Thursday, September 9, 2010

Some Days It's A Tough Call

I was working through submissions yesterday and hit one that was really tough to make a decision on. Here's how the process went.

I had read the initial query and things sounded good.
Read the partial. Liked it but something bugged me.
Had a cup of coffee and checked online social stuff.
Came back to it, this time I had more problems with it, but something told me it was good.
Had another cup of coffee and more stall tactics.
Read a couple more submissions.
Came back to it again. Leaning more to the good side this time. Still there was something bugging me.
Talked to a colleague about the story
During discussion it hit me - This wouldn't work.

In the case of this story, there were a lot of things really good with the story. I loved the voice, the beginning of the story was awesome, and the premise was OK. What got me though was an issue with the over-all conflict of the story between the hero and the heroine. There wasn't one.

Now, while this might sound like a small issue, to fix this would have been a major re-write. This is not some small tweak but literally a restructure of the entire book.

I told the author that in the letter and provided some ideas. In this case, and it is one of those rare occasions for me, I told the author to resubmit if they wanted to.

I wanted to bring this up to highlight a couple of different things.

First of all, as agents (or at least the ones that I have worked with and really admire) we don't just blow off a story at first glance. We do read these things and we do really consider if there is a potential. Yes, I know there are many agents that don't do this, but there are those that do. We want to find the good stories out there and if there is a potential, we will certainly take a look at the project.

Secondly, small problems in submissions can and are over-looked. If a writer has a nearly ready story but we need to tweak a few things, we will want to pursue it. Assuming we know where and how we want to market it, and see the potential in both the author and the story. Even if it is one chapter in the middle of the book that we can see the solution for, we will work with the author. But, when the problem is something that spans the entire book, something that would require weeks and even months of work, unless there is a real spark or something we saw, that rare glimmer of hope, we will likely pass on it.

I think the point is, we (or at least I) do give the writing a chance. I think this is also one of the reasons why I am not going to be like some of the agents out there that send out form rejections without comments. I believe writers need at least a little nugget of something to know how to make their writing better.

Now, off to read some more.



  1. Thanks for sharing that. It gives me hope. I have several fulls and partials out and that tiny weed of insecurity always sprouts. I know it's subjective, but to get a glimpse of how some agents view submissions help. Alot.

  2. I've learned so much from the entire process, and a lot thanks to your blog. My question would be, what if you wanted to write a story with minimal conflict? If that's the goal of the story from the beginning? I agree most stories need it - but what about those that keep it on the lighter side? I ask this because when I wrote my manuscript I purposely intended to keep the conflict light and focus more on the romance and humor.