Friday, February 4, 2011

Question from a Writer

This is a follow up from a prior discussion here on the blog. I thought it was certainly worthy to discuss here with a bit more focus.

How can you really tell what an agent will like? It doesn't help to read between the lines of a rejection letter... but it gets really frustrating, and I do
recur to this blog for the opportunity to learn. Thanks

Unfortunately, there are many things that happen in this business that makes it feel like a huge guessing game. What I have to say though, is that this is not random guessing but "educated" guessing.

For myself, when I read a project, I start thinking of the editors it would most likely fit with. There are some that are really into certain elements of a story that others would cringe on. This comes from taking the time to read what they are personally putting out there on the shelves and looking for patterns. The same goes for the agents.

If you take the time to read what the agents are producing, you can start to find their likes and dislikes. Along the same lines, with all of the internet work they do, you can really start to track trends of comments they make. Which authors do they talk about? What do they complain about or rave about? Look for patterns.

Let me give you one that deals with my likes and dislikes. There should be no shock in anyone's mind what I like about women's fiction. I make it very clear. I am always talking about finding stories with characters lacking baggage. I don't want psycho dramas. I want real. This is on the blog, this is on my website, this is what I say in articles, and if asked at conferences, I say the same thing. This is what you should be looking for.

Will this work all of the time? Nope! I don't know how many times I have seen projects get published and it really doesn't fit with what I saw in that author's personal likes or dislikes. But I have to say, these are the flukes. More often than not, the pattern will be pretty clear.

Don't give up. Just keep working and researching and you should be fine.

Have a great weekend.



  1. Interesting post, as always. And I tend to agree with you about "too much baggage" sometimes. It's a personal preference, I know, but it sometimes can take away from the central theme or romantic element of the book, if the characters' baggage is not carefully woven into the story arc.

    Could you maybe clarify the difference between "too much baggage" and "good internal conflict"? I think I get what your saying, but characters do need a good dose of internal conflict.

    In your opinion, can you give us an example of what's "too much baggage" and what's "good internal conflict"?

    Thanks in advance! And thanks for being such an informative voice about this business!

  2. Wow, awesome post! Thank you for adding the extra focus and giving us the opportunity to learn. Your invaluable input is one of the reasons I am attracted to this blog, and I will certainly take all this advice to heart. I'm also eager to see your response to Amy's question. Have a great weekend!