Monday, May 30, 2011

Question From a Writer - Off of Twitter

How do you determine whether to take something on that requires HUGE (or even some) rewrites?

I posted a Tweet on Friday that I was reading a project that I was leaning toward, but I felt like it was potentially going to take some serious re-writes. This was actually something I had been contemplating for some time and actually took the time to call a few of my agent friends to see what they would do.

This is really a tough decision. There are times when we see a project that has some potential, but maybe the plot itself just isn't working. Maybe it is the focus. Regardless, there is a glimmer of something in the story. How do we decide to take something on even though it may require months of working it over.

In my case, I have to really see the potential of the project. I have to know there is a potential home for this project, IF the author has the ability to pull of the edits in the manner we need. Along the same lines, I have to see that the author is really worth the effort. This may be other projects the author has in the works. This might be an author who has already submitted to me before and I have seen some growth. Sometimes, we simply throw out the revisions and see what they do with the comments.

Now here is where the gamble comes in. If an agent gives that author revisions and he or she goes out and sells the project either on their own or to another agent, we have been "ripped off." We just spent time on a project just to have someone take the comments and run. So, the alternative is to sign the author and take the gamble there. Sure, we might be able to get the author to the location we need to get them to, but then, maybe we don't. Now, as an agent, we are forced to have that "difficult conversation" with the author and move on. This is devestating to an author.

I know what many of you are thinking right now. Gosh, you need to just give us the chance and we can prove ourselves to you. Sure, that may be the case. But there is only one of us and a lot of you. We cannot simply spend time working authors out there on the chance they might end up with something we can sell several months down the line. No, this does not mean we are in for the easy sale. It is simply a matter of putting an investment into something that we have faith in.

In the end, there is no real fixed answer for what we look for. It still comes down to a gut instinct. I think this is why one of my colleagues always uses the guideline, "If it is a maybe, then it is a no."

That is what makes this business tough.


1 comment:

  1. If the piece has a faint glimmer of hope, start from scratch. Writing well has a certain efficacy behind it. I always loved This Old House where Bob Vila would spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to save an old house that could be bulldozed and rebuilt for a fraction of the time and money. The same is true of writing. If a piece needs an inordinate amount of TLC, pitch it!