Thursday, August 08, 2019

Don't assume the pass is about you. Or your book.

I recently had a conversation with a writer I admire and respect. They had a book on a topic I can't bring myself to touch.

Because I knew this writer I said as much.
I did so because I didn't want them to think it was a pass on the book or them.

On the other hand, writers who send queries, writers I don't know, just hear no.
I'm not able, and don't want,  to engage with them about why I will never take on a book on this topic, or will not take this book now.

Some things I don't want to read about.
Some things I simply can't.

And often, the more heartfelt the book, the more likely you'll hit this kind of snag with at least one agent.

I know your first response to a pass is to think "I suck. My book sucks. This writing thing sucks."

But your second response should be "Wait, I read about this on the SharkForBrains blog. Maybe she's just not up for fruit memoirs after she was horribly disfigured in a strawberry explosion last year."

Every agent has a Fruit loophole of one kind of another.
Most of us will never tell you what they are.
You just have to know they are there.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ok, for every rejection I get once I take the plunge into the query trenches next month, I am going to pretend that the agent was traumatized by a horrible strawberry explosion (or is allergic to cats). There aren't really strawberries in the book. But cats. There are lots of those. And not the kind that DoY will approve of necessarily.

Yep, this probably won't take the sting out of the inevitable rejections. Rejection hurts. It is the way of the thing.

julie.weathers said...

YES! I love the Fruit Loophole. Now I shall have Froot Loops for breakfast.

If you read through an agent's MSWL, their agent bio on the agency website, and their twitter feed, etc., they'll often come out and say, "I just can't do a book where a child or animal gets hurt." I'll know not to send RC because, eh, war.

Which means, I should be able to send RC to about ten agents.

Mister Furkles said...

For me, it's pink polar bears.

Katja said...

Thanks for this post. It's good to know 'why' :).

However, I just saw a hashtag on Twitter: #internationalcatday

Um, I think, Janet, DoY will never let you back in again... she'd expect today's space to be used appropriately ;).
Well done E.M. Goldsmith, though. Maybe you've saved your queen!

Katja said...


(Only just seen it - makes my day <3 <3 <3!)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Um...I actually had a bowl of strawberries explode in my microwave. I thought I was thawing. I actually was destroying. Poor little guys. Imagine the sight...eew. Looked like a horror movie on the window of the microwave door.

Megan V said...

Gosh, this week certainly feels like a strawberry explosion.

All that aside, having written the books that I've written I know that I've probably fallen into the category of a Fruit Loophole on more than one occasion. It's nice to be reminded, though. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish one no from another no. And it's difficult to think "well it only takes one yes" when getting to that yes feels like a distant shore on a very choppy ocean full of sharks.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Hm ... Ok, I understand. I've got at least one topic like that.

Megan ... Love the choppy ocean/shark image. I've long thought of querying as more of a slog through quicksand.

CED said...

The more stories I hear about publishing, the more I'm convinced it's like a lottery. My job as a writer is to buy as many tickets to that lottery as possible: by improving my craft, writing lots of pieces, querying widely, learning about publishing, not being an asshat, etc. But I have no control over whether my number comes up.

Another thing I heard (don't remember where) that really resonated with me: don't think of a rejection as unlucky. Think of an acceptance as lucky.

D.H. said...

I've definitely noticed that the more personal a manuscript is, the less agents seem enthused to read it.

Working through my mom's death via a story might be therapeutic for me, but a terrible burden for someone else to get into. Some wounds remain open for a long time.

It's one of those things that might be best shelved for AFTER I've gotten an agent with a less-personal story. I'm still debating.

Emma said...

This is actually interesting because the same subjects that agents might stay away from, readers might stay away from as well. I think that if my goal is to (at some happy point) reach many readers, I need to write what many readers would enjoy reading, and go easy on the child and animal destruction. In fact, I kind of went in another direction and gave myself the challenge of writing thrillers where the body count is kept between 0 and 1. But the point is, I want what I write to be an escape and dead people, even in books, are still someone's child, someone's somebody. It's a fine line between a literary truth and entertainment.

Adele said...

Emma, I'm with you. I've gone off mysteries - especially cosies - because the characters often treat the grisly death of one of their friends or neighbours with complete nonchalance. Even if there are multiple deaths, nobody seems to be particularly worried, they don't talk about it in the street, they continue to walk their dogs down lonely lanes at midnight. It's just too unreal.

I've noticed a trend towards less violence and fewer murders in some TV shows. I suppose that same trend is happening in books.

julie.weathers said...

In honor of International Cat Day Wilfred the Warrior

Language masked and there's a lot of it. Wilfred is actually very much loved and pampered. Law, someone needs to with a face like that.

I think Miss Janet needs aSavannah Cat to keep her company for when the DOY is missing. She wouldn't have any problems with mice, or rats, or probably visitors.

J.A. Haigh said...

Julie.weathers - thank you so much! Wilfred is both one of the funniest and scariest things I've ever seen! 😂

Craig F said...

With a certain squinting perspective Fruit Loopholes look like another form of pothole. The only way to get past 'em is to query widely, like with all the other potholes in the road to publication.

julie.weathers said...

Just a reminder, there is no p in hamster.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I haven't a clue what this topic might be but I do have some sympathy for those suffering acute aversions. To relate, there was an incident earlier this year with something sharp and pointy, after a period of recovery I couldn't even look at a knife without feeling intense nausea but guess what, those spuds don't peel themselves so I had to get over it.

I wouldn't say, confront your demons and cast them out, because that's really not advice that should be bandied carelessly but I would say that if you can get over a personal aversion, the consequences can only be positive.

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