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nickspalding
09-07-2010, 08:53 PM
One thing I've never been able to get my head round is how wildly different agent's views of the same novel can be.

From straight form rejections, to requests for partials and fulls but eventual rejections, to enthustastic feedback and advice on re-writes, to offers of representation...

All these can occur with one manuscript.

This kinda baffles me a bit. All genuine agents with experience are looking for an author's work that can be commercially successful and all know what to look for, so the disparity surprises me no end.

Any thoughts from the agents?

suki
09-07-2010, 09:47 PM
One thing I've never been able to get my head round is how wildly different agent's views of the same novel can be.

From straight form rejections, to requests for partials and fulls but eventual rejections, to enthustastic feedback and advice on re-writes, to offers of representation...

All these can occur with one manuscript.

This kinda baffles me a bit. All genuine agents with experience are looking for an author's work that can be commercially successful and all know what to look for, so the disparity surprises me no end.

Any thoughts from the agents?

Not an agent, but I'd expect that many agents could agree on many books being subjectively commercially vaible, but the difference between likely commercially viable and I like it enough to try to sell it are two very different things.

The agent has to love it enough to be a passionate advocate in order to take it on - or at least, the agent should be holding to that standard. That's beyond simply thinking it's commercially viable. These days a lot of merely commerically viable books are not finding agents or publishers - it has to be more than viable. And for an agent to take it on - to commit to this book out of the thousands of books a year he/she sees, I'd strongly suspect they are looking for something a great deal more than commercially viable. ;)

And it wouldn't surprise me at all for 100 agents to commit to 100 different books as the best they've seen and the one they want to represent out of a large pile of commercially viable books.

~suki

Barbara R.
09-07-2010, 10:00 PM
Nick,

Well, different agents' opinions, tastes, and capabilities vary. But I've been struck by almost the opposite experience. I teach writing and thus work with a lot of aspiring writers, mostly novelists. Many stay in touch after the courses end. I've seen most of them sweat blood going through the whole agent search travail. One former student told me recently that she'd submitted to 65 agents and never got so much as a partial request; many didn't even bother to respond. But on the relatively rare occasions when someone amazing comes through my classes, their path follows a very different trajectory. It still takes research and work, of course, but I've seen several of those exceptional writers get multiple offers of representation, including one first-time novelist who got six. Coincidence? Not hardly.

Agents experience that all the time. They always figure that if they really like something, other agents will, too. It's like applying to college. It can be really hard to get accepted to a top school, but once you're accepted, the shoe's on the other foot, and it's the school that does the wooing.

Jamesaritchie
09-07-2010, 10:15 PM
One thing I've never been able to get my head round is how wildly different agent's views of the same novel can be.

From straight form rejections, to requests for partials and fulls but eventual rejections, to enthustastic feedback and advice on re-writes, to offers of representation...

All these can occur with one manuscript.

This kinda baffles me a bit. All genuine agents with experience are looking for an author's work that can be commercially successful and all know what to look for, so the disparity surprises me no end.

Any thoughts from the agents?

First, what the heck is a "genuine" agent with experience? Agents come in all shades and ranges of experience, all ranges of knowledge, all ranges of having what it takes to judge a manuscript. Agents are even more varied than writers at every phase of the business.

Now, I believe an agent should never offer rewrite advice, but this aside, why expect agents to be able to judge manuscripts better than writers judge them? Like writers, agents sometimes get it right, and sometimes get it wrong. If not, writers would never submit bad manuscripts, and agents would never offer to represent them.

Having said all this, just because one agent sends a form rejection while a second offers representation does not always mean either agent is wrong. Agents have to go with their own areas of expertise, and with the particular editors/publishers they know well. The first agent may think the manuscript is perfectly good, but isn't one she can sell through her own contacts, but the second agent may know a particular editor who is looking for exactly what you have.

Or it may just be that both agents should be out flying a kite. Darned few agents, including ones who have been in business for decades, have and special radar for detecting good manuscripts on a routine basis. They often have to go by gut instinct, by hit and miss, by shrugging and throwing the manuscript at a wall to see if it sticks. . .just like all the rest of us.

nickspalding
09-07-2010, 11:07 PM
First, what the heck is a "genuine" agent with experience? .

As opposed to a scam artist or agent charging fees - which in my book, ain't genuine agents.

Barbara - thanks for the opposite take. That certainly makes more sense. Perhaps the incidents I've heard of are more exceptions than the rule.

Danthia
09-07-2010, 11:33 PM
Think about what you read. You have certain genres you like, preferences for certain types of stories or styles. Everyone has their own tastes. There are books I haven't enjoyed, even if I recognized the writing skill, the intricate plot, the style. But the story just didn't do it for me.

Would you buy a book that was in a genre you didn't care for or a topic you didn't like just because it was well written? Agents are no different.

nickspalding
09-08-2010, 12:00 AM
Would you buy a book that was in a genre you didn't care for or a topic you didn't like just because it was well written? Agents are no different.


Yep, fair enough. If agent's use the same reasoning that's reasonable. It just surprises me that we're told over and over how much the publishing business is all about the commercial side of things - but agents and publishers still have their opinions swayed by a gut, emotional response to a story.

and I'm not saying this is a bad thing... :)