Monday, August 25, 2014

Query Question: full requests, but no rep

I've been querying agents and have gotten a partial or full request from quite a few, but I seem to get stuck at the last step: an offer of representation. They give the same reasons - they like my writing, my plot, even my characters, but they just don't fall in love with the novel.

As an example, the last agent (who had a partial) said: "You have a great imagination - I love the premise - and you're a good writer, but I'm sad to say that I just wasn't passionate enough about this to ask to see more. I wish I could offer constructive suggestions, but I thought the dialogue was fine, the characters well-crafted, and the plot well-conceived. I think it's the kind of thing that really is subjective - why some people adore the book on the top of the NYTimes bestseller list, and others don't." I've received similar comments from other agents.

What should I do? I don't even know what I'm doing wrong.

You're not doing anything wrong, you're just not doing something that excites agents and gets them to keep reading.

My esteemed colleague Jenny Bent (who knows a thing or ten about good books) once tweeted that pacing was the single biggest problem she found in requested fulls that she didn't offer to represent.

Clearly you need help with something. This is where you find a brutal critique group or enroll in a year long class (Grub Street  offers this kind of workshop.)

You don't mention which novel this is for you: first, second or Nth.  I remember Jenny Milchman saying she wrote something like nine novels before her "first" published novel.

It takes a long time to learn to write a good novel.  Clearly you've got talent if you're getting requests, but maybe you're just not quite there yet.  (Remember the 10,000 hour theory made famous by Malcolm Gladwell)


MNye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

First of all, the fact the agent wrote anything (IMHO) is huge.

On pacing and subjectivity.

According to my editor, this is the current problem with my latest WIP and I can only thank her for pointing it out to me. She said it was a good story - but SLOW. Having said that, on the whole subjective thing - OMG. It's very true. I've recently purchased two books - one I had to stop reading (despite the hype)and the other, I'm not sure I'll be able to get into because all of my blog buddies say they put it down and never went back. boot, this book's author was a recent Pulitzer Prize winner. I'll form my own opinion, of course, but it's really stunning how people's perspectives are so different.

Unknown said...

I disagree that this question is writer paranoia. It sounds to me like writer anxiety because we are (the honest ones) always searching and craving and hoping that we get HONEST feedback. Anyone reading this blog knows that friends and family are not the place to go for honest critiques. Speaking of critiques, you have to be damn sure that the crit group you are in is a brutally honest one or what would be the point.

It's a valid question. If it is good enough to reach this point, why is it stalling?

I am having a hard time getting true, valid feedback from others than the age group my book is geared to. They LOVE it, but why don't agents?

I have recently had a few similar responses as this submitter speaks of, and I too am stymied as to why with the details.

Steve Stubbs said...

If the author sends it to me I will see if I can spot the problem. All I can give is an opinion, but it will be very specific. You get what you pay for, of course, so be warned: there is no charge.

Bill Scott said...

Keep writing. Keep plotting. If you think the story is supposed to go one direction, the more interesting choice may be to turn a 180.

Fatboy said...

Interesting conundrum. "You have a great imagination - I love the premise - and you're a good writer, but..."

That's enough to make you want to bang your head against the wall. Impossible to identify what the problem is, if there is one, without reading.

Have you tried an editor for feedback? I'm contemplating doing that myself before submitting.

Anonymous said...

you know, the best "paced" book I've read in recent years was The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. The overall story was paced well but also there's a lot to be learned by reading that novel & seeing how Moriarty shapes her paragraphs, how seamlessly her sentences bleed into one another.
And no, she didn't pay me to say this.....

DLM said...

This resembles my very first R on a partial almost *to the word*. I won't ask who the LR queried, but seriously, it's almost eerie.

(Yes, I remember my first - but then, she's lovely, I requeried her after the last revision, and I've seen her several times since.)

Tam Francis said...

Man, I have the same rejections lately. It's driving me nuts, but I know I must be missing something. I have a parallel story with two POV and I get: Love Violet's story, but June's didn't grab me, I'm not in love with it. This is after requests for fulls. Grrrrr. I'm going back, though and adding some more hurtles and a have a beta reader looking for redundancies and places where I can up the pacing.

Thanks for the advice and knowing I'm on the right path :)

Best of luck to this writer!

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

SO CLOSE... and yet so very far. The subjectivity thing is one of the hardest obstacles to clear. It might be that this will be your 2nd novel to publish and not your first and.. while horrendously hard to accept, it will be easier to do so when you finish writing that second (or simply "next") novel. Maybe this current novel will only be temporarily shelved.