This is the road to madness....batteries not included

I've recently finished reading The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) and am wondering what you think of this LARGER-THAN-LIFE-RUNAWAY-BESTSELLER? Was it two million that the movie rights have sold for?

Had you received a query would you...ask for the manuscript or pass and why?


Publishers Marketplace reports "seven figures at auction" so it's more than one million and less than ten. Two sounds nice.

Every agent has nightmares about passing on what turns out to be the Next Big Thing. So do editors. Editors have it worse cause, when something hits, they have bosses glaring at them demanding "why didn't we buy this". Miss Snark has no performance reviews to survive but she still gets the nightmares.

Would I have passed on this? Man, I hope not. Did I see it? I'm pretty sure I didn't. I did pass on a vampire novel some years back that I still think about...it was hypnotic and lush but had no plot. Those are the ones that kill you.

We've talked here about what sells books: word of mouth. We've talked about reviews and the value of blurbs. Miss Snark reads things with no introduction whatsoever. No blurb, no review, no jacket copy, no flap copy, nothing, nada, zilch. Just bang, here's ten pages, is this any good.

One of the THE hardest things about taking up the agent challenge is developing an eye for quality. Then refining the eye to "will this sell" and then hardest of all "there's something wrong here, what is it and can it be fixed".

I'm sure I've passed on some books that have sold. But, I have books on my list that other people passed on as well.

What I never do is kick myself over "I could have had that". That is the road to madness and insane acquisitions cause it becomes not "is this good" or "do you love this" but "I don't want someone else to have it cause it might be good".


The Gambino Crime Family said...

It is weird. Why did this particular vampire novel get all the hype instead of the thousands of other vampire novels sitting in slush piles across the country? Was someone looking to create the next Anne Rice or is this actually pretty good?

Miss Snark said...

The acquiring editor, Reagan Arthur at Little, Brown, is one smart cookie. She has a knack for picking good books. Laura Miller at Salon.com thinks it's a good book, not just this season's over hyped claptrap (ie DaVinci Code).

I don't know if it's good. I haven't read it.

Oh lord, the word verification word: jturd.

Kristin said...

I read it. I think it'll make a better movie than a book, actually. It was a bit dense and slow-moving as a book but spell-binding.

occasional_anonymous said...

I've had writers come back and say "well, maybe you didn't like [my story] but I've now sold it to [x market].

Well, good. I'm happy for you.

But I still don't want it :D.

Any other attitude would drive me mad.

gnomeloaf said...

I get why it's different -- and why it is engaging but also dense.

The lushness you see in other vampire books usually has to do with the vampires themselves. In The Historian, however, it's all about the locales, the item details, the lore, and the thought processes.

In The Historian, it's sexier to be the library-frequenting research nerd than the vampire.