Friday, January 25, 2013

What I Look For In A Submission

I am often asked what I am looking for when I read a submission. Is there something in particular that  I need to have in that project for me to want to acquire it or maybe simply to ask for more material. The answer isn't really that specific so bear with me a bit. Just as I say all of the time here on the blog, it all depends and there are simply a lot of variables. Still, with each of the projects I tend to gravitate to many of the same things:

  • The Marketability of the Project - This issue focuses on a couple of different aspects. The first looks at whether this is something I know I have the ability to sell and market. Like all agents out there, we have our areas of expertise and the areas of the market we are simply not familiar enough with. This is the reason we are pretty precise on our submission guidelines of what we want and don't want. The second aspect of this is whether or not there is a place for this project in the market at this time. I can read a fantastic story, but if there simply aren't the buyers for the project out there, then we won't be able to sell it. This is simple marketing strategies and Business 101 skills. You know - supply and demand. It doesn't matter how good the project is, if the demand is not there, then sales don't happen. This is also an issue of a financial and time commitment. In this case, we look at the project in a cost/benefit analysis. Will the return on sales be worth the work and time that would go into the project. 
  • The Quality of the Writing - In this case, we are looking at the actual writing. Does this writer have a sense of how to craft a story as well as a sense of the language. The project might sound great, but if it doesn't read well, then we pass on it. For me, I look at issues such as grammar and punctuation, character development, plot development, fluency, world building and so forth.
  • The Sense of The Writer's Voice - Because we are looking at not just the writing but also the author, we need to see in the actual story that unique voice that sets the author apart from all of the other writers out there. If you think of your favorite authors you read, you know that voice and can connect with it. We need to see that come across in the actual writing. 
  • The Ability to Draw Me In - Like any good book, you have to keep us interested. This is where the quality of the writing and the voice blend together. I always say, a test of a great book is when A) I cannot put it down; and B) I have to call people and tell others about the story. Yes, this is subjective, but it is important. If I am that hooked by the project, I will want to be calling editors and pushing for it.
Essentially, if you think of the things that draw you to a new author and keep you reading that latest book you have by your bed, these are the same things that we look for as agents and editors.

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