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Julianne Douglas
10-23-2008, 07:12 PM
Hi, all! I'd love to (need to?) hear some stories about agented first novels that didn't sell. How did it affect your career? Your relationship with your agent? Your confidence as a writer? Did the book eventually go on to sell? What did you learn from the experience?

Thanks so much for sharing.

stormie
10-23-2008, 07:17 PM
My first agented novel tanked. I knew why after receiving the rejections my agent sent to me from the editors. The agent and I didn't see eye-to-eye on why they were rejecting it. His ideas for revisions weren't what I felt would make the book better. Stupid me did it anyway, the way he wanted it. The editors still rejected it. Of course. The second ms. I worked on for him he rejected unless I totally turned it around to how he saw the character should be developed. Again, we didn't see eye-to-eye. So I amicably split from him after almost two years.

That book is being sent to other smaller publishers on my own. Second ms. is on hold. Third is in the query stage to agents, with a few looking at the partial.

Alpha Echo
10-23-2008, 07:17 PM
Good question. I look forward to hearing the answers (not that I'm happy that anyone's first novel was agented but not published. :( )

Edmontonian
10-23-2008, 07:59 PM
...but I'm throwing in my opinion anyway. A partial of my first novel is currently being read by an agent in the U.S. and I hope she'll ask for a full MS. I have been receiving countless rejections, but like Edison, I haven't failed, I have found about 40 agents who would not be the right one for my work.

My second novel, a work in progress, seems to be going smoother than the first and I have the feeling it is much better too. Unless, I hear some positive replies about my first novel before I complete the proofreading and revisions to my second novel, I will go ahead and start querying agents about my second work.

I don't think there's any order on how your books should be published, that is unless they are part of a trilogy or sequels. In any case, the work that you feel is your best effort should be the first one to be sent around to agents.

Thanks,

ED

Darzian
10-23-2008, 08:01 PM
My first agented novel tanked. I knew why after receiving the rejections my agent sent to me from the editors. The agent and I didn't see eye-to-eye on why they were rejecting it. His ideas for revisions weren't what I felt would make the book better. Stupid me did it anyway, the way he wanted it. The editors still rejected it. Of course. The second ms. I worked on for him he rejected unless I totally turned it around to how he saw the character should be developed. Again, we didn't see eye-to-eye. So I amicably split from him after almost two years.

That book is being sent to other smaller publishers on my own. Second ms. is on hold. Third is in the query stage to agents, with a few looking at the partial.

Having an agent who wants REALLY major revisions must be a horrible experience. I can't even begin to imagine it.

I don't know if this thread's going to bolster my confidence or completely destroy it.

Here's a request: Even if you novel didn't sell eventually, can you lie and say that it did to make me feel better? :D

Phaeal
10-23-2008, 10:19 PM
My first completed novel, a Star Trek: TNG, was with an agent when Pocket Books decided to stop looking at even agented submissions -- the agent told me PB had a big enough stable of regular writers at that point. So that novel's on the shelf until I feel like redoing it with original characters and milieu.

Remember, people, just because you got the publisher's guidelines today (oh sure, we'll accept agented subs) doesn't mean they won't change by tomorrow. ;)

Karen Duvall
10-23-2008, 10:46 PM
Even though my agent only just started subbing my manuscript to publishers last month, I accepted long ago the possibility of it not selling. The pub industry is a crap shoot and is not a reflection on the quality of your work or you as a writer. It's a bottom-line business and something you just grin and bear. I haven't finished writing my WIP, but my agent's already sold on it, and we have an interested editor for when it's done. So it's all about perspective and reality. Just create your best work and hope for the best. Don't ever linger over past failures!

Years ago I had an agent for the very first book I'd ever written. It didn't sell. That agent dumped me after 2 years. But I survived. Shit happens. It's not the end of the world. I still have a bunch of books left in me and I get better with each one. Don't despair!

ishtar'sgate
10-24-2008, 12:08 AM
Good question. I look forward to hearing the answers (not that I'm happy that anyone's first novel was agented but not published. :( )
Not to worry. I think it happens a fair bit. I worked with a NY agent for about a year. He couldn't sell it, I thought he was targeting the wrong publishers and we parted company. I shopped it around myself and a small well respected literary publisher bought the book. I was on cloud nine, let me tell you! I've learned a lot about the world of agents and publishers since then and will be much more selective about which agents I approach for representation. Some people are fortunate enough to get good representation right out of the gate, some aren't. You may well be one of the lucky ones.

mysterygrl
10-24-2008, 04:35 AM
My last completed novel was repped by a very reputable agent. After a dozen rejections, she started ignoring me. After about five months of trying to reach her with no reply, I sent "the letter." In some ways, dealing with my agent's lack of communication was more difficult than dealing with a book that didn't sell. I was pretty sad and discouraged for a while.

But I got over it.

I'm excited about my current WIP. I feel more confident and comfortable with the whole querying process, having gone through it. And I've learned the importance of listening to my instincts.

Darzian
10-24-2008, 06:16 AM
My last completed novel was repped by a very reputable agent. After a dozen rejections, she started ignoring me. After about five months of trying to reach her with no reply, I sent "the letter." In some ways, dealing with my agent's lack of communication was more difficult than dealing with a book that didn't sell. I was pretty sad and discouraged for a while.



This is really sad. Even if my WIP doesn't sell, if my would-be agent stuck around with me, I'd probably be much happier. What sort of professional does this?

ChaosTitan
10-24-2008, 07:00 AM
Having an agent who wants REALLY major revisions must be a horrible experience. I can't even begin to imagine it.



If they're the right revisions, it can be a rewarding and ultimately worthwhile experience. :)

rugcat
10-24-2008, 08:02 AM
If they're the right revisions, it can be a rewarding and ultimately worthwhile experience. :)My agent asked for a major plot revision, and told me why she thought the ms as written didn't work. My reaction: thank God there's a professional interested enough to give me some guidance and who sees enough potential to spend time on it with me.

Of course, you have to be on the same page as your agent, writingwise. Everything she said made perfect sense to me, and the book I came up with in the end was the one I'd been trying to write all along.

triceretops
10-24-2008, 08:49 AM
The first book was an off-planet SF adventure and my agent just loved it. He sent it out to about a dozen houses, but we got nowhere with it. Nice comments and such, but no sale. The SF market was a hell of lot smaller than we both realized. I did sell it to a small pub after about five months.

I'm currently at the end of the first round with my second book with him, a DNA (werewolf) thriller. Once again, we both think it's top notch work, but so far it hasn't gotten anywhere. I don't know if this book will garner a full second round. But I have all my backup pubs that I've sent it to, and I'm waiting on replies.

I have a paranormal with him now that we're editing. I have a ghost thriller that's on deck, and waiting for his approval. And another thriller that's half way finished. So I'm hoping I have enough fodder for him, so he doesn't kick me to the curb.

Relatively speaking, my agent is new and it's been hell on us. If I had to do it over again, I think I would go with a larger, more established house. He's connected up all right, but I don't think he has the power, or that influential pull needed to get everything read.

Twenty years ago I was repped by Richard Curtis, a giant in the SF and Fantasy genre. They couldn't sell three of my books. Came damn close with a huge movie deal, but the producer backed out.

Conclusion after 25 years: Five books, all sold by me. Agents--0

Bad luck--bad timing--bad breath. That's me. But I'm happy.

Tri

stormie
10-24-2008, 05:49 PM
If they're the right revisions, it can be a rewarding and ultimately worthwhile experience. :)
Right. See, stupid me went along with every revision he--the agent-- strongly suggested and my gut feeling was "No!" I even did mention the editors responses on why they declined were different from what he wanted. But he was rapidly building a client list and I was a little too happy to have an agent with a top agency. So I went along with his ideas. I should have made it a give-and-take with the agent. I am the next time around.

There are many happy endings. A good agent whom you have a rapport with, a publisher who accepts the book, an editor who you work well with, and ultimately, good sales. It does happen.

Nakhlasmoke
10-24-2008, 06:29 PM
I was given major revisions to do - I mean I had something like a 26 page revision letter from my agent. *cries*

I did everything, even the stuff I disagreed with. when I was done, i put back all the stuff I decided I didn't want to take out and sent of the manu as it was. Agent was happy. No mention was made of the stuff i didn't change.

They were fairly minor things though, so I didn't feel the need to let her know that i decided they needed to stay.

ChaosTitan
10-25-2008, 07:49 AM
Of course, you have to be on the same page as your agent, writingwise. Everything she said made perfect sense to me, and the book I came up with in the end was the one I'd been trying to write all along.

Ditto me. When my agent offered representation, he also mentioned two things that he thought needed to change. One was the removal of a turning-point scene that was, after I thought about it, very wrong for the book and the MC. And it took the MC in a slightly different direction than I'd expected (although now, it seems she was always like that, I just didn't see it).

The second change, though...


Right. See, stupid me went along with every revision he--the agent-- strongly suggested and my gut feeling was "No!"

...was one of these. I absolutely disagreed with it, and we chatted about it for a while, until I came up with a solution we could both live with.


There are many happy endings. A good agent whom you have a rapport with, a publisher who accepts the book, an editor who you work well with, and ultimately, good sales. It does happen.

*crosses fingers for that last part of the wish to come true, as well* ;)

Darzian
10-25-2008, 09:58 AM
Those agents that required major edits- did they mention so when offering representation or was it worked out later?

Nakhlasmoke
10-25-2008, 10:04 AM
In my case, my agent offered conditional representation, she'd take me on as a client if I was willing to rewrite.

It's one of the things that I liked in her offer, that she was adamant that she was only going to sub the best book possible.

I said yes, and after signing the contract I was sent the rather lengthy revision letter. Then I had a nervous breakdown.

I hope that helps, darzian.

ChaosTitan
10-25-2008, 06:07 PM
Darzian - my agent mentioned the revisions when he offered. After chatting with him on the phone, I really felt his excitement for the book, understood his intentions with the revisions, and knew he'd be the best match.

Darzian
10-25-2008, 06:22 PM
THanks Nakhlasmoke and ChaosTitan. I was just interested to know, since I'd prefer it myself if serious revisions were mentioned at time of offer so I'd know what I'm getting myself into.

(What am I daydreaming about here? I'd probably pick the first agent that says yes, regardless of their demands. :flag: )

funidream
12-20-2008, 08:17 PM
My first novel (which was also the first anything I ever wrote) was repped by a fine, reputable agent, and it didn't sell. After a few submission rejections, the agent lost interest in the prospects (and me), and we eventually parted ways. Knowing what I now know about the publishing industry, there were problems with where and how she was pitching the novel. Though I read and enjoy historical romance, Book#1 was a historical novel that included a love interest, and was not by any means a historical romance. The letters coming the romance editors rejecting the novel, said as much.

While I was waiting the months on submission, I worked on researching and writing book #2. I also began tooling around on the internet and learning all I could about the publishing biz. When book #2 was finished, it was a better, more marketable book, and I landed a better agent. After eight months of being out on submission, Berkley/Penguin offered a 2-book deal, the second book of the deal being sold based on a synopsis for the next project I was researching.

I learned an awful lot throughout the entire process, but probably the most important thing I learned was the difference between an agent who finds a commodity she wants to sell (agent #1) and an agent who finds a writer who's career she wants to develop (agent #2).

Though difficult and painful, the valuable lessons learned from my failed first foray into the publishing world propelled me to eventual success, and so I don't look upon that experience as a failure at all. Just last week, my editor at Berkley picked up my next two books, the sale again being made on synopsi. I now have a writing career.

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. Thomas Paine

stormie
12-20-2008, 11:15 PM
If they're the right revisions, it can be a rewarding and ultimately worthwhile experience. :)
That's exactly right. Agents do ask for revisions, and that's fine. But the writer and the agent should be on the same page about the revisions. I felt like I sold my soul on that first agented book. See, Chaos felt it was right to do those revisions. I didn't agree with my agent totally. It should be a give-and-take.

triceretops
12-21-2008, 12:49 AM
Sometimes successive books don't click with our agents, and I just had this happen to me. Fortunately I have two other completed books on deck. But...he really tore into my paranormal romance and it took us five months to progress through six chapters (not his usual speed). I had a gut feeling that he wasn't in love with the book at all. So I voluntarily pulled it from him and said that I'd put it on the backburner for now. This was heart-breaking.

He's become totally rich off non-fiction celebrity books, TV and movie deals. His fiction sales are very sparse. I'm just hoping that he hasn't cooled on his fiction stable in favor of taking care of these newer, power clients. There are 26 of us novelists, and only three sales in that batch in four years. I'm really, really starting to worry about this.

Only to cut loose from this agent (the bird in the hand), is a very harrowing prospect for me at this point. I still have another book repped and out at the markets by him which hasn't popped yet. But I see the eventual death of that one too, since it's just about run its course.

This is a brutal business.

Tri

illiterwrite
12-21-2008, 01:31 AM
My first book didn't sell. My agent stuck with me. I don't really understand why an agent would ditch you -- after all, presumably you'd write another book, which could then sell. My second sold (and my third).

stormie
12-21-2008, 06:32 AM
In most cases the agent doesn't do the ditching. And not after just the first novel not selling. It happens over time and the client is usually the one to make the first move at breaking up. And it's not an easy decision.

triceretops
12-21-2008, 09:07 AM
Oh, I don't have any problems of being dumped--nothing like that at all. I'm just agonizing over getting the perfect book to him, one that he's enthused about.

Tri

Julianne Douglas
12-21-2008, 10:22 AM
Thanks for sharing all your experiences, everyone. It's good to hear that most agents stick by their clients for another book, and that things have worked out for those of you who chose to find a new agent. My agent has been wonderful; I just have to get my bu** in gear and give her something else to try to sell.

popmuze
12-21-2008, 09:02 PM
He's connected up all right, but I don't think he has the power, or that influential pull needed to get everything read.



I feel the same way about my agent. Sometimes I think he just doesn't know the right editors. So now my research involves finding out the editors name on the books I like and pitching my agent to send my novel to them.

swvaughn
12-21-2008, 09:48 PM
I signed with an agent back in March 2007 (ha - doesn't sound that long ago typing it out, but it sure feels like forever) with an urban fantasy that went through some revisions, went out, and failed to sell. But in general the editors gave the same reason for rejecting it - it was too YA for the adult market, and too adult for YA. One editor offered to reconsider if I'd rewrite it as a "sexy adult UF" - which I was willing to do, but I'd already had another project underway and didn't want to limit my chances to one maybe from one editor.

My agent stuck with me. I turned in the second book (another UF), we did some revisions, and it went out with higher hopes for both of us, since it was most definitely adult. But the first round of subs drew rejections.

It's still out with a handful of editors. We're still waiting - with the holiday season, we figure on waiting until next year sometime to get the rest of the second-round responses. This time the rejections so far have been "great writing, great concept, didn't love it" (sigh . . . the ever-ambiguous lack of love. Gets me every time.) - so we're assuming there's nothing wrong market-wise with the novel, we just have to find the editor that will love it.

Meanwhile, I'm a little stalled on the writing front, but it's not because of this exciting submission game. Other things are oppressing me. Ha. But I've got no complaints about my agent - if she's still hanging in there for me, then so am I. :D

Julianne Douglas
12-22-2008, 03:22 AM
I know, that "I didn't love it as I'd hoped" line is wearing a little thin...

triceretops
12-22-2008, 04:52 AM
I seem to get a lot of "I don't think this will stand out in the present market" type comments. Along with the complimentary 'great writing, pacing, vivid descriptions, interesting concept' and such platitudes.

Tri

Nakhlasmoke
12-22-2008, 10:50 AM
I signed with an agent back in March 2007 (ha - doesn't sound that long ago typing it out, but it sure feels like forever) with an urban fantasy that went through some revisions, went out, and failed to sell. But in general the editors gave the same reason for rejecting it - it was too YA for the adult market, and too adult for YA. ....

Oooh now you're scaring me, 'cause i think mine is like that. Borderline YA UF.

*frets*

illiterwrite
12-22-2008, 03:04 PM
I signed with an agent back in March 2007 (ha - doesn't sound that long ago typing it out, but it sure feels like forever) with an urban fantasy that went through some revisions, went out, and failed to sell. But in general the editors gave the same reason for rejecting it - it was too YA for the adult market, and too adult for YA.

That's what happened to me (minus the fantasy). I had decided to rewrite for YA when the idea for my second book struck. I put down the first book and never went back to it.

swvaughn
12-22-2008, 06:19 PM
Oooh now you're scaring me, 'cause i think mine is like that. Borderline YA UF.

*frets*

Do not fret! :D There were several "almost would market this as YA" comments - except for the intense violence in some parts that (at least IMO) were a sticking point to exclude it from the genre. Also, there was a quasi-romance that was never really developed, and a decent romantic element is often a good thing for YA.

You don't have intense violence, right? :)

Nakhlasmoke
12-22-2008, 07:13 PM
Do not fret! :D There were several "almost would market this as YA" comments - except for the intense violence in some parts that (at least IMO) were a sticking point to exclude it from the genre. Also, there was a quasi-romance that was never really developed, and a decent romantic element is often a good thing for YA.

You don't have intense violence, right? :)

No intense violence. But I do have more drugs and drinking and swearing than you could throw a Shady Lane book at, and the main romance is unrequited, between a girl and her gay bff.

Yeah so.

:D

schoonerbabe
12-23-2008, 09:54 PM
I agree that it may not reflect the quality of the writing at all. Stephen King was reject many times before Carrie was accepted. His rejected novels were later put out as Bachman books, and one even came out last year, in Dec. '08. And consider how many Pulitzer prize-winning novels were rejected by as many as fifteen publishers. Publishing is a crapshoot. Careers by talented authors are launched more by the hand of God and serendipity than anything else. As Jeff Herman puts it, every year, a thousand books will be published that shouldn't, and a thousand others that should will never be given a chance. Books are not allowed to develop character or plot anymore, at least not as in the past. As Agent Noah Lukeman says, the first five pages are "make or break." A pity. Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and a hundred other authors of classic literature wouldn't have made the cut in today's marketplace. A favorite gard school trick is typing classics in manuscript form and watching them get rejected, complete with reasons why the book is poorly written. People need to trust their own instincts more than anything else.