12.10.2006

Running out of places to send

As a loyal snarkling, I offer a dilemma for your dissection, though it may put me in the nitwit category. I've been ridiculed before, so I thought I would take a chance.

After going through a full round of rejections — about 20 — my agent said that he was “running out of places” to send my novel. (He told me months ago to hold back on rewriting it, even though many of the rejection letters had similar reasons for turning it down.) Whether this signals incompetence, I know not, but I have been wondering about getting a new agent, even though mine is with a relatively prestigious agency.

Lo and behold, at a book party a few weeks ago I met an agent who is courting a good friend of mine. The agent said in no uncertain terms that agents don’t like to take rejected work (fair enough) and editors hate seeing the same book represented by different people (ditto), but he also said that I was “stuck” with the person I have, given the number of rejections I had received.

Though I felt gut-shot at the time, I have filled with doubt about trying to get a new agent. Am I simply courting disaster?


It's not so much editors hate seeing projects represented by different agents, it's that once they've said no, they've said no. There is wiggle room but not much.

If you came to me with a book, even one I loved, and said it had been rejected by 20 editors, I wouldn't take it on unless I thought the book had been pitched really really badly (calling it an epic poem instead of a potboiler for example).

Some books just don't sell. Good ones too. This is the stuff that just kills me because the same stick-to-itiveness that works for getting things done makes it very very very hard to throw in the towel.

15 comments:

Kimber An said...

Hmmm, it feels kind of suspect to me that some of the editers suggested revisions, but the agent told you not to. I'd discuss that with him, if I were you.

Anonymous said...

i hope you've been writing your NEXT book. and not just sitting around putting all your hopes on this one.


get that next one finished and maybe that one will be accepted -

THEN .. after some success with the 2nd one, someone will be more interested in the first one.

E

KingM said...

Hmmm, it feels kind of suspect to me that some of the editers suggested revisions, but the agent told you not to. I'd discuss that with him, if I were you.

If they're all saying, rewrite this and I'll take another look, then yes. But if this is just feedback, it might not be helpful at this point.

I ditto the advice about continuing with the writing. You should have some other WIP by now. Focusing on that might be the best solution.

Martha O'Connor said...

You need to work on the next book. If there is some other problem with your agent other than the fact that your book is being rejected, then part ways with him or her by sending a certified letter. This frees you to query for book #2. At some point book #1 could be resurrected as the second half of a two-book deal, so don't give up hope! But I wouldn't make "my book got rejected by 20 editors" a reason to give up on your agent. Look at things like continuing enthusiasm, belief in you and your work, communication... all the stuff you looked at when you first signed with him/her.

Anonymous said...

If your agent has exhausted the top publishing houses, you can either rewrite the manuscript or write another novel. Either way, that agent should continue to be the agent for that project. No other agent will want leftovers. But for your next novel you have a choice - fresh start with a different agent or contiune with agent A.

This exact same scenario happened to me a few years ago. My novel was turned down by 15 major editors and my agent was a top-of-the-list agent. I saw some of the rejection letters and they pointed out changes they'd like to see made that were all similar, but my agent never suggested a rewrite. In the meantime, I was working on my next novel. By the time I was finished with novel B my agent had stopped answering my emails, which in the publishing industry seems to be code for, "Go away. You're not my client anymore." So I wrote a very nice letter to my agent suggesting we part ways, never heard back, and queried other agents. The next agent I found made a six-figure deal with Random House for my next novel. The point I'm trying to make here is that you have to keep writing, and if it is time for a change of agents handle it with dignity and impress the next agent by never badmouthing the first.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark says: "Some books just don't sell. Good ones too."


So good writing doesn't *always* trump all.


Speaking of stick-to-itiveness, what do agents/editors think of writers who persist in submitting admittedly well-written stuff (this is important--agents/eds *say* it's well-written) that is never Just Right? Are they likely to attach a "never has what I want" label to the writer, or are they more likely to appreciate the perseverence and remain hopeful that s/he'll come up with something Just Right at some point?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anonymous: "The point I'm trying to make here is that you have to keep writing, and if it is time for a change of agents handle it with dignity and impress the next agent by never badmouthing the first."
Excellent advice, in many different situations.

Anonymous said...

The question raised about the "never quite right" manuscript is interesting.
Same thing happened to me, with two books. I get great rejection letters, and the editors love the writing, but the manuscript doesn't quite fit. And there's never specific feedback given.
It's driving me and my agent mad. But what to do?

Anonymous said...

This happened to me, too. Twice. I wrote a novel, got an agent and the agent gave up on the novel after 20 rejections. So I wrote a second novel and sent it to my agent. She didn't like it, so I found another agent for it. You can all guess the rest: The agent sent it out, got 20 rejections and gave up. I tried to look for more agents but my heart was no longer in it. I gave up. This all happened 15 years ago. Since then, my life has changed and I've decided to try again. In the last few months I've sent queries for the second novel and got one partial and one full manuscript request. So, what do I do if someone offers representation? Am I under obligation to volunteer this information? What if they ask directly? I want to do the ethical thing but I am afraid this will be held against me. Any suggestions (other than writing a third novel, that is)?

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of stick-to-itiveness, what do agents/editors think of writers who persist in submitting admittedly well-written stuff (this is important--agents/eds *say* it's well-written) that is never Just Right? Are they likely to attach a 'never has what I want' label to the writer, or are they more likely to appreciate the perseverence and remain hopeful that s/he'll come up with something Just Right at some point?"

In my experience with commercial fic, if they really do like your writing that much, then they'll tell your agent, "Not this one, but does this writer have any books about [marketable idea they're seeking this month]?"

Then you'll put all your stick-to-it-ive-ness to work by whipping out a synopsis/first chapter that suits them, as quickly as you can. Then, if you're lucky, they'll buy it.

Ryan Field said...

This sounds like a classic case of what "they" love to call CRASH AND BURN. Don't let them sell you this shit without a good, sneaky fight. You've got to change things if you want to sell the book. And, don't forget about smaller publishers; we don't give them enough credit.

Take a break and try to re-invent the book, including a title change.
Change the character's names...figure out why they are turning you down. Maybe it's too long? There's usually a reason...not always a good one, but a reason. Go read Nicholas Sparks' web site and see what he has to say about publishing and selling...whether you like him or not, people read his work.

A lot of the time (and Miss Snark might disagree with me on this, but I don't care) publishers are a lot like auto inspection. When I was just starting to drive I took my first car to a drive-through NJ state inspection station. They rejected me and I was not happy. So I immediately went to the car wash, had it detailed and then poured a small plastic bottle of fuel additive into the gas tank. Two hours later I went back to the same inspection station, to the same bleary-eyed chicken-fucker who'd rejected me, and the car passed. We snarklings aren't the only nitwits out there, and you have to remember that.

lizzie26 said...

My little ol' opinion to the anonymous who is writing again after a fifteen year lapse: Don't bother mentioning those books or agents to the agents you're now querying. Fifteen years is a long time.

~Nancy said...

J. A. Konrath went through a lot before he and his agent came up with a 3-book deal for his "Jack" Daniels series.

Here's the link:

http://www.jakonrath.com/tips8.html

~JerseyGirl

Anonymous said...

This all happened 15 years ago. Since then, my life has changed and I've decided to try again. In the last few months I've sent queries for the second novel and got one partial and one full manuscript request. So, what do I do if someone offers representation?

Author, don't say a bleedin' word. ;-) In fifteen years agents and agencies change, and the people who rejected your manuscripts may no longer be in business, or at least not at the same houses. In my mind, it's of no consequence at all, unless you KNOW you're talking to someone who rejected the manuscript Away Back When. It's ancient history and you're starting over. Go for it, and good luck!
Cheers ~

G. Atwater

Anonymous said...

Two points:

For non-fiction, you can resurrect a project if you build a higher platform, and then resubmit. At least that's what my agent is telling me.

He is also telling me that Dubliners was rejected by 44 publishers. What if Joyce gave up? And he didn't write or shop around Portrait until he did sell Dubliners.