This is what your friends won't tell you

Always a bridesmaid...never a bride - well, kind of.

Profile of Bachelorette Number God-Knows-How-Many: once-agented, never shopped, Malice Domestic Grant-winner in the last round of editorial consideration with Poisoned Pen Press, CWA Debut Dagger short-listed, "fine writer," "ready for prime-time," "unique," "distinctive voice," Most Requested Partials and Fulls of 2004 and 2005 (if there were such a prize), probably rejected by Miss Snark herself...

...and yet, agentless.
There are so many agents in love with my work. Still, I can't count anymore how many have said "It's the market - so sorry." I'm rather tired of pastel chiffon and jewel-tone satin. What's it take to get to wear the veil?

They aren't in love with your work. Agents are a moneygrubbing lot. We only really love what we think we can sell. Not that we're ever going to tell you that, particularly if we're saying no.

Good writing sells. Almost good writing or writing that is good but like the last six novels I've read won't.

Agents are not in the business of saying that. They'll step on their tongues first.
Why? Cause you're going to get better, get published, and you will remember every rejection you ever got. Trust me on this. I have a stack of those "neener neener, coulda had me" letters.

I encourage you to get tough on your writing. If you can't see what's holding you back, go read 50 novels in your area. 50 FRONTLIST novels, i.e. things published this year and preferably in the last six months. How to find those books? Go to your library. Ask to see the last six months of Publishers Weekly. Look in the back under Reviews. Make a list of every book published and then request it from the library. If the kind of book you write isn't reviewed in Publishers Weekly, go to the website of publishers who do that kind of book and look up what they've published this year. Request from your library.

If your library doesn't have or can't get these books, consider a membership at the Mercantile Library of New York. You have to pay to join but they will buy any book a member requests I'm told. They specialize in fiction.

I've given this advice before and I hear wails of dismay "all I want to do is be a writer". You can be just a writer all you want, but if you want to be in the business of writing, and be a published writer, you have to invest some time in doing other things like a focused reading list.

I get a lot of queries and pages that are good. They just don't pique my interest cause there's nothing fresh and new. I won't say anyone can write a novel, cause that's so not true, but of those who can write a good novel, only a few can write something fresh and original. That's your challenge. Rise to it.


Feisty said...

Well said, Miss Snark, but you never (that I can see) talk about the luck factor in becoming a published author. And it seems to be more and more prevalent among the people I see being published.

I'm not talking about the highly talented. I'm talking about the rest of the crap that gets published. I have spit my coffee across my desk many a time when I've heard the news that some half baked writer has sold a book. And trust me, I've heard it a few times.

And the only reason I can think that their work is selling is because they got lucky or came across some equally half-baked editor.

You know this is true. So when you talk about how good books and good writing sell, I have to chuckle a little because it's only partly true and every writer loses sleep over it, especially if they've been at the craft for a long time, write well, and have been passed up for one of these starlets.

JN said...

Its in the story. Good writing means good story. So says unpublished me. I can't write worth crap most of the time. I am lazy. I am busy. I don't crave it enough. But I know good advice when I read it and this is on the money Miss Snark.

Bernita said...

Feisty, when Miss Snark talks about timing, about agents/editors saying they've just bought something of that type, that their lists are full for this season, agents/editors subjectivity, their perceptions of the market - that the "luck" factor. We can only shave the odds so far. There's always that 2-5 % of factors we can't control.

Rick said...

Fortune favors the big battalions, which translates as the hustle factors Miss Snark is always talking about. Still, the biggest battalion of all - the nuclear weapon of the publishing marketplace - is an ms that is a) excellent, and b) of a sort a lot of people might like to read, i.e., commercial. And even then it still has to dodge its way through the enormous clutter of also-rans.

Maria said...

You can get almost any book through a program called "Interlibrary Loan." Hundreds of libraries all across the U.S. participate. When you request a book through your librarian, it gets entered in a database--the libraries that own the book will respond if they are willing to lend the book. There is a charge for the service to cover the cost of mailing the book. It's approx $2.50--dirt cheap. I've gotten books from NY, NM, Texas, right nearby from the university without ever leaving the comfort of my own library. It's a fabulous way to complete research and even the smallest library with a small selection can get books through the program.

Tsavo Leone said...

Maria: Hey, I've seen se7en, I know what you're trying to do here. Just 'cos you've got Morgan and Brad waiting to find out what books we're researching... *grin*

It's interesting, to me at any rate, that the delightful Miss Snark states "I get a lot of queries and pages that are good. They just don't pique my interest cause there's nothing fresh and new." From my own experiences elsewhere I'd come to the conclusion that "fresh and new" is usually used as shorthand for "I've never seen this before, which means no-one else will have seen it before, and that means that it'll sell millions", or "I've never seen this before, but someone else must have, which means it tanked and I shouldn't touch it with a barge-pole".

Businesses (and publishers are businesses after all) are after a healthy profit margin. To them "fresh and new" = selling fridge magnets to Eskimos...

'We want the next J K Rowling, the next Stephen King (oh, if only we could be that lucky), the next Anne Rice (ah, well, on second thoughts...)' etc.

On a lighter note, Jones (my hermaphrodite cat - which is true by the way) has requested a photo of Killer Yap (well, that's how I interpretted Jones's yowlings when I read out KY's description...)

Mark Pritchard said...

> I have a stack of those "neener neener, coulda had me" letters.

Really? People you've rejected write you later on, just to gloat?

I can't think of a bigger waste of time.

Cornelia Read said...

I suspect that I have had the good fortune to read this particular snarkling's work, and I think she is SO TOTALLY ABOUT TO BE A BRIDE, in the best way. Not literally walking up the aisle yet, but so close she should be picking out a silver pattern and taste-testing hors-d'oevres and stuff.

~~Olivia said...

Fresh and original? Where is fresh and original? Not in the books I read. If I try to submit fresh and original, the answer comes back: Not right for the market.

The established writers can write the same old boring stuff year after year and continue to make mounds of money.

If the new author writes like an established writer, it gets rejected as being old. If he/she writes fresh and original, it still gets rejected.

So we keep guessing and keep writing.