I recently received a rejection on a full.
Here’s the blow-by-blow on how reading that rejection went:
Phew, good sign, she read my name!
"Thank you for sharing XXXX with me. I've had the chance to consider your manuscript,”
oh crap, this is a rejection.
“And discuss it with our editorial board.”
What??? I thought this was a rejection?
“There's a lot to admire here in your imaginative and musical novel, but,”
Crap, this really is a rejection.
“It just wasn't coming to life for me on the page.”
So I’m confused. First off, I thought editors and publishers were the ones with editorial boards. Why does an agent have an editorial board? And I know you are always telling us not to read to much into a rejection, but I can’t help it. Does this mean she read the MS, wanted to sign, but her management killed the idea? Does this mean she read the MS, didn’t like it, so sent this response to make sure I wouldn’t submit to other agents at the agency? Does this mean… I know, I have to stop this. But seriously, do you have any insight here?
As an aside, she then went on to say, “I'm afraid I just felt the writing was uneven and didn't always feel on point for YA.” At this stage in the query process I have the hide of a 50-year-old rhinoceros and am really thankful for any criticism, especially if it comes from an industry professional.
I politely emailed asking if she could share any additional notes or suggestions. I didn’t necessarily expect to hear back and I didn’t. As it stands, her criticisms are not helpful. Sometimes the writing is rhythmically uneven and there are abrupt tempo changes reflecting the pace of the action. At one point the content is a little edgy for YA. These are deliberate and aspects that other readers have really liked, but balanced against the opinion of an agent…
I’m torn between doing nothing (tossing her comments off as her subjective opinion) and ripping the novel to shreds trying to find a fix. I’m tempted to see a psychiatrist, but that can get expensive. Any sage advice?
In my quest to torment writers in new and interesting ways, I may need to adopt some of this for my own (evil) use.
The first question - does an agent have an editorial board? - is easy to answer: she really doesn't. What she's got are other people in the agency reading the manuscript, or assessing what she's saying about the manuscript. She's getting what you've heard called second reads.
I also get second reads on manuscripts I'm considering, particularly those that don't easily fit into a neat category; for manuscripts where I may not have read enough in the category; to see if I'm reading with rose-colored spectacles, and in fact this ms is dreck and what the hell is wrong with you SharqueForBrains.
And I also get reads from our foreign and film departments to see what they think of a manuscript's potential in those areas.
This is certainly not an editorial board because none of those people can say "nope, you can't sign this." Unless she is a very junior agent, my inclination is she doesn't need permission to sign something either.
So, my guess here is AgentTasteless got some second reads and the manuscript didn't resonate enough with them to overcome her hesitations.
What that probably means is you are toast for other agents at the agency BUT unless their website says one and done, there's no cost to you to query them. I don't think it's likely you'll get an offer, but yanno, I didn't think the current occupant of the Oval Office had a snowball's chance in Hades either, and look how wrong I was about that.
As to the other questions, there's no way to know if she's on point or not. Just cause she said it doesn't make it a fact. It's always and forevermore her opinion. Give it as much weight as you choose.
If you think she assessed your style accurately but you chose that style for a reason, well, you might want to think about changing up. I've had that exact conversation with clients and it did make a difference (I was able to sell the revised novel, and then three more.)
This is where you can benefit from one of those critiques that are periodically offered by agents for charitable causes. Of course, you're just getting another opinion, but two is better than one.
Bottom line: keep querying. One agent's abrupt is another agent's tautly paced.
MY editorial board has an opinion on your-too-edgy-for-YA stuff too:
|Janet's Editorial Board