always mark those as "RE-READ" and do. In a lot of those cases, with a new eye, I do see something else. Sometimes not.

I think the thing to remember is that, if you look carefully, the publishers are different in tone and voice. Even authors writing with different publishers have a different voice. Authors (and agents) want to really be able to identify that voice and target the best they can.

Now, as for the alternative, when I have a story that isn't quite working, then I go back to the drawing board with the writer and we re-craft the story to make it fit some other lines. Sometimes it works and sometimes we just have to move on to a new story.



  1. I'm really curious--how do you suggest the writer re-craft the story to make it fit some other lines? Do you add subplots, word count, more or different conflict--all of which would change the voice. Can you give an example? What would you say?

    Do you think ALL stories lend themselves to re-crafting to fit other lines?

  2. Good post, as always, but I am invariably left with the impression that there is an infinite amount of room at the three agencies for manuscripts that are right for their line, which never matches up with the reality (from my point of view) that there are way, way too many contenders already for a tiny amount of open space at any house, and unless you have written something truly unique, you may as well save the postage.
    B & N going up for sale, the mass movement of the country to newer forms of entertainment, people working two and three jobs, kids locked to the computer screens instead of reading books, on and on. But if you have written that lightning strike of a book,better move fast, because I think the drawbridge is closing quickly. Now seems to be the time to push fast & hard, unless you are already an established writer with a large following. Lord I hope it is true that competition pushes everyone up.

  3. Anon,

    Unfortunately, your realization of the limited number of slots for the greater number of writers is very true. Just thinking here at the Greyhaus, there is just me and (as of just yesterday) over 1000 queries of just romance and women's fiction coming to me.

    I would also add that writers don't want to just find any agent out there, but the one that is right for them. Remember that writers make a career in the long haul and not overnight. You want an agent to be with you to work through all of those bumbs. Jumping from one to the next means, in many ways, that you start over again.