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Moost
10-07-2009, 03:06 AM
Sorry if this is the wrong place to post this, but I need an epiphany.

My novel features a college-aged guy. The plot does not revolve around his college life, however, and the other characters are in their upper twenties. Apparently this is a big problem. Normally I love personalized rejections, but I've come to dread them because lately, they all say the same thing.

"While I enjoyed the opening pages, I'm not sure of the audience for this novel."

I've had two agents who rejected me say they thought the first few chapters were very funny. One even said the concept was fun, the characters were charming, and I had great comedic timing. But they still passed on reading more, because they didn't know how to classify it in the market.

I know my book is in that awkward "not young adult, but not adult" area. But I would hardly call it too unique. I know for a fact there are other books out there that feature twenty-something year old protagonists. Should I be referencing similar books in my query? Or do I need to pick a clearer genre and stick with it? I'm beginning to think maybe the genre IS literary, since the heart of the story is the MC's struggle with growing up.

Sorry for the long rant. I'm just worried the three fulls I have floating around in Agent Land will come back with similar responses. I guess my question is, is there really no market for this type of book? Should I trunk it and wait to see if college kids emerge as their own literary age group?

katiemac
10-07-2009, 03:24 AM
Adult/YA aside, what genre? Contemporary?

Moost
10-07-2009, 03:26 AM
Adult/YA aside, what genre? Contemporary?

Yup, contemporary.

Mr Flibble
10-07-2009, 03:30 AM
Hang on - college is Uni in America land isn't it?

So how is that YA? Isn't Young adult er, someone who is just adult or about to be? Like 14 -18?

Or am I missing something?

Could be, cos my brain went MIA today. ( ofc I know v little about YA - but 20 or so seems a grown up to me. Not YA)

Moost
10-07-2009, 03:37 AM
Hang on - college is Uni in America land isn't it?

So how is that YA? Isn't Young adult er, someone who is just adult or about to be? Like 14 -18?

Or am I missing something?

Could be, cos my brain went MIA today. ( ofc I know v little about YA - but 20 or so seems a grown up to me. Not YA)

I know my novel isn't YA. But it's in that awkward area where it might attract older young adults. Am I making sense? Probably not. I'm trying to read about the Hittite empire and post at the same time.

Rowan
10-07-2009, 03:45 AM
I know my novel isn't YA. But it's in that awkward area where it might attract older young adults. Am I making sense? Probably not. I'm trying to read about the Hittite empire and post at the same time.

You're making perfect sense. :) Novels with "college aged" MCs are hard to figure out because - as you said - not exactly young adult but not quite adult either. Who represents the authors of the other books you mention -- can you find out via the acknowledgments or the agent query site and see how they categorize the novels on their websites? I'm sure you have but I'd query those agents if they are accepting queries. (I know I've seen a "who represents who" link somewhere on this site but can't find it). What category is on the book jacket for these novels (I'd be curious as to how they are shelved)???
Sorry I'm not much help!

[cute avatar!!! :) ]

Moost
10-07-2009, 03:51 AM
You're making perfect sense. :) Novels with "college aged" MCs are hard to figure out because - as you said - not exactly young adult but not quite adult either. Who represents the authors of the other books you mention -- can you find out via the acknowledgments or the agent query site and see how they categorize the novels on their websites? I'm sure you have but I'd query those agents if they are accepting queries. (I know I've seen a "who represents who" link somewhere on this site but can't find it). What category is on the book jacket for these novels (I'd be curious as to how they are shelved)???
Sorry I'm not much help!

[cute avatar!!! :) ]

Thank you :) Yes, I am one of those people that torments their dog with costumes around Halloween.

I've come up with a few agents that have represented similar books, and of course, most of them are not accepting unsolicited queries at the moment. I feel like I've hit a dead end here- not much has happened since my last three requests. Just LOTS of "this isn't right for me" and non responders. I've already started my next book though- and this one has a clearer cut genre.

Wordwrestler
10-07-2009, 03:59 AM
I wouldn't give up on it. But perhaps it will be your next book that gets you an agent, and that agent can advise you on what to do with it. It doesn't hurt to keep querying agents with it. It sounds like many like you're writing. Maybe they'll remember you when the next book is ready to query.

katiemac
10-07-2009, 03:59 AM
The difference between young adult and adult lies sometimes in age but most often in voice. I think you can apply voice to this situation, too.

Have you considered adding a frame? I know we have a frame discussion happening in Novels right now, so the frame would have to be done well to work, no just tacked on as a solution for this particular sale problem.

But the point is, if you add a frame with this college-aged kid looking back as an adult, then this story, while still the college-age kid, suddenly takes on the 'voice' of an adult. That means rewriting the framed portion of the story, too, so the whole thing has this new 'adult' perspective. Think Life of Pi, which is a much younger protagonist, anyway, but told from the perspective of the kid grown up, and sold as an adult novel (with crossover appeal, still).

ETA: I want to say Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Chabon, which has a college-age protagonist, is also narrated with 'perspective.' It's been a couple months since I read it so I might be mistaken.

Rowan
10-07-2009, 04:01 AM
Thank you :) Yes, I am one of those people that torments their dog with costumes around Halloween.

I've come up with a few agents that have represented similar books, and of course, most of them are not accepting unsolicited queries at the moment. I feel like I've hit a dead end here- not much has happened since my last three requests. Just LOTS of "this isn't right for me" and non responders. I've already started my next book though- and this one has a clearer cut genre.

The expression on your dog's face is priceless! :)

I have two Christopher Rice novels (college aged MCs) but can't tell what genre they're considered either (most reviews classify both as "college gothic"). Hopefully someone else will be a lot more help than I've been!

Moost
10-07-2009, 04:12 AM
Have you considered adding a frame? I know we have a frame discussion happening in Novels right now, so the frame would have to be done well to work, no just tacked on as a solution for this particular sale problem.

This is a very good idea, but I don't know if it would work in the context of my story- I think I actually tried a frame of some sort in the first draft.

My old beginning had the narrator looking back on the events of the book, but I didn't clarify how old he was while he was doing this. However, my readers didn't like it- even close friends who read the book said I should drop the prologue and begin where the action starts.

Also, when I began the book I didn't think there was sequel potential. However, my characters evolved in a way that I didn't expect, and I now have tons of ideas for a second book. I don't know how framing the first would affect a sequel. I think if I added a frame again it would be a last ditch attempt, and again, I really don't know if I'm there yet. I am just SO PARANOID the agents who have my MS will come back with an "I can't sell this." Someone tell me I'm normal.

Sarah Christine
10-07-2009, 04:55 AM
I would completely recommend adding references to books like yours in your query, especially if said books were successful in their market. Agents always say authors need to know their markets, are you putting yours in the right one in your query? Maybe you could even go to the SYW board and specifically ask the readers where they think your story belongs?

If agents are enjoying the first few pages, I think that's a perfectly good sign to keep querying! Different agents want different things. How many queries have you gone through already?

Moost
10-07-2009, 05:12 AM
I would completely recommend adding references to books like yours in your query, especially if said books were successful in their market. Agents always say authors need to know their markets, are you putting yours in the right one in your query? Maybe you could even go to the SYW board and specifically ask the readers where they think your story belongs?

If agents are enjoying the first few pages, I think that's a perfectly good sign to keep querying! Different agents want different things. How many queries have you gone through already?

Before I discovered Absolute Write I sent out twenty queries, all rejected. After my query went through QLH I sent out about 25 more. Out of those I got three requests for a full, ten or so form rejections, and three helpful rejections. The rest are non-responders. I tell myself to stop querying until I hear back from the three fulls but I randomly get the urge to revenge query. Except I'm running out of agents whom I think would be interested.

I like your idea of re-posting my query in SYW and seeing what books people think of- although they're probably sick of me and my damn query around there ;) The book I'd compare mine to is Nick Hornby's High Fidelity.

Sarah Christine
10-07-2009, 05:41 AM
My gosh, I know all about "until I discovered Absolute Write" with query hell. The Bewares and Background Check section has an amazing compilation list of all agents, and I've just been thumbing through those in search of agents. Are you still keeping your specifications wide? Don't narrow your list down too much! I did that and ran out of agents in about 30 queries.

Also, I meant posting the first few pages of your manuscript to see what readers would label it as, genre-wise. And maybe they could also recommend good comparisons you can add in your query! If your query is scoring you fulls, I don't think it's the query you have to worry about! And also, totally go for sending out more queries. Don't stop until you get that yes. :heart:

Moost
10-07-2009, 04:00 PM
Also, I meant posting the first few pages of your manuscript to see what readers would label it as, genre-wise. And maybe they could also recommend good comparisons you can add in your query! If your query is scoring you fulls, I don't think it's the query you have to worry about! And also, totally go for sending out more queries. Don't stop until you get that yes. :heart:

Thank you!! :D Excellent idea.

jclarkdawe
10-07-2009, 05:25 PM
You're perfectly welcome to come back to QLH, but you don't want to. You've got three fulls out, which may or may not get accepted. You've got a couple of more agents who don't like your premise. And most importantly, your book is what it is.

Let it go. You've given it a good life and now need to set it free.

Instead of worrying about this book, start worrying about your next novel, which is going to be even better and greater.

If, a year or more from now, this sucker hasn't sold, then you can decide whether you need to make changes or maybe you sell it as your second novel.

Move on.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Phaeal
10-07-2009, 05:43 PM
Meh, you've got three fulls out. This indicates that there are plenty of agents interested in the book. I'd say you're overthinking the rejection letters.

In the college-age parlance of the more or less recent past, chill.

;)

Moost
10-07-2009, 07:51 PM
Move on.


Oh, I have :) I'm working on the new book as we speak.

But, if the first doesn't work out, I'd rather it be because it was a lousy book than because of the myth that college kids don't read. Because we do. Sometimes.

I think it will be easier once I get the first, definitive, "No."

VChandler
10-07-2009, 10:46 PM
Moost - is this the book about the guy who goes from mopping floors to being a rock star? What did you finally settle on for a title?
I really hope this one works out for you, it sounded good!
Would love to see your final query on one of the boards so the rest of us can see what it takes to get asked for a full.

raburrell
10-08-2009, 01:13 AM
Hi Moost - Perhaps this is a silly question, but have you considered 'aging up' your protag a bit? Make his 'coming of age' a quarter-life crisis instead of a college one? I have no idea whether that would work (or for that matter, how much work it would be for *you*) to do that, but... just thought I'd toss it out there.

One way or the other, hope the agents on your remaining partials and fulls have a more fruitful rolodex waiting for you :)

Moost
10-08-2009, 02:38 AM
Thank you raburrell and vchandler- I really appreciate you guys tolerating my paranoid delusions.

I've considered aging him a few years but with respect to the story, it wouldn't help. The problem my MC is faced with is ultimately growing up- so I understand why this wouldn't have the widest audience :)

Sarah Christine
10-08-2009, 05:05 AM
You sound like you have the same problem I do. 19-20 yo who's becoming a woman. I think "growing up" is just a disguise for character growth, which should occur with every character, regardless of their age!

brokenfingers
10-08-2009, 05:24 AM
Hmmm, I think it's just a matter of marketability, not the story or the protag, really.

In this climate, editors are looking for the next big thing to pull them out of being the next one on the unemployment line with a literature degree.

There's nothing wrong with a coming of age story, and I'm sure yours is very good by the requests for fulls etc., but I think 'coming of age' stories are a hard sell right now unless they're shaped in some kind of 'Grand Theme' or conflict (tragedy, loss, sacrifice. eternal love, blah, blah, blah) that'll resonate with a large swath of readers.

I don't know what the central conflict is in your story but you might want to look at it and maybe tweak it a little. Or maybe not. It's hard to say without seeing it.

Best of luck with your story and I hope it finds a home. :)

john barnes on toast
10-08-2009, 05:11 PM
I have sympathy for you here, but in some regard this is an instance where I've got sympathy with the publishing industry too.
Broadly speaking that age group (early 20's) is not an inherently interesting demographic for anyone not in it. For many people living a typical western lifestyle it's a period of their lives when they tend be quite self-consumed and insecure; characteristics that often manifest themselves in arrogance and hubris.

I think a large number of people, once they've passed 25 or so, look back at themselves from that period and think 'wasn't I a dick?' For that reason, I think it's understandable that many people would, on a superficial level, feel resistant to reading about characters of that age. I know I would.

Sarah Christine
10-08-2009, 07:49 PM
Moost, in response to the above comment, I think you should read this thread that I started at about the same time you started this one.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=157769

Moost
10-08-2009, 07:58 PM
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=157769

This is a great thread- I actually have seen it before and skimmed over it, but I'm going to read it in depth now.

In response to john barnes on toast, I agree completely. "You can lead a boy to college but you can't make him think." I knew I was taking a risk by having a male MC, because that would alienate some women readers. But, I think I succeeded in not making him come off as a jackass. He's a bit of a loser who hasn't had a girlfriend in three years, and his problems stem from his dysfunctional family and a love triangle involving the sister of his band's lead singer. I didn't want to portray him as a horny idiot so I don't have a lot of typical college themes- drinking, sex, etc.

I don't read YA anymore, but one of my favorite books is Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn. This is an instance where the author took the allegorical horny teenage guy and made him lovable. But I understand why this type of MC would be more appealing to teens and not adults.

MsGneiss
10-08-2009, 10:01 PM
Broadly speaking that age group (early 20's) is not an inherently interesting demographic for anyone not in it. For many people living a typical western lifestyle it's a period of their lives when they tend be quite self-consumed and insecure; characteristics that often manifest themselves in arrogance and hubris.


A lot of this is true. A lot of the things that make 20 year olds so logistically convenient for an author also make them kind of boring. Other age groups have various problems - teenagers live at home, have curfews, spend most of their day in school, and don't have any money; 30 year olds have jobs and families, or issues that keep them from staying in jobs or starting families; 40 year olds have midlife crises; 50 year olds have "what have I done with my life" revelations; 60 year olds have that one last chance to right a wrong while they wax poetic on how they did it their way.

Anyway, yes, I could go on forever, since gross generalizations are favorite pastime of mine. Still, I think it's possible to materialize on the logistical convenience of a 20 year old while allowing for interesting themes and character development.

john barnes on toast
10-09-2009, 02:01 AM
A lot of this is true. A lot of the things that make 20 year olds so logistically convenient for an author also make them kind of boring. Other age groups have various problems - teenagers live at home, have curfews, spend most of their day in school, and don't have any money; 30 year olds have jobs and families, or issues that keep them from staying in jobs or starting families; 40 year olds have midlife crises; 50 year olds have "what have I done with my life" revelations; 60 year olds have that one last chance to right a wrong while they wax poetic on how they did it their way.



The biggest problem with characters who fall into this bracket of true young adulthood (as opposed the contrived bracket of YA) may be that they're neither one thing nor the other.
In life, and therefore in fiction, we have an abundance of forgiveness for the exuberance of youth. We forgive teenagers being moody, introspective, even ignorant, and we celebrate their naivety. But a point comes when we loose that sympathy, and we want people to be adults. I think the age group (app. 19-23) have the misfortune of being in that hinterland between what society expects of them, and what in reality they're actually equipped to do.

They're just inherently dissatisfying as an archetype.

Moost
10-09-2009, 02:43 AM
I really think this is a matter of personal preference. I can understand why an adult would be frustrated with a twenty-two year old character, but there are exceptions. My fifty five year old mother enjoyed Tom Perrotta's Joe College. I think it ultimately comes down to the strength of the individual character, not the stereotypes that plague their age group.

WKolodzieski
10-09-2009, 05:14 AM
Sadly, this is the same thing I'm going through right now. I've been told to just move on already, but I refuse to give up on the novel. If it doesn't find it's way on it's own then I doubt I'll ever submit again. No point to. This novel sets up my literary world. I've already trunked two books, I refuse to trunk this one. On a brighter note, after months of debating, I've come up with a title. Yay me.

Sarah Christine
10-09-2009, 07:15 AM
If writing is what you're truly meant to do, then you'll never be able to quit it. One book just prepares you to write the next.

Wordwrestler
10-09-2009, 07:49 AM
WK,

I don't believe you have to give up on one novel in order to move on to the next. You can still hold out hope for it while writing other, unrelated novels. Perhaps the success of later novels (that maybe you don't feel quite so passionate about) will enable you to eventually sell your favorite and write your series or spin-offs. Or you might find you develop just as much passion for something new, once you get into it.