Hi Miss Snark--
I've been querying my novel since March and have gotten responses from a few big agencies. I'm in my second round now, sending samples to the agents who said yes to a letter, and presentation packets to those who said yes to a sample. All of the former have turned me down. (what the fuck is a presentation packet for a novel anyway??)
One agency requested temporary exclusivity on a three-chapter sample after reading my letter. This is, I've read, one of the most (reputable? powerful?) agencies in the industry, but they had no submission guidelines listed anywhere, not even on their own website. I sent the sample over, but also sent an e-mail saying that while I'd be happy to give them exclusivity effective that day, my submission was already simultaneous (this was also stated in my query). Their rejection came less than a week later.
Given the very quick turnaround, I can't help but think that this was because I could not offer them exclusivity. But had they been interested, I might have been caught in a lie, which I think is no way to establish a business relationship. Would it have been better to lie? Am I just being naive here?
Another agent sent along a few criticisms with her rejection, and, my gigantic writer ego aside, I thought they were preposterous. She suggested that I stop using the passive voice, add more dialogue, and put in more vivid descriptions--all intentional personal style choices that were direct results of the novel's story.
My own business sense and understanding of the market, coupled now with the fact that big agencies have responded to my queries, tell me that this novel is most likely sellable. That being said, I'm thinking that this agent--and the others who said no to a requested sample--liked the premise, but not my writing style in executing it.
But if a novel has marketability, does its style really affect that? Or is there something I'm missing here?
Yea, a clue.
What on earth led you to conclude the novel was "sellable" (and it's "saleable" but maybe you chose that word on purpose too)? You've got a fistful of rejections from people who've READ the thing!!
Just because someone said no quickly doesn't mean they didn't read it. I can turn things around pretty damn fast if I see right away that it doesn't work.
You've got passive voice, limited dialogue and flat description. Yes, I know you described it differently but that's what I get from what you said. Say what you will about downmarket fiction, it's usually full of dialogue and pretty vivid.
What you have here sounds like a high concept, badly executed book. Of course I haven't read it, so take that with a grain of salt. The only thing that really makes me think I'm right on the money here is the idea you actually have a presentation packet for a novel. I'm almost afraid to ask whats in it.