I have a scenario for your wonderful blog, where the readers comments are as insightful as the posts. Here’s the situation: I’ve been reading awesome agent’s (AA) blog for almost a year now. From time to time AA holds an incredible open query event for her followers, promising to provide a personal reply, even if the query isn’t right up her alley. Suspecting a fatal conceptual flaw in my manuscript, I have intended to submit to this open query event. But, being the neurotic author that I am, I waited, not wanting to blow the opportunity with a manuscript or query that wasn’t up to snuff. I’ve finally gotten my act together, but AA seems to have suspended her open query events. Meanwhile, at AA’s agency there is a new junior agent (JA) seeking in my genre and firing off #MSWL tweeter twits that look they were targeted directly at my manuscript. What’s a neurotic author to do? (1)
There are probably two specific concerns here. First, after we’ve read every bit of advice on your blog, how can we find better specific feedback than the typically vague agent rejection? A few rejections along the lines of “You certainly write great dialog, but I just don’t feel passionate about your main character,” or “I love your concept and writing, but unfortunately I’m not connecting with your story,” are nice but don’t really help. More rejections are just a flat no, or worst of all, a no reply. Your recent post on professional editing services made this approach to getting good feedbacks look like a chancy proposition at best. And my CP, despite her excellent advice on my MS has little insight into what my fatal flaw might be. (2)
The second concern is regarding the wisdom of submitting to junior or new agents. What should we be looking for in a new agent? What should we be looking out for? Is the fact that JA works for a well respected agency with people like AA surrounding her, and presumably guiding and mentoring her recommendation enough? (3)
(1) Hmmm...I wonder who that slacker AA agent is?
And let's all remember that the purpose of Chum Bucket isn't to get feedback alone. It's querying for real. And that's the problem. I've been backed up on requested fulls for more than six months. I request a HUGE percentage of manuscripts during Chum Buckets (often up to 10% of total queries) so if I'm backed up on reading, the last thing I should do is add to the inventory.
I know that's not what you want to hear, but telling people they need to wait for me to read their work in 120, 150, 180!!!! days makes me crazy.
Therefore you should be casting a wider net. Which brings us to
(2) An agent's job is NOT NOT NOT to critique your work. You can get that sometimes from requested fulls, or more likely if you meet an agent at a conference and have her look at your synopsis, with the idea of helping you identify plot holes, or look at your query to identify weaknesses. Short of that, you need to get advice from other sources.
(3) You look for a junior agent who is sitting five feet away from a fierce senior agent who will keep her out of trouble. You look for an agent who loves your work and thinks she can sell it. And you make triple dog sure that she isn't heading for the exit anytime soon.