PDA

View Full Version : When agents appreciate your work...



righter
09-21-2010, 03:27 PM
... by saying it has potential, great merit, and so on, are they being nice and trying to encourage you? I mean, if they really felt that way, wouldn't they offer to represent you?

KTC
09-21-2010, 03:30 PM
You might be talking about FORM LETTERS that you have received. Words like that are thrown into form rejection letters all the time. They mean nothing, really. Unless you're sure that the letter is personal, a form letter just means that the work isn't right for that particular agent. I wouldn't try to read anything else into it.

Mr Flibble
09-21-2010, 03:50 PM
What he said. Unless the agent says something specific about the book (I love the way X and Y interact, or 'I love the bit when Z happens' etc) it may be a form. However, even if it's not a form, just because an agent thinks a work 'has merit/potential' doesn't mean they think they can sell it, or it might not be quite the thing they are looking for, or too similar to something already on their books or... so in that case, they won't offer representation.

cspradbery
09-21-2010, 03:50 PM
If it is a personalised letter, it could have a number of reasons. Perhaps they liked your work but have something similar already. Perhaps it needs more work than they have time to help you with. Perhaps they liked it but they didn't LOVE it. Either way, don't read too much into it or you'll go crazy. Notch it up as "you don't suck" and move on.

Danthia
09-21-2010, 04:26 PM
Someone can praise you and encourage you but still not want to take you on. You might have talent, but your work isn't quite at the professional level yet. Your book is technically good, but it's a topic or plot that's been done to death and it can't be sold. The work is good, but not great.

Odds are it was just a basic form letter, but it could be a form letter used to encourage writers who are close, but not there yet. Don't read anything into it or you'll drive yourself nuts.

nickspalding
09-21-2010, 04:52 PM
Also...you might just get an agent who isn't keen on the genre you're writing in. If a busy agent isn't into epic fantasy, then it won't matter how great your story is, the chances are they still won't take it on.

Barbara R.
09-21-2010, 05:20 PM
... by saying it has potential, great merit, and so on, are they being nice and trying to encourage you? I mean, if they really felt that way, wouldn't they offer to represent you?

It would be very cynical of an agent to put language like that into a form rejection. I tend to think they actually did like the work and wanted to encourage you. There are many reasons, apart from quality, that they might not have extended an offer on work they liked. They might not know how to sell it, or if it would sell at all in this market. Time is an agent's capital, and they have to invest it efficiently. It could have been too similar to another book on their list or to 50 books recently published; the agent could have been feeling overwhelmed on that particular day, incapable of taking on another newby...there are lots of possibilities. But when someone strokes you, it's okay to purr.

J.Reid
09-23-2010, 07:59 AM
Those are not words that are used in form rejections. They are meant to be encouraging. We know rejection sux. It's the literary equivalent of "let's be friends" in the dating world.

Mr. Anonymous
09-23-2010, 08:57 AM
As KTC said. If they mention something specific, ie, "I found MAIN CHARACTER sympathetic," or "I enjoyed the twist at the end," then it's probably personal. If it's more general than that, ie, "I enjoyed your writing, but..." or "It has a lot of potential, but..." then it may be form.

Here are some of mine, to give you an idea of what I mean.

"Unfortunately, this book isn't a right fit for us. Although we loved the concept, we found the execution to be off." - hard to say, maybe form, maybe just generic personal. There's not much difference between the two, honestly.


And this is probably form too. "However, I do not think I can represent this title at this time. While I enjoyed the premise, I'm afraid the writing didn't pull me in as much as I had hoped."

Compare to personal rejections.

"Ultimately I’m finding this too cryptic/not accessible enough. I guess I want EEE to actually eat something; I’m too literal. Some people like things more abstract, so I hope you find the right agent!...and I should mention, you should really be seeking ways to get your novel to more like 60,000 words; this is quite short and that’s a challenge, at least for now"

and

"We thought this was an unusual and exciting premise, and E was a sympathetic and relatable character. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, I’m sorry to say that we didn’t think this project was the right fit for our list, so we have decided to pass."

JohnnyGottaKeyboard
09-23-2010, 09:42 AM
"While I enjoyed the premise, I'm afraid the writing didn't pull me in as much as I had hoped."

I received this exact same letter, word-for-word. I took it to mean exactly what she said, that she read the first five pages I sent and it didn't hook her. I didn't take it personally, but I did accept it as somewhat personalized.

Izz
09-23-2010, 09:59 AM
Those are not words that are used in form rejections. They are meant to be encouraging. We know rejection sux. It's the literary equivalent of "let's be friends" in the dating world.Seeing as the Shark has said they're not form, i'll go with that. ;)

(though i do wonder if some agents have different levels of form: typical form and personal form. The latter being a standard reply--with an interchangeable phrase here and there--for the material that almost but doesn't quite grab them enough. I know a lot of magazine editors have two or three different standardized rejections based on the quality of the work they're turning down.)

((and i don't mean the above bracketed in a cynical way, rather that you can take encouragement from rejections like those because they are sincere))

Jamesaritchie
09-23-2010, 06:37 PM
I've seen form letters, many of them, that say these very things. I've seen form letters that are personalized in every way, that praise the hell out of the writer and the manuscript. There is no such thing as a standard form, nor any language that is never included, except some form of revise and resubmit.

Nor, regardless of how it may be signed, is there any way of telling who actually wrote the rejection, what they were thinking, or even whether the person who wrote the rejection actually read the manuscript.

It does no good to analyze rejections. A no is simply a no, and it always means "I don't think I can sell this manuscript to any editor I know."

Mr. Anonymous
09-24-2010, 09:51 PM
I received this exact same letter, word-for-word. I took it to mean exactly what she said, that she read the first five pages I sent and it didn't hook her. I didn't take it personally, but I did accept it as somewhat personalized.

Here's the thing though. This was a full rejection. lol. And my query had the first 10 pgs in the body of the email.

suki
09-24-2010, 10:05 PM
(though i do wonder if some agents have different levels of form: typical form and personal form. The latter being a standard reply--with an interchangeable phrase here and there--for the material that almost but doesn't quite grab them enough. I know a lot of magazine editors have two or three different standardized rejections based on the quality of the work they're turning down.)

((and i don't mean the above bracketed in a cynical way, rather that you can take encouragement from rejections like those because they are sincere))

Yes. Several have said as much. And they may send a more complimentary form for a mauscript that showed potential but didn't hook them - ie, La Shark's "let's be friends" analogy - ie, a form that said this isn't for me but I'm sure you'll find your agent someday. :)

~suki

Wordwrestler
09-25-2010, 05:31 AM
And this is probably form too. "However, I do not think I can represent this title at this time. While I enjoyed the premise, I'm afraid the writing didn't pull me in as much as I had hoped."


I got that one, too, just the other day.

And I always assume that rejections that give vague compliments are form. So I find J. Reid's take on that interesting.

LoriToland
09-26-2010, 01:03 AM
I think they are trying to say, this isn't just right for me but I'm hoping you'll submit to me in the future.

Jamesaritchie
09-27-2010, 09:11 PM
I think they are trying to say, this isn't just right for me but I'm hoping you'll submit to me in the future.

They just trying to say "No" in a polite manner. When an agent wants to say anything else, they say it straight and to the point. If they want you to submit something else they say, "Please submit any new material as soon as it's ready."

All rejection letters mean either "NO" or "Hell, No", unless they directly and plainly state something else.

rugcat
09-27-2010, 11:44 PM
They just trying to say "No" in a polite manner. When an agent wants to say anything else, they say it straight and to the point. If they want you to submit something else they say, "Please submit any new material as soon as it's ready."

All rejection letters mean either "NO" or "Hell, No", unless they directly and plainly state something else.This is basically true, but there are exceptions. Agents are people, some of them quite nice, and occasionally one will send an encouraging rejection simply because they want you to know your work is good, even thought it may not be right for them -- which can be for reasons other than the quality of writing, or even the saleability of the ms.

Here's a rejection (for a book later sold) I received for a partial, from a well known agent:
After a careful reading, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe I am the right agent for you. I think you have a lot of talent. I kept setting your sample pages aside to give them another look. Ultimately, the story just didn't grab me as I had hoped. I can see another agent really liking this. I sent back a short email, simply thanking the agent for taking the time to look at it, and got this reply:
... I thought the narrative was sharp from the start. For me, it basically came down to the fact that if I were at the bookstore, I'm not sure I would pick it up and read it. It's mostly a taste thing--not a talent one.So yes, a no is a no, but not all noes are created equal.

Jamesaritchie
09-28-2010, 09:38 PM
This is basically true, but there are exceptions. Agents are people, some of them quite nice, and occasionally one will send an encouraging rejection simply because they want you to know your work is good, even thought it may not be right for them -- which can be for reasons other than the quality of writing, or even the saleability of the ms.

Here's a rejection (for a book later sold) I received for a partial, from a well known agent:I sent back a short email, simply thanking the agent for taking the time to look at it, and got this reply: So yes, a no is a no, but not all noes are created equal.


Yes, all noes are equal. All agents aren't equal, and one may be more encouraging than another, may be a bit more polite, but a no is a no is a no.

Unless you're asked for a rewrite, or asked to send new material, every no comes down to exactly what this agent told you, "For me, it basically came down to the fact that if I were at the bookstore, I'm not sure I would pick it up and read it."

Agents and editors nearly always say some version of It's a taste thing, not a talent thing.

The trouble with this is that any good agent or editor knows there are millions of readers who do not share their taste, and they know what taste these other readers do have. If agents only represents books that match their own taste, and if editors only bought books that match their own taste, we'd need several thousand more agents and editors to fill the bookstores, one for every other writer or so.

It always comes down to "I don't know an editor who would buy this book."

An agent who did know such an editor would jump all over the book, even if she wouldn't buy it herself.

Chumplet
09-28-2010, 09:58 PM
An agent gave me a sweet and encouraging rejection on my full, with an invitation to submit future works.

I wrote back to thank her, and casually mentioned my plan of cutting out a complete time line and turning my women's fic into a YA novel.

She immediately responded that this move could be quite successful and asked me to send it when it was ready.

So... sometimes a no is a no, but can turn into a maybe if you're not a pest about it.

rugcat
09-28-2010, 10:34 PM
The trouble with this is that any good agent or editor knows there are millions of readers who do not share their taste, and they know what taste these other readers do have. If agents only represents books that match their own taste, and if editors only bought books that match their own taste, we'd need several thousand more agents and editors to fill the bookstores, one for every other writer or so.

It always comes down to "I don't know an editor who would buy this book."

An agent who did know such an editor would jump all over the book, even if she wouldn't buy it herself.This makes sense. Unfortunately, it's simply not true.

With rare exceptions, no agent knows for sure if he/she can sell a particular ms. And not all agents can sell all books -- even in genres, there are subgenres and editors that each agent will have a particularly good relationship with.

And successful agents field thousands of queries each year. They only have time to take on one or two new clients -- remember, the average agent does a whole lot more than simply sending a ms to an agent -- it's a big investment in time.

They may see twenty or thirty potentially sellable mss, but they can't take them all on. So they only take on things they really like, things they can be enthusiastic about.

And although a no is a no, from the writers perspective, there's a great difference between a rejection that says, however politely, "this book is not good enough to get published" and, "this book is quite possibly good enough to get published, but it's not something I personally want to invest my time in" -- because it's not the sort of book I personally can be enthusiastic about.

For one thing, it's an indication of whether you should keep submitting to other agents or if you should toss it and write something else -- a question that's an important one for an aspiring author.