1.03.2007

Agentese translation with a PS

Miss Snark: I hope this isn't a nitwit question but... What does it mean when an agent tells you they liked your material but "it would be a difficult book for us to market"? Is that just a kind way of saying your writing stinks?



Nope. It means they can't think of who/where to sell it. "Your writing stinks" is "not right for us at this time".


PS: "not right for us at this time" doesn't always mean your writing sux. But if your writing sux, you're not going to hear much beyond "not right for us at this time".

34 comments:

Georgiana said...

Hmm, so "not right for us at this time" is only part of the sentence? It ends with "or any other"?

xiqay said...

Hey, I get things like "I'm sure some other agent may think differently." I translate that to mean--get away from me, you nitwit. Go, anywhere but here!

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

From Miss Snark earlier in the blog:

"the pivotal question is "do I think I can sell this"--not "can it be sold" but can *I* sell it."

I thought that was a very helpfull way of looking at it. I mean an agent is still a person, they have their limitations. Just because one agent didn't think they could sell it doesn't mean it can't be sold.

Anonymous said...

I think the snark is the nitwit on this one, after all, what writer, aspiring and published, HASN'T heard the ol' "not right for us"?

Anonymous said...

Ha!!

ScaramoucheX said...

Y'otta come to Canada...where no one cares if its difficult, or intelligible, even...it's all about gaining state approval. Works for me, a Canadian man of letters. Great site, Snark, you astound me with your dedication to the Word, and its authors...

Kit Whitfield said...

Don't be too downhearted. I got a lot of 'difficult book to market' when I was trying to sell my first novel, but it sold in the end. What you need is someone who loves the book enough that they'll think, 'I don't care how difficult it'll be to market, I'm gonna do it!' Good luck...

Kim Stagliano said...

"Not right for us..." Kim runs to her query log, checks each rejection, bile rising in the throat, armpits moist with fear, mouth cotton dry.... Oh thank GOD! They're all form rejection cards.... (Except for a very nice handwritten note that gave me a good dose of cheer from a lovely agent in the Big Apple (natch).)

Anonymous said...

OMG! "Your writing stinks" = "not right for us at this time"

*pulling pillow over head and going back to sleep as I fall into a deep depression*

Anonymous said...

Sometimes no matter how much an agent might enjoy a manuscript, they just can't sell it. Doesn't make them a bad agent, or unprofessional or uncaring. If they tell you up front they can't sell a manuscript, it saves you time and grief. What good does it do you to have an agent take on your project and not be able to sell it?

In order to survive, agents have to sell, and recognize what they can sell, not just what they'd LIKE to sell. This is their livlihood, not a hobby.

Bonnie Shimko said...

Ouch! I've received a lot of the "not right for our list" replies.

Once I got a "not right for our list" letter on the very day the same agent called with an offer of representation. Evidently, my book wasn't right for her assistant's list.

Mark said...

I suspect "not right for us" includes many reasons, including sucking.

Zany Mom said...

I got the 'I like it but I don't love it, and I have to love it to want to sell it.'

I took that to mean my writing doesn't suck, just needs someone else to represent it.

Now if I could perfect my hook, I'd have a better shot.

otterb said...

I think Mark's got it. "not right for us" can mean it sucks, but could also genuinely mean "not my genre / hits a personal squick button / too much like another book I'm already selling" or even "it's fine but just doesn't grab me," and none of these keep a book from being right for somebody. One thing I found interesting in the crapometer was that I could sometimes see the idiosyncracy in what "clicked" for Miss Snark.

Minnie Bittertiddoff said...

I'd like to know what novel isn't difficult to market these days.

I'd also like to know how Miss Snark would read between the lines if she met George Clooney and Brad Pitt in a downtown bar and they told her, "not right for us at this time"...or better yet..."not a good fit".

lauri at nomad said...

You made me spit coffe on my keyboard.

MichaelPH said...

Ha ha ha...ouch.

Word Doctor said...

Lauri,

You're still drinking coffee? Shit, it's ten o'clock in the morning already...time for the good stuff!

Anonymous said...

OhMyGOD!! I am so depressed! I've gotten tons of these "Not right for us at this time" comments. I didn't know it meant my writing sucks - I thought it meant my writing is ahead of its time, and I should wait a bit then requery to see if the time was now right. Sigh. Well, at least that explains the restraining orders.

Zappadong said...

In our little publishing company, "not right for us" means "not right for us".

If we think the writing sucks, we let the authors know (very nicely wrapped up - like "your writing needs working on", often with specific information on what we think they should improve on).

Some feedback we get from authors who got rejected this way makes us wonder though, if we should just write "not right for us" when we think the writing sucks.

Zappadong

December Quinn said...

Okay, this is totally off the subject, but "Minnie Bittertidoff" is the most awesome name ever.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten "not right for us" in form letters, but also in responses to partials. And in personal rejections accompanied by words like compelling, talented, intelligent, etc. Sure it's still a no, but I tend to read the personal rejections as a NICE no, not as "your writing stinks". I guess Miss Snark is back to deflating balloons, after spending her holidays helping hundreds, probably thousands, of writers. (And thanks again for all that work. Regardless of motivation, it was incredibly kind.)

Minnie Bittertiddoff said...

Thank you, December Quinn, but I have to credit my fourth husband, Murray (as in Hill)for the name.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the Russian name Ugabugalov was the most awesomest name ever. It's pronounced Ooga-booga-lov.

Someone please name a character in one of their books that. :-)

Anonymous said...

Minnie Bittertiddoff?... Now, there's an image I'd just as soon not consider.

Zappadong said...

PS: You might also get a - slightly annoyed - "Not right for us" when you've sent us something that we exlude on our website (The part where it says "no short stories, no erotic stories ect...") - you wouldn't believe how often that happens.

Zappadong

Anonymous said...

You know what I'd like to see? I think it would be revealing if published writers could post their first novel query experiences with a general breakdown of the numbers of letters and types of responses. Example: I sent 20 queries (half email, half snail) 18 replies, 10 of which were "not right for me," 5 requests for partials, 4 fulls, 2 offers . . .

Anonymous said...

Kind of difficult to determine which is euphemism for suckage and which is merely a nice way of saying beat it.

kellie said...

As an editor, I use "not right for us at this time" in two different situations. The more common one is when it's genuinely not right for us--there's nothing wrong with the story, but it just doesn't mesh with our current list, or didn't grab me. And the other is when the writing is just so terrible that I can't think of anything to say about it that isn't soul-crushingly cruel. Unfortunately, in those situations, the Snarkly response of "this is a mess" is unprofessional and largely unhelpful...though I do wish sometimes I could use it.

Malia said...

wiping soda splattered monitor Good one, Minnie

Yup, I fell pray to what everyone else was doing and thank dog I did. While scanning through my rejections, I happened on a tiny little sentence that I must have overlooked during the despair of the moment. "Please feel free to query your other projects."

I hereby stamp myself Nitwit of the Day.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it more form-letter vs. not form-letter? "Not right for us at this time" is a nice punch in the gut when it arrives on a poorly copied, fading form-letter. But if an agent/editor spends time to write a personal note that includes NRATT and perhaps a clue as to why it's NRATT, then that's a different story? Maybe?

Bonnie Shimko said...

I'm trying to picture exactly how
Minnie did that.

Eric Riback said...

Many years ago, when my greatest professional desire was to be a disk jockey, I actually got a live on-air audition on a New York station. when I called the program director afterwards to ask what he thought, he said, "Not what we're looking for." Even at age 21, I had a clue. I sucked. I went into sales and ended up in publishing. I thank my lucky stars.

Grapeshot said...

Anal nitwit that I am, I have actually compiled rejection statistics for one still-making-the rounds novel:

Response Count PCT
Wanted to see part/all of the book 3 7
No, but personal letter 3 7
Not right for us 9 20
No new clients 4 9
No response whatever 9 20
Ass Hole Form Letter 6 14
Outright lie 1 2
Don't like computers in novels
1 2
Just Plain No 8 18
99

The most depressing statistic is that 20% of all queries went unanswered in spite of SASE