Thursday, July 3, 2014

We Look At More Than Your Story

It's all about the story! That's what we hear time and time again by authors who proclaim that getting published or finding an agent is simply about having a fantastic story. I don't know how many times I have heard writers talking to each other saying "If your story is good, it will be published." Not always.

I know we are heading into a holiday weekend so I don't want to bring you all down, but it is time for a bit of a reality check.

When I get a submission (and I know editors and agents do the same thing) we do indeed focus heavily on the story. This is the product we will be selling to editors or book buyers so we want a story that is incredible. But, once we think, and I use that word because we are just moving closer to potentially considering a project, we start to look at other factors.

First of all, we have to consider, regardless of how good the story is, will this project sell in today's market. There are times when certain stories work and other times when we simply couldn't give the book away. For example, American set historicals are a bit tough to sell right now. It doesn't mean there isn't a potential buyer, but it isn't a big one right now. So we might pass on that story.

The next one is from the agent's perspective. Is this a story that we personally have the resources to market. Because we all have specialties, we have to stop and think if this is a project for us. Not that the story will not sell, but is this a project that we can do it justice. I see a lot of stories that I am overly intrigued by, but often pass on it because, even if the author would love to work at Greyhaus, this is a project that I would not be able to fairly represent.

We also look at who the author is. I have talked about this one before. I don't care how good the project is, if the editor or agent will not be able to work with the author for any number of reasons, we will pass. This is the reason I love pitches. We can move along the submission process much quicker since we have met.

Another element is how much the author has already done in terms of marketing the book. If the book has already been self-published, this might tell us something. When I get stories like this, I do ask to see the sales. If the book is not selling at all, this might tell me the story is not right. Yes, it might also mean the author didn't know what he or she was doing, so we have to consider this. Along the same lines, if the author has already tried a ton of people, or this is a story they tried to market years ago, that story may simply be dead.

The point of this is pretty simple. There are a lot of variables to consider. If you get a rejection, especially after the editor or agent has seen your whole project, remember that it might not just be the story.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, Scott. I found it interesting that agents WILL consider something that's been self-published as long as the sales are good. I recall a creative writing professor telling us that if your story is good, it will eventually rise to the top and find a home. I'm now realizing that "eventually" may mean "posthumously." Another piece of advice from an agent: write from your heart, not for the market, since markets are so fickle. I'd say this is solid advice, as long as your heart isn't clamoring for you to write a novel in iambic pentameter. Then it might be time to at least scan what's trending on Amazon or your library's e-book page.