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View Full Version : Agents and rejections...my thoughts



thephoenix
07-28-2010, 11:20 AM
I recently saw a tweet by some unknown author about how writers shouldn't be 'jealous' of other writers, who get agents or get published. It's not about jealousy, the reason why rejection is so frustrating is that some agents represent crappy work.

We need more Margret Atwoods and less Stephanie Meyers.

I understand that the agent is trying to sell, but writers are trying to make a living too. yes i'm frustrated, and yes, i don't know anything about the market or what an agent has to go through, but knowing my work was rejected before the first line was ever read, while that same agent represents something like hot tub machine kinda hurts my feelings. but that's what's it all about right? *puts on iron man armor*

Jamesaritchie
07-28-2010, 05:03 PM
I recently saw a tweet by some unknown author about how writers shouldn't be 'jealous' of other writers, who get agents or get published. It's not about jealousy, the reason why rejection is so frustrating is that some agents represent crappy work.

We need more Margret Atwoods and less Stephanie Meyers.

I understand that the agent is trying to sell, but writers are trying to make a living too. yes i'm frustrated, and yes, i don't know anything about the market or what an agent has to go through, but knowing my work was rejected before the first line was ever read, while that same agent represents something like hot tub machine kinda hurts my feelings. but that's what's it all about right? *puts on iron man armor*

Agents do not represent crappy work. That's nonsense, and a losing mentality. Agents reject crappy work, and the writers of crappy work who get rejected justify the rejection by saying agents represent crappy work, which is why theirs got rejected.

While neither is on my favorite writers list, we need more Atwoods and more Meyers. Both are doing the job a writer is supposed to do, which is writing stories people love to read.

It's always about writing something people actually want to read. A rejections means purely and simply that either you aren't writing a query that makes anyone want to read more, or you've written a novel that people don't want to read.

Seriously, when you star saying Meyers is a crappy writer, not as good as you, it means only that you probably don't know what writing fiction is all about.

What should be frustrating is that your writing, be it the writing in your query, or the writing in your novel, simply isn't good enough to grab an agent.

If you accept the fact that your writing is the problem, which it always is, you can fix it. If you blame the problem on agents representing crappy work, you're dead in the water.

defyalllogic
07-28-2010, 05:17 PM
how crappy can it be if not only will an agent buy it but masses of people will too?



t's not about jealousy, the reason why rejection is so frustrating is that some agents represent crappy work. I'm pretty sure that's exactly jealousy. saying someone doesn't deserve success but you do. even though I've read the twilight books and know many people who have and can't name a single M. Atwood title off the top of my head.

agents try to find what will be successful not just what's highfalutin and well taught writing.

ETA: I just googled and I can confirm that I couldn't name of any of Margaret Atwood's Novels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Atwood#Novels) (and they don't really look that interesting to me... I read for pleasure not just to know what people are talking about. I tried that with Dune and hated it.)

Phaeal
07-28-2010, 05:28 PM
I can't think of any M. Attwood titles either. Or, come to think, any Margret Atwood titles. Or, jeez, even any Stephanie Meyers. Dissing the author via misspelling, always a fun game. ;)

Agents are in no way averse to repping bestsellers. What makes a bestseller is not abstract standards of "good writing." It's simply a story that hits the right nerves in a large enough group of readers to generate the necessary sales cascade.

I dislike many bestsellers. But I do like to look through them to figure out what the writer did right.

I won't go into my usual rant about how you're jealous of what you have and fear losing, while you're envious of what you don't have. That's a lost battle, I fear. Envy is wasted emotion. Emulation might get you somewhere.

Bubastes
07-28-2010, 05:33 PM
Time to cue Nathan Bransford's latest post:




. . . the one question that aspiring writers should never ask themselves when reading a book is, "Do I like this?"

Here's the thing about the question "Do I like this?" Who is that question about? Well, it's about you. It's about your taste, and whether the book fit in with your likes and dislikes. It's not about the book. It's about you and whether the book spoke to you.

In other words, all you're learning about when you ask "Do I like this?" as you read a book is yourself.

....

The real question aspiring writers should ask is not whether they liked a book, but whether they think the author accomplished what they set out to accomplish. How good is the book at what it is trying to do? Dan Brown did not set out to be Marilynne Robinson, and Marilynne Robinson does not set out to be Dan Brown. So why judge Dan Brown's prose against Marilynne Robinson's or Marilynne Robinson's chase sequences against Dan Brown's?


http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/07/one-question-writers-should-never-ask.html

ETA: The take-away I got from the post -- learn from the successes of others.

Regan Leigh
07-28-2010, 07:04 PM
Time to cue Nathan Bransford's latest post:



http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/07/one-question-writers-should-never-ask.html

ETA: The take-away I got from the post -- learn from the successes of others.

I was just about to link to that post as well. :)

Miss Plum
07-28-2010, 07:42 PM
Good thing you put on your iron man armor, phoenix!

I don't have many certitudes to offer, and I have to grit my teeth sometimes to think that some books sell so much better than others. I think that Twilight is crap, but I guess lots of girls and women like crap. How to deal with the situation? Repeat until you believe: "It is what it is."

Bubastes
07-28-2010, 07:52 PM
Or figure out what made the story resonate with so many people. I learn a lot by analyzing popular books, even ones I don't care for.

Drachen Jager
07-28-2010, 07:55 PM
i'm pretty sure that's exactly jealousy. saying someone doesn't deserve success but you do. even though I've read the twilight books and know many people who have and can't name a single M. Attwood title off the top of my head.

Aside from the aforementioned misspellings, you can't name a single Atwood title? It's not my thing but I've read a few of hers and know of quite a few others. Handmaid's Tale was made into a movie, that at least should put it on your radar. Her name is bandied about nearly every time the Nobel Prize for literature is coming up (although she never actually has made it). You owe it to yourself as a writer to at least pick up a few of her books because she is one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th and 21st centuries. Much less painful than Melville or Defoe to read too.

Seriously, I thought the one primary prerequisite for being a successful author was a voracious appetite for ALL kinds of literature, even if it's not really your thing.

I haven't read any Myers though so you can feel free to get on my case now, although I don't think I'm missing anything important.

scarletpeaches
07-28-2010, 08:00 PM
We need more Margret Atwoods and less Stephanie Meyers.Fewer.

We need fewer Stephenie Meyer books.

Drachen Jager
07-28-2010, 08:01 PM
As to the initial topic of this thread, I hate to admit it but I agree with Ritchie. Good books don't fail to attract attention. If you THINK you have a good book but it's being ignored you are wrong, there is a problem with it somewhere, probably in the first page or two. The system is not going to change to suit your needs.

Also, if you're writing Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, or Melville for the current market and thinking, "My writing is classic! This is the kind of book that stands the test of time." You are also wrong. That sort of writing STOOD the test of time, it's a different market today. No, that's not because the market has become more mercenary, those books WERE the Twilights or Harry Potters of their time. Everyone knows Shakespeare was considered lowbrow entertainment in his day.

Drachen Jager
07-28-2010, 08:04 PM
Fewer.

We need fewer Stephenie Meyers books.

Actually it was just "Stephanie Myers", not her books, in which case "fewer" is incorrect too.

If you're going to be picky about it. Reducing from 1 to less than 1 cannot be correctly described as "fewer" since "few" is defined as, "Not many, but more than one."

So there :evil

scarletpeaches
07-28-2010, 08:09 PM
I wasn't sure how to pluralise her name then remembered it was Meyer anyway, so changed my post.

'Fewer' can also mean 'a small number than', so yes, we do need fewer Stephenie Meyers. And fewer of her books.

So there.

Polenth
07-28-2010, 08:13 PM
Actually it was just "Stephanie Myers", not her books, in which case "fewer" is incorrect too.

If you're going to be picky about it. Reducing from 1 to less than 1 cannot be correctly described as "fewer" since "few" is defined as, "Not many, but more than one."

So there :evil

I just assumed we'd cloned Stephanie Meyers and wanted to clone M. Atwood, so fewer would be right.

Though personally, I think any sort of clone army is a bit dangerous.

scope
07-28-2010, 08:40 PM
I agree with the overwhelming majority who basically tell us that the public tells us what books are "good" and which are "crappy". How? By what they buy. IMO this applies to the works of the OP as long as she writes commercial manuscripts. If not, if she's writing knowing that the general public won't desire to buy or read her books, then her point is moot. Agents aren't interested in representing books that won't sell and publishers aren't interested in printing them.

MsJudy
07-28-2010, 09:07 PM
I really really really don't get the idea that if we need More of one thing, we must be definition need Less of something else.

So, the only way I can have more bakeries in my town is if all the pizza places close? WTF?

I haven't read Meyer yet, but I will. I haven't read Atwood in a while, but I enjoyed some of her work and found much of it a little too pompous for my taste. I also read mysteries, middle grade fiction, and historical literary novels. Even poetry sometimes.

Life is a SMORGASBORD. We need diversity. It is NOT one of those zero-sum games where we can only have X if we give up Z.

Believing that you are not getting published because someone else is taking your place is just silly. Harry Potter and Twilight have drawn hundreds of thousands of young people to reading. When they finish those series, they look around for more books that will provide them that same all-encompassing experience. Most of them become lifelong readers who are keeping bookstores, agents, authors and editors alive. And some of them will mature and grow and come to appreciate more literary writers like Atwood.

So instead of resenting their success, you should be praising them and offering gratitude for the wonderful boost they've given our profession.

thephoenix
07-28-2010, 09:48 PM
WHOA,

you guys misunderstood my post. i'm not dissing Stephanie Meyer at ALL! nor am i 'dissing' agents!

I am also not saying i'm a better writer than anyone. I'm saying that the rejection process is frustrating because agents judge a work based on its query, aka, based on its ability to sell - even if the market likes to read books about greasing your pan - agents will only look for that. like i said in my original post, I DON'T know anything about the market, but being FRUSTRATED is still OK, last time i checked.

thephoenix
07-28-2010, 09:49 PM
and i mentioned margaret atwood, because her work is never just plot-driven, but has emotional depth.

and am i jealous? i don't know, probably. i'm sure all of us here are a bit envious of a successful writer's success. my whole point is that it's no longer about writing, well, no longer about the story. i hate the idea of someone selling me something all the time, and the fact that i have to do it makes me frustrated. please, there is a reason why under my username it says 'BE GENTLE' lol. let's not attack, assume, and/or accuse someone when we don't know the facts, ey?

kaitlin008
07-28-2010, 09:54 PM
The thing is that it helps you in no way to dwell on others' careers. You have to think about YOUR work, and your career, because that's the only part you have any control over.

Wayne K
07-28-2010, 09:55 PM
If you consider someone's work crap, then consider what a genius they are at selling it and figure out how they did. They're doing something right.

thephoenix
07-28-2010, 10:00 PM
WELL, i thought this was the rejection section, where i can "share my tales of woe and your methods for dealing with rejection" lol. honestly, i'm determined to make a living as a writer, nothing will hold me down, but i'm not going to lie, i never knew in my wildest dreams that there will be panels where agents give talks about 'the perfect query' and 'sell me your idea.' yes i'm whining, but this is the section for that, no? lol

eveningstar
07-28-2010, 10:02 PM
I understand that the agent is trying to sell, but writers are trying to make a living too. yes i'm frustrated, and yes, i don't know anything about the market or what an agent has to go through, but knowing my work was rejected before the first line was ever read, while that same agent represents something like hot tub machine kinda hurts my feelings. but that's what's it all about right? *puts on iron man armor*

Frustration is part of the game, but it sounds to me like you need to work on your query.

It is still about story, but you need to know how to present that story when you have a very, very short amount of time to catch an agent's attention.

Toothpaste
07-28-2010, 10:26 PM
There is a common misconception that an agent can't tell anything from reading a query. This is simply not true (and seeing as this is what you wish to focus on in this thread, I assume you don't mind me addressing this issue - I know you just want to vent, but maybe this will help ease your mind). I am quoting myself from my blog (http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/), as I've already written about it (http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2009/12/self-publishing-debate-becomes-debate.html), but here's why reading a query can tell you a lot about a novel and the author writing it:

When you buy books, what do you do? I'll tell you what I do, which I think is pretty much the same as most people. I go into a bookstore knowing I can afford one book today, that's it. So I need to spend my money wisely. First, I am drawn to a cover. Can't help it, and that's what covers are there for. Then I flip the book over, or open it to the front flap, and read the plot summary. Then if I like that, I go to chapter one and read a little bit. If I'm satisfied with that, I'll buy it.

Well that's EXACTLY the same thing agents are doing. They already have a lot of clients, so they have to be picky who they are going to represent next. They pick up a query, there's no cover to draw them to it, but since they get sent queries, they read them. If they like the query and there are ten pages sent with it, then they'll check those out. If they like those pages then they'll ask for a full.

Let me tell you, you can tell pretty quick in those first ten pages if you're going to like a work or not, and I am sure you've been able to tell, flipping open a book, if you're going to like a book or not by even just the first page.

You can even tell from a query blurb if you'll like the story (just like reading the back cover of a book). You can also tell from a query if:

- the writer understands grammar and spelling
- the writer understands how to write in a manner so as to be able to express herself accurately to a reader
- the writer has done her research into the industry, knows how to follow rules (which is very important because as you get into the industry more and more, and have to deal with deadlines, etc, an agent is going to want to know an author is capable of being a professional)

There is so much that can be revealed from a query alone, let alone those first ten pages which is more than enough to let you know if the writer is any good, or at least has written something you're interested in.

If you haven't read this already, here's a very informative article about what rejection means from an editor's perspective: Making Light's Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html)

Toothpaste
07-28-2010, 10:29 PM
Also . . . another positive thought. It sounds to me like you haven't been getting any requests at all. This is actually very good news. It means your query sucks.

Uh . . . why is that good news?

It's good news because you just have to learn how to write a compelling query. And it's not that difficult, it just requires learning new tools that you might not know yet as a new author. We have a section here at AW devoted to query writing over in the Share Your Work section. This is an extremely useful place to post and seek help.

Fixing a query is a heck of a lot easier than fixing a novel. AND it means if you really change your query substantially, you can probably re-submit to those agents who rejected you a couple months down the road. To me all of that is rather good news.

I know venting is important (and I do my share of it), but when you're done, check out that section here at AW and maybe post your query. Venting is all well and good so long as it isn't the solution to the problem.

Wayne K
07-28-2010, 10:33 PM
Great read , thank you

thephoenix
07-28-2010, 10:38 PM
wow toothpaste, thank you so much. i did post my query, and have already gotten great feedback, would love to hear yours as well.

i don't know any writers, and this whole process has been pretty lonely, but i'm glad people here, such as yourself, are willing to educate, and inspire those of us who are novices in so many ways. again thank you.

PS, an agent did request a full but ultimately passed. so far no requests for partials, or anything of the sort.

Toothpaste
07-28-2010, 10:53 PM
No problem! Glad I could help.

The full request is a very good sign, it means your query on some level is compelling and you have written it with relative sanity :) . The problem is it isn't as compelling as it ought to be evidently.

I'll check it out, though I must admit to being not such an expert on queries myself. I got my agent first in the UK where queries are a bit different.

It's a lonely business for sure, but that's why places like this exist. And we are all here to support each other, and maybe on occasion get on each other's nerves, but no one's perfect :) .

thephoenix
07-28-2010, 11:08 PM
God, can't u be the cute guy on ur picture? Lol jk thanks again

Toothpaste
07-28-2010, 11:17 PM
I'm not Sawyer from LOST unfortunately. Not that I'd want to be him, now having him as my pet . . . that I could handle . . .

RhiannonFrater
07-29-2010, 12:04 AM
This might not make anyone happy. My agent told me that she has read some good stories that she liked, but that they lacked that special something that would sell. So you can write a good book, but if it doesn't stand out in the crowd, the agent will pass.

Bubastes
07-29-2010, 12:10 AM
This might not make anyone happy. My agent told me that she has read some good stories that she liked, but that they lacked that special something that would sell. So you can write a good book, but if it doesn't stand out in the crowd, the agent will pass.

Why is this bad news? We want out stories to stand out and have that special something, right? If the agent doesn't think it will sell, that means I need to write a better story. Word of mouth is a huge factor in selling books, and if my story isn't good enough to make a reader grab a friend and say, "You HAVE to read this," then I'd rather find out from the agent than from the marketplace.

As my music teacher constantly says, "Good enough isn't."

eqb
07-29-2010, 01:38 AM
I am so glad the previous version of my novel didn't sell. I had several friends--pro writers with critiquing chops--tell me they loved my book. No, they weren't lying. The story clearly hit some important buttons, but I knew it needed work in spite of their reassurances. So I ripped the story to pieces, added a stronger plot, and trimmed away the gratuitous adjectives. Then it sold and sold well.

MsJudy
07-29-2010, 02:29 AM
WHOA,

you guys misunderstood my post. i'm not dissing Stephanie Meyer at ALL! nor am i 'dissing' agents!


But you said,
the reason why rejection is so frustrating is that some agents represent crappy work.

We need more Margret Atwoods and less Stephanie Meyers.

What exactly did we misunderstand?

aadams73
07-29-2010, 02:37 AM
and am i jealous? i don't know, probably. i'm sure all of us here are a bit envious of a successful writer's success.

Hmm, no, I never have been. I don't really measure myself against the successes or failures of others. If an author is successful, great, I love that because it means I get to read their book/s. Even if I don't ultimately see what all the fuss is, there's still something there to be learned. I can pull apart their work and try to figure out what made it resonate with others.

mccardey
07-29-2010, 03:09 AM
Dan Brown did not set out to be Marilynne Robinson, and Marilynne Robinson does not set out to be Dan Brown. So why judge Dan Brown's prose against Marilynne Robinson's or Marilynne Robinson's chase sequences against Dan Brown's?

Wait - Marilynne Robinson writes chase sequences???

;)




(I'm so crazy-go-nuts for Marilynne R.... Absolute all-time favourite writer. :) )

thephoenix
07-29-2010, 03:27 AM
OK, i apologize. but to be honest, i did not mean to demean anyone or anyone's writing. Yes, i'm willing to admit at times i am a bit envious, but i don't compare my work to others, or my success to others... well i try not to. yes, i have vices, but we all do. i just want to point out one last time that i'm not UNHAPPY for someone else's success, i hope to learn from anyone who is published and unpublished. to me writing is more than earning a living, or getting published. it's a passion. i've been writing since i was ten. so again, i do apologize if i have offended anyone in my rant, part of it was sarcastic, part of it was meant to be funny, and yes, part of it was true.

gothicangel
07-29-2010, 10:22 AM
and i mentioned margaret atwood, because her work is never just plot-driven, but has emotional depth.


If you really do believe that Atwood's work is plotless I suggest that you go back and read/re-read The Handmaid's Tale. It has to be one of the most chilling pieces of plotting I've experienced.

One of my favourites too. :D

If you believe THT to be plotless, then you don't understand plot.

thephoenix
07-29-2010, 11:04 AM
If you really do believe that Atwood's work is plotless I suggest that you go back and read/re-read The Handmaid's Tale. It has to be one of the most chilling pieces of plotting I've experienced.

One of my favourites too. :D

If you believe THT to be plotless, then you don't understand plot.

read what i wrote. never JUST plot-driven.

SarahMacManus
08-07-2010, 12:33 AM
The fact is, some people like crappy books!

You can't take publishing from either the elitist or the populist viewpoint. Like other forms of entertainment, it has to serve a variety of mindsets, preferences and educational levels.

You may think that Meyer and Brown are crappy, and maybe to you, they are, but crap sells because the majority of readers want light, entertaining escapist fiction. ESPECIALLY when times are hard. Agents aren't stupid, they know this. And although they are still interested in repping finely crafted fiction, they still need to pay the bills.

Can you write finely crafted escapist fiction? Diane Galbadon did. I'd have chewed my own arm off before reading 'romance' fiction, but her first book was amazing and I was seriously impressed.

Sometimes people just want a burger. It's a niche to fill. Publishing is a business.

So, it's harder to break into Literary Fiction, but that's why it's considered such a high achievement. It's easy to start a punk band in the garage. It's not even all that hard to get booked in the local pub circuit. But, If you're aiming to become the first fiddle at the Met, you're going to have to have some endurance.

Stellan
08-12-2010, 04:42 PM
...but I guess lots of girls and women like crap.

Whoa, hey now!

Lots of guys like crap, too. :D Though I prefer to call it 'junk food for the brain'...