Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If More Than One Says So, It Might Be True

Recently I sat on a panel with some agents and an author asked the question about how she is to get an agent. The real question came out that she had sent it out to a lot of people and were rejected over and over again and that frustration was starting to build. This is very understandable! It happens to all of us. But the answer to this is actually pretty simple and the agents on the panel all seemed to agree.

Dawn Frederick of the Red Sofa Literary Agency said it best. Her comment to this author said to stop submitting right there and then. This is the moment for some analytical time with the writing, with the queries and with the submission process. Dawn noted that she does this all of the time. If she sends out a project to editors and several have come back with rejections, she will sit down with that author and figure out what needs to get done. In other words, if more than one person says there is a problem, then the odds are, there really is.

I think a lot of authors ignore this step. They simply return to those statistics that we hear about all of those famous authors who received 100's of rejections before they were finally successful. There is this perception that you just may receive a lot of rejections. In reality, you as an author might have a bit more control over that number of rejections if you stop and think about what these people are saying.

During the pitches this last weekend in Wisconsin, I heard some authors moving from one pitch to the next and not really doing much thinking about what they were saying to the editors and agents. What was interesting is that many of the editors and agents were saying the same thing about the project. Guess what, there is probably an issue with the project, or the pitch. Simply trying with another person with the same thing isn't likely going to get any different result.

This is one of those times when it is crucial to really think before you jump. It is also a matter of some self-reflection and self-analysis. This can be difficult at times but it is so crucial! Don't ignore those signs.


  1. Hi Scott,

    I understand the goal here--getting authors to think about potential flaws in the product they probably thought was flawless. This kind of reflection is necessary at every step of the writing process as well as the publication process.

    But I also feel that this puts so much weight on other people's opinions. This can be dangerous for a writer. And it also begs the question of many rejections signify a problem? 1? 3? 10? 100? I've had more than 100 agent rejections for at least 2 of my novels. The number one thing I heard from agents was, "This is a great piece. I just don't know how to sell it. You're trying to break into a tough market." I know...that's why I asked for that agent's help!

    It really depends on why the agent rejected an author, and a form letter doesn't help an author get closer to finding the answer.

  2. Jenni,

    As I look at your comment, I am drawn to one point. You have a lot of agents that have said the same thing - they "don't know how to sell it." This is, unfortunately, not something an agent can help you with, but something that has to be done in the pre-planning stage of your story. Regardless of how good the writing is - this is still a business; you are selling a product: and that product must me something that is marketable.

    Agents guide your writing with career planning to make sure you are staying true to your brand and your voice. Yes, there will be times when we say that a particular project won't work with your voice, but, it is always up to the reader to do that market research and make sure the story will honestly fit with what the publishers want and, more importantly, what a lot of readers want.

    As I look at your comment, what I would encourage you to do would be to study the projects you have right now and the ones you are working on. Is there a spot on a shelf in a bookstore, or a niche on digital bookstores that your story would fit. Build off of that.

    I am sorry to say, however, but based on those comments, that project might be dead in the water for right now and you should consider moving on to other things that are marketable.