blog post by Rachelle Gardner on the Books and Such Literary Agency website. She was discussing the difficult time agents face more often than not, of having to give up on a project. The points she brings up clearly highlights much of that frustration we feel when it comes to books. I do believe there is an extension to this when we bring into the fact that all of those variables in a book have to be there for it to sell.
That same day I read Rachelle's post, I also received a rejection for a project I am currently marketing. The comment I got back from the editor I think really hit the mark. She loved the premise and thought it was really marketable and unique. In fact, she hadn't seen anything like this at all, but for her, the voice of the story didn't quite work. The writing was fine, but it was the voice. Ugh.
I have another author who we are also on the hard search right now for selling her first book. The feedback from the editors I have sent it to have all be very positive. In one case, when I was talking to the editor about the author, she commented that, for this author, "if so many editors are loving her writing, it is just a matter of time for it to fall in the right hands." In simple terms, the cosmic cards have to be in the right place.
So, when we talk about all of these variables, what are we looking at? Again, I am going to tap into Rachelle's post for some of these points.
- The strength of the writing. This is an obvious one I think for most authors. The writing has to be good. We're talking about all of those stylistic things we spend so much time editing. Does the author really have a command on the basics such as dialogue, narration, pacing and so forth. Yes, even grammar comes into play here.
- The voice of the story. This issue deals with the tone of the story. We (and I am talking about agents, editors and the readership out there) want a story that just floats off the page. We are looking for a story that has an authentic feel to it and not something that feels forced and distant. In many ways, this connects back to the actual writing. That voice also has to be in alignment with what the publishing house is looking for in a story. Remember, everyone is different.
- The storyline and plot development. This is the issue that my author had positive comments on. That storyline has to be something that is realistic, well developed and demonstrates a strong sense of knowing where it is supposed to go. Stories that miss this mark are often full of random plot devices, repetition, pointless scenes and so forth.
- The enthusiasm of the agent/editor. This is, unfortunately, the huge issue of subjectivity in this business. There are just some stories that don't work for us. It doesn't knock our socks off and we just don't connect with it. You know what I mean on this one. You have a book you like and someone else hates it. It is just a matter of preference.
- The marketablity of the project. This is where the story has to be something that can sell. In this situation, we can be dealing with a market that is completely flooded at this particular time of that genre. We might be talking about the size of the project (500,000 word projects). It might be you are dealing with an issue that is important but might be too touchy to bring up with the mass market right now. In simple terms, we're talking about sales here. If we can't sell the books, then we won't take it on. Does this mean the book will never sell? No. It might simply be the timing of it.
- The need for that book in the line-up. In this case, this is where we look at the other authors currently with the agency or the publisher. If there are already authors writing the type of story you are writing, then adding "another" author to the group isn't going to work out. The same goes for publishers. There are only so many slots to fill each year for books. If the publishing "dance card" is full, then things won't work out for you.