Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Consensus shmensus

In the last few months, I've had several requests for my full manuscript ... eight to date. Yippee! However, three have come back (in the last week, Happy Holidays!) as rejections. These rejecting agents pointed out many things they enjoyed about the book, but only gave me a single constructive comment to work on. Even more exasperatingly, the constructive comments contradict each other. Like jellied cranberry sauce served without the ridge marks, I can't quite figure out what's happening here.

For example,

Agent A: I love your character and plot. Needs more pacing
Agent B: I love your pacing and plot. Needs more character
Agent C: I love your character and pacing. Needs more plot.


I'm at a loss for what to do.

I have no issues with revisions... I welcome them. But if I make changes only to change things back again, it will feel like eating turkey without wearing stretchy pants. None of these agents have asked for an R&R. Which leads me to believe, they just don't LOVE it.

What's your advice? Besides more pie?


Ignore them all.
The little secret we hope you never find out is we're they're not always right.

We've all had the experience of reading a book that a previously trusted friend said was terrific, only to find out they'd taken leave of their senses.  And I've loathed books that enough people liked it to  get to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. And I kid you not, there are some people who don't like Jack Reacher. I know, I didn't believe it either, but it's true.

What's wrong with a book is in the eye of the beholder.
Keep looking for the agent who sees what you see: a damn good book.







23 comments:

Stacy said...

Yep. If you keep "fixing" it based on conflicting comments, you'll wind up with a mess. You know what Stephen King says in "On Writing"? I'm paraphrasing, but conflicting comments are a wash. Writer gets to keep them--if s/he wants.

Timothy Lowe said...

Amen. You have to trust in yourself. If you've put the time in and believe in the work, keep going with it. In all the manuscripts I've queried, only one has had similar criticisms from agents.

The rest? All over the place. You're not alone. The only thing that matters is that you find the right fan of your work.

Good luck. 2018 is a new year!

Theresa said...

OP, yes another reason why writers get on those hamster wheels. Hang in there until the right agent responds. Good luck!

Kathy Joyce said...

Congrats on all the requests! Something is very good with your work. Focus on that thought.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

That dreaded eye of the beholder. It comes for us all. Keep submitting, OP. You are close.

Nathan Holland said...

OP, congrats on the requests. Your situation is frustrating, but the silver lining, as you know, is that you have written a MS that people are requesting. I would presume that once you find the agent who sees what you see, that it will not be long before you find a publisher that will also see it. Enjoy your journey. We all wish you success.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Congrats for all the requests, OP. It just goes to show that everyone has different tastes. Don't give up, and I hope you get some good news in the new year - or better yet, before then! It's like Amy says in Little Women, "You don't need scores of suitors. You only need one--if he's the right one." Same goes for agents. :)

Colin Smith said...

Opie! I hope you're celebrating all this attention for your novel--Congratulations!! Weigh the counsel of these agents. Do you agree with what they say? As has been said, where suggestions conflict, or there's no consistent pattern to the critiques, feel free to take it or leave it. As I'm sure you know, you need to pay special attention to those places where the critiques converge. But if the suggestions are all over the map, then you're probably just fine. Reading between the lines a bit, if none of these agents are asking for an R&R, then they probably didn't love your novel, but liked your writing enough to want to give you some helpful feedback. So, be encouraged and carry on querying! Your agent's out there, waiting for your novel... :)

french sojourn said...


That's funny, someone doesn't like Jack Reacher....yeah right. Tell me another one. Geeesh!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I concur with everyone... Focus on the fact that you're getting requests for fulls. Congratulations, OP.

Onward! And more pie. Definitely.

Karen McCoy said...

Yes, onward! At the end of the day, it's your story--and you want an agent who sees how amazing it is. Focus on those full requests, and keep trucking!

roadkills-r-us said...

This is probably going to get me exiled to the Karkoon Off-Planet Maximum Obscurity Penitentiary, but I have never read Jack Reacher. I'm beginning to think he should be on The List (which grows at an alarming rate since I have gotten serious about writing and therefore have less time for reading).

KOPMOP. That wasn't planned, but I like it.

Lennon Faris said...

OP, bask in the fact that essentially Janet just told you to eat more pie. Wishing you the very best!

Melanie - I have found myself saying, "Onward!" lately. It is a fantastic mental rallying cry.

Colin Smith said...

I have NEVER GO BACK but I haven't read it yet... because it's number 1 gajillion in the series and I've only read KILLING FLOOR so far. I'll get there one day... :D

Joseph Snoe said...

Collin - I'm sorry. I deleted my comment about Never Go Back. Email me what you think after you read it.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: At this rate it could be years!! Unless a certain literary agent made it a contractual stipulation, then, of course, I'd be all over it... ;)

Steve Stubbs said...

The advice is not contradictory at all.

"Agent A: I love your character and plot. Needs more pacing"

Means agent wants a thriller.

"Agent B: I love your pacing and plot. Needs more character"

Means agent wants a literary novel.

"Agent C: I love your character and pacing. Needs more plot."

Means agent does not want a literary novel. Can you write something commercial?

Those aren't contradictions. They are different kinds of stories.

If you can write a mystery which is a thriller and commercial in a literary sort of way, you may nail all three of them.

Or decide what your purpose is.

If your goal is to make some $$$, go with agent C.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Late to the game today. Jumping in, jumping out.

"Keep looking for the agent who sees what you see: a damn good book."

I love this. I mean I really, really, love this.
Have confidence in your damn good book.

Bye guys.
How did life get so busy?

Megan V said...

I can relate OP. So much. Too much. One of the first novels I received a large number of full requests on came back with the same comment-pacing between X and Y was not strong. Agent A and B said it was too slow. Agents C and D said it was too fast. Agent E hinted that the POV switches made pacing too fast for MC1s scenes and too slow for MC2s. My betas and cps had similar mixed responses.

We hear it all the time, subjectivity is a huge part of this business. Just write.

In a way it’s like inviting home buyers to look through a window into your home. You expect them to see and like the same things, the wood floors, the fireplace, the natural lighting. You want them to fall in love with what they see, to say they must have this house. But not everyone will like your paint choice, which some will call blue and some will call green. Some will notice the bowing roof, while others will notice the tiny cuts in opposite the wall from childhood measurement sessions. Ultimately you have to decide what needs fixing, you only have so much control over what people see through your window.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats, Opie, on all the requests. As Melanie Sue and a couple of others said, "Onward!"

The Sleepy One said...

OP, I was in the same boat as you a few years ago. 21 requests (3 partials, the rest were fulls), but no offers of rep. Every rejection came with a different reason (loved the main character, hated the main character, etc). You have to decide what matters in the manuscript to you and turn it into the best book you can. Then find the right advocate for you, since all you've found out so far is that you haven't found the right agent yet.

Kristin Owens said...

Thanks to Janet for her advice and to all for such motivational feedback.

Part of the new writer job description is the ability to self-doubt and eat your weight in Oreos. I will move ONWARD! - OP

Virginia Taylor said...

I had no idea people other than men liked Jack Reacher. I am stunned.