PDA

View Full Version : Are First Person Novels A Turn-Off To Agents?



patrick bateman
06-12-2008, 03:05 AM
When I was submitting my first novel a few years ago, one of the few agents who requested a partial wrote back to me and said point blank that first person novels are a total turn-off for her. So I'm wondering if that's an opionion that's shared by agents in general? I know there have been plenty of novels written in first person but perhaps publishers (and therefore agents) are beginning to shy away from that for some reason?

I'm at the point at the moment where I'm wondering whether to write my new novel in first person or third person.

mscelina
06-12-2008, 03:15 AM
If you're only at the point of beginning to write, you shouldn't give a rat's patootey about what agents are going to think. You should write the story as it demands to be written--and if that's first person, then commit to it and forget about what so-and-so might say about it.

Good luck!

ChaosTitan
06-12-2008, 03:18 AM
I landed an agent with a first-person novel. Then again, first person is very popular in Urban Fantasy, my genre of choice.

As mscelina said, write the story. Some novels are told better in third, others in first. It may well be that particular agent just doesn't like first person novels. Other agents love them.

blueobsidian
06-12-2008, 03:18 AM
I wouldn't worry about one agent's opinion at all. I think the key phrase was that they were a turn off "for her." All of us have things we like and don't like in novels, perhaps irrationally in many cases! Just because she doesn't like first person writing doesn't mean that it's on its way out.

I would write your next novel in whatever POV is more natural to the story, and not worry about anyone else's opinions.

patrick bateman
06-12-2008, 03:22 AM
This novel is going to be horror so first person might actually be the best choice. I wasn't sure if this agent's opinion was shared by many or just a personal quirk of her own. Thanks for the quick replies.

patrick bateman
06-12-2008, 03:57 AM
Most of my favorite writers tend to write first person at least occasionally as well. First person it is. I find it easier to write that way but sometimes I think it's not really "legit" if you know what I mean which is stupid probably but it's the way I feel about my writing at times.

Claudia Gray
06-12-2008, 04:43 AM
My first four published books = all first-person.

You just ran into one agent's personal preference, that's all. You can probably find another agent who thinks first person is fabulous.

Barber
06-12-2008, 05:49 AM
Yeah, it totally depends on the agent. I've read agent blogs where they don't like first-person books because they tend to be gramatically lazy. When a story's told in first-person, a writer can get away with certain things they couldn't in third. I understand that point, but it's all subjective, right?

As a reader, I'm open to any genre, number of POVs, setting, just about anything. But first person? As soon as I see the book is in that narrative, I put it down. I don't know what it is. I've always hated first-person (and I SO hope I don't insult anyone with that). The only thing I hate more than first person is a book told in present tense. Ewwww :D

Then there are people who strongly prefer first-person. Just look for those people, LOL.

Giant Baby
06-12-2008, 06:59 AM
Have I got a book for you, Barber! My book is first person, present tense--and no, no offense taken!

Actually, Patrick, there is some bias against first person. Agent Elizabeth Jote from Objective Ent. wrote a blog entry about her feelings about it. It's here (http://elizabethjote.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/the-problem-with-first-person-narratives/). I've heard of some others who share her feelings as well.

And others love it.

Write the best book you can from the perspective it demands to be told, and then search for the agent who knows how to sell that. It's not a non-issue, but it's only an issue to some, and if your book is better because of the narrative choice, you're still ahead of the game.

Could be a little harder. Then again, there are SO MANY things that can make the process of landing an agent/publisher harder. You can't possibly skip around all of them. I'm with mscelina and those who have agreed before me--don't let it affect your writing.

Kasey Mackenzie
06-12-2008, 04:46 PM
I landed an agent with a first-person novel. Then again, first person is very popular in Urban Fantasy, my genre of choice.

As mscelina said, write the story. Some novels are told better in third, others in first. It may well be that particular agent just doesn't like first person novels. Other agents love them.

What Chaos said. =) I also landed an agent with my first-person novel. Also urban fantasy.

Barber
06-12-2008, 08:40 PM
Have I got a book for you, Barber! My book is first person, present tense--and no, no offense taken!


Crap! LOL

I was actually in a book store on the weekend and found a book told that way. It was my first time ever seeing one, and it totally did my head in.

But I think people should write in whatever narrative they want. It's not about pleasing everyone; it's about pleasing those who would be pleased by your work. And honestly, there are people who LOVE first person, because it makes them feel closer with the character.

patrick bateman
06-12-2008, 10:09 PM
Thanks for the responses, everyone. This is a really fantastic website.

Danthia
10-30-2008, 12:28 AM
I got an agent and sold my novel and it's first person. Like everything else, everyone has their own tastes. Write what you like best. There are just as many good books in first as bad, same as third person.

euclid
10-30-2008, 12:55 AM
My WIP2 is in first person. It couldn't have been written any other way (not by me, anyhow).

cate townsend
10-30-2008, 06:48 AM
If you're only at the point of beginning to write, you shouldn't give a rat's patootey about what agents are going to think. You should write the story as it demands to be written--and if that's first person, then commit to it and forget about what so-and-so might say about it.

Good luck!

Ditto.

Kasey Mackenzie
10-30-2008, 07:02 AM
I just found this thread - so sorry for my delay.
I was actually just told in my millionth rejection that THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE is more or less lame.
I think for the YA genre, kids have been dumbed down by Twilight and the copycats all being in FIRST person.
Sad.

I don't see anything sad about there being a good variety of first-person POV books out there right now at all. If you really think that the reason that those of us who write in first person is because we're trying to copycat other authors...Well. That's what I find sad.

That being said, I love books written well in third person just as much as I love books written in first person. It all depends upon what the story demands, as well as the author's voice.

ORION
10-30-2008, 08:42 PM
yep, sure are.
Didn't work a bit for me.

ComicBent
10-31-2008, 06:37 AM
Moby Dick.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

And on and on.

The agent in question had probably read too many poorly written semi-autobiographical novels.

Write a good novel. Forget that agent.

writermom
10-31-2008, 07:32 AM
I just found this thread - so sorry for my delay.
I was actually just told in my millionth rejection that THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE is more or less lame.
I think for the YA genre, kids have been dumbed down by Twilight and the copycats all being in FIRST person.
Sad.

Those are fighting words.

I will resist.

I will resist.


I don't see anything sad about there being a good variety of first-person POV books out there right now at all. If you really think that the reason that those of us who write in first person is because we're trying to copycat other authors...Well. That's what I find sad.

That being said, I love books written well in third person just as much as I love books written in first person. It all depends upon what the story demands, as well as the author's voice.

Ah, Kasey, very classy. I agree 100%. Thank you for helping me stay calm. ;)

Nakhlasmoke
10-31-2008, 07:37 AM
Hahah yeah. I saw it too and just thought....mmmm better I just shut the eff up, rather than go in guns blazing.

eta:
Nine times out of ten a novel written in the first person is a signal that there might be a bit of laziness narratively on the part of the writer.

I just went to go read the article linked up thread. Wow.

Writing FP well is extremely hard, and having written a second world fantasy told in three first person povs, I can assure you it was not laziness that informed that particular decision. Sheesh.

qwerty
10-31-2008, 12:10 PM
I thought I was on a win win roll when a mag editor bought several (third person) short stories because he liked my style. But he rejected the next submission because it was in first person narrative, which he doesn't personally like. Huh!

Contrarily, an agent is currently submitting my FP novel, but isn't keen to rep two others that are in third.

Just goes to show it's all down to personal opinion. I'm happy with what I write, be it FP or TP, and I'm damn sure neither affects the quality of what I write.

Good luck, Patrick. I say go with your own flow and have faith in it.

Irysangel
10-31-2008, 05:53 PM
I think a while back, there was a sort of inherent snobbishness about 1st person. I remember when I first started writing, I was told not to write in 1st person because it was a 'crutch' or a lazy way of doing things. So I avoided it for several novels in a row, all unsuccessful.

Then I started writing a story that really needed to be in first person, so I took a chance. That one sold. Turns out, my voice works really well in 1st person, and I think the story feels more alive and immediate.

You have to do what works best for you and your story. That being said, some genres have a lot of 1st person stories (YA and UF immediately spring to mind) and some veer away from it (Romance, SF, and maybe Thrillers?). Research your genre.

And 1st person is definitely more popular now than it was before. If an agent is telling you that they don't like 1st person, I think it's more of a personal reading preference than anything else.

MsGneiss
11-07-2008, 04:56 AM
I know that Elizabeth Jote doesn't care for first person novels, but she enthusiastically requested a full of my first person satire. Even though she ended up passing, her reasons for the rejection indicated nothing about a problem with first person. I've had quite a few requests for fulls from very prominent agents, and I currently signed with an excellent agent. So, my personal experience indicates that first person is not a turn off at all.