Dear Miss Snark:
So this published author friend of a friend offers to refer me and my completed novel to her bigtime agent who says he's intrigued and asks me to send three chapters--almost half of the book--to him. Within a week his secretary sends me a letter requesting that the rest of the ms be sent as soon as possible. My heart is racing and my hopes are rising. (ya, well, you'll learn not to do that again)
Two weeks later (Snarkly emphasis inserted) I get a form rejection letter. So I send him an email asking how the book failed him. He responds, saying it is competent and sorry he couldn't be more specific. Meanwhile, I get to the full-read stage with three publishers who praise the work, saying it's well-written and funny and might even make a great film but they're going to pass on it because they have no idea how we'd market a book like this. My nails are bitten down to the quick and the brandy is all gone. I am mystified. Was it something I did or didn't do?
Have a nice day and thanks.
You are the client from hell in training. You got an intro to an agent, who read the FULL book in two weeks, and your response is "tell me why you didn't like it"?? The only thing you get to say at this point is: THANK YOU, and then you query on.
Do not email an agent and ask why they didn't take something. That is as close to a blacklist as I have, but I remember those people (I have your name and address on the data base if I read your novel) and I never ever want to work with them.
People who DO get a second shot are the ones who say "thanks for taking the time to read this, I'm sorry it wasn't a good fit for you. Between the time you requested it and rejected it I had someone else read it and she suggested several major changes. I've made those changes and it's a better book. If that makes it more appealing, you know I'd jump at the chance to be one of your authors". Yes, base flattery works, but there are two things here: you made significant changes and you didn't ask me to give you advice.
Here's why I hate being asked "what didn't work for you": I didn't read your novel with the idea of critiquing it. I read it with the idea "can I sell it". If I can't it may not mean the novel sux (and if I'm reading the full novel, we're pretty much past the sucky query stage) it may be just what those three publishers said...we don't know how to market this book. That doesn't mean someone else won't be able to.
You've only had four reads. Keep querying. No one has said your writing sux or the equivalent thereof.
And if you just neglected to tell me that you included "thank you for reading my manuscript at the speed of light" in that email, well, ignore the rant and know someone else needs the advice even if you don't.