I'm buying stock in Pfizer

Dear Miss Snark, I

'm about 20 queries into the process on my first novel. I've had some interest: 4 requests for a full manuscript and 2 requests for a partial so far. I know complaining from here is like looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm about to anyway.

Although I'm getting positive
feedback (The writing is great and characters well rendered, etc.) none of the agents seem to believe they can sell it. And it appears the three agents who have rejected it so far have consulted with assistants who've also agreed it isn't quite for them.

Does this mean it's advanced a little further in the process or that it's so iffy they needed a second opinion?
Is it common practice for agents/assistants in one office to discuss manuscripts this way? (I realize you are a solo agent but thought you might have insight into the inner workings of agencies in general.)

I know you advise querying widely, and I plan to send out a hundred of these things before throwing in the towel, but when three well-respected agents (and their assistants) say they don't think they can sell it, does it mean no one can?

Can you sleep at night?
You are a basket of raw nerve endings, and they are all twitching.
I'd offer to share my pail of gin but no dice; buy your own. Your medical insurance will probably cover the cost of the pail and delivery.

First, you're getting good results on your query. Keep querying.
Second, just cause one agent can't sell it doesn't mean another one won't snap it up.
Third, there are lots of reasons to consult-primarily to get feedback on something from younger, hipper, groovy girls with toe rings and myspace.com websites. Is your book targeted to that demographic?

Fourth, you have NO, ZERO, ZIPPO control over what people say or why. You cannot obsess about this and keep your sanity. You need to start work on the next novel. Then, when a smart agent calls you up, you'll be just that much ahead for the two book deal.

And quit biting your damn nails too.


the green ray said...

Just last night I had an unusual experience. I was in a New York restaurant and thought I recognized an assistant at a fairly big agency who had read my first novel. I went up to her and said, "Excuse me, are you _____ who used to work at ______?" She said, "Yes, I am! But I'm no longer working there, I'm a writer now." Well, I was just thrilled to meet her and asked her an important question. She had requested my ms, but her nice reject email said that all the head honchos there had seen it. I asked her if this meant she liked it, and she said yes, definitely - and she remembered the story. I was right in assuming that if the head honchos saw it, it was she that recommended it. This was a really good thing to confirm for me, as I've heard similar stories of my manuscripts being passed around offices - and I guess that's a good thing. If the first reader didn't like it, they wouldn't be passing it around. I wish I had a question for you, Miss Snark, but since you can't exactly pass around a ms, except for KY to sniff I suppose, telling you whether it smells good, I assume you read all the stuff yourself. Oh, here's a question: do you ever show a colleague or friend a manuscript that you're considering?

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> Fourth, you have NO, ZERO, ZIPPO control over what people say or why. You cannot obsess about this and keep your sanity. You need to start work on the next novel. Then, when a smart agent calls you up, you'll be just that much ahead for the two book deal.

As usual, brilliant advice, Madame Snarknificent.

I finished my first novel two weeks ago, bunged up a blog entry about it posting pics of and thanks to those who've helped me, went camping for a week, and am now dividing my working hours between editing and then querying with respect to book one, and cracking on with writing book two. My creative energy will be going on the book, not on worrying about what's happening with the queries.

I regard querying agents (speaking from the viewpoint of someone who has zippedy doo da experience) as rather like making fine wine. One puts a lot of care and thought into making the wine, then one places it in the cellar and leaves it to do its thing, whilst one goes off into the forest to pluck elderberries for the next batch.

One cannot pluck elderberries if one is a jibbering wreck.

eleora said...

Good luck Jude. Love the elderberry wine analogy :)

Kanani said...

Miss Snark is correct: you do have to get on with other things you are doing.

And if you're like many writers, then you have lots of other things you are working on. Maybe that's why I don't get writers block. When I find I can't go any further on something, I simply switch over and write an essay, poetry, or a travel story.

Here's something from writer Thomas Farber:
"I don't rank art above surfing, planting a garden. Sometimes the effort to be good, to be the best bends people out of shape. I love to see a young writer go for it, but it's a trapeze act, the artist's life. I was lucky. I had other vocations, and I had women who sustained me."

And don't forget what was written about Fred Astaire after his initial screen test with RKO.
"Can't Act. Slightly Bald. Also Dances"

Chin up. Go to the manicurist, and keep dancing.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a slightly different version of the Fred Astaire evaluation: "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little."