Thursday, February 3, 2011

Unique and Good - It Takes Both To Succeed!

To make salt, it takes both Na (Sodium) AND Cl (Chloride). To make that volcano experiment work that we all did in science class, it takes Baking Soda AND Vinegar. To make fire, it requires heat, Oxygen AND fuel. Successful writing that will pass in today's market also takes two elements. It has to be unique and it has to be good.

Now, before any of you start throwing books at me that are missing one or the other element, let me stress that in some of those cases, the fact that the author is already known often allows them a little more room to wiggle within these parameters. The discussion of whether or not they should can come on another day. This discussion is really focusing on why there are so many writers out there and there are often an equal if not larger number of rejection letters out there.

You have to remember, that agents are out there, like any other business owner, to make money. Agents make their money from selling products to editors and, in turn, working with the editor and the writer to make sure the book sells well. Agents do not make money on projects that will not sell. For this reason, when we read submissions, we are looking for projects that really do stand out amid all of the others that are coming in daily.

Unfortunately, when we read submissions, they often fall into one of two camps. Either these are authors that really can tell a great story, but the plot is just like everything else out there; or, the authors have amazingly unique and powerful story ideas but just are missing the skills to carry it off. Finding those stories that have both are tough.

I want to start with the second idea first. This is often the one I see more often than not. I'll get a query and really start jumping all over the place. This idea sounds amazing. It's unique. It's marketable. It has me hooked. So I request to see more. And then, when I start reading it, the bottom falls out. This is when I start seeing stories that are full of cliche lines, over-used tecnique, styles that don't match the story... you get the idea. As an agent, I have to tell you that stories like this are just as devestating as the rejection letters you receive. We have such high hopes going in.

Yes, I know some of you might say, "But Scott, sign us and we can make it better!" Yes, that might be the case, but the question is, if you didn't see it during all of those re-writes and edits of that 90,000 word manuscript, who is to say that this next round will be any different? It's just too big of a gamble.

On the other side of the equation, we have stories that well written, but the plot is just not there. This is where the editor side of things comes in. Editors already have authors doing specific books, they don't need two or three doing the same thing. For this reason, these are the stories that often get passed on earlier in the process. Reading the query or the synopsis is often (unfortunately) enough to see the story just won't fly.

Your job as a writer is to find that unique story and then pull from within you the skills necessary to carry off the story in such a fashion that it will sell.

Have a great day!



  1. I'm always drawn to what makes an agent accept or reject a work. This makes sense. Thanks!

  2. I'm with Jill, I like knowing the details of how agents pick stories. It helps me as a writer because it reminds me to never rush my stories and when I do finally submit not to badger the hell out of said agent.

  3. Another interesting tid bit for us first timers. I have spent the past couple of days perusing all of your "babbles" and have found them to be both enlightening and effectively useful. Thank you. As an aside, do you ever sleep?

  4. Sleep? Never!
    Sleep is for wimps.

    Now I do have to say, at the end of the day I pretty much pass out so maybe I have to count that as sleep.


  5. This post is highly informative. It also has me arguing with myself in several languages. Now, I've been writing all my life simply because I love it and am fairly new to this business of querying. I handle rejection well, tossing out the idea that my writing might suck. This leads me to read over my story. It's a great sexy love story, oozing with paranormal twists, and highly unique. I see nothing wrong with it. Therefore, I've decided my error must lie within my synopsis and am currenly revamping it. Still, it's a guessing game. How can you really tell what an agent will like? It doesn't help to read between the lines of a rejection letter. That's a faux pas all on its own. Please do understand that I'm rambling, but it gets really frustrating, and I do recur to this blog for the opportunity to learn. Thanks

  6. This is a lesson I learned last year. I wasn't original enough. I have to learn to put a lot of good stories aside and really come up with new ideas. Wish I'd have read this last year :)