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mollythemagnificent
10-21-2005, 06:45 PM
I've received a small bundle of rejections (so far) on my first novel. The recurring theme: "not right for us." What exactly does this mean? I've run the gamut from "the novel just isn't to my taste," which is what I'm hoping for, to "this sucks and I'm just trying to be kind." What's your take?

ANNIE
10-21-2005, 06:53 PM
Molly, if you find out, let me know! I got one that said 'we were not enthusiastic about your work' Oh yeah, gave me warm and fuzzies when I read that. I'm with you, what is wrong with these people huh?

blacbird
10-21-2005, 07:38 PM
It is utterly and completely meaningless. It is the agent's equivalent to "The dog ate my homework." Wait till you get fifty or sixty of these in a row.

bird

Cathy C
10-21-2005, 07:40 PM
Well, Molly, you don't say what your genre is, and whether you're only approaching those agents who handle your particular genre, so it's hard to say. If you have done your research and are querying those agents who currently represent other authors in your same genre, then the code of "not right for us" is generally "we're not excited enough about your writing to take it on."

Now, what does "not excited" mean? Well, it can mean a variety of things but, in the real world of publishing, it means that the agent doesn't feel that they can make two or three phone calls and get an editor excited enough to drop their regular work and buy it on the strength of the phone call. See, that's what most agents prefer to do. They don't want to spend their time writing queries and sitting on their hands. They have rent, salaries and the such to pony up every single month, and would occasionally like to bring home a paycheck of their own to pay the mortgage and utilities. The only way to do that is to sell manuscripts quickly and efficiently, so they have regular checks coming from publishers that they can take their commission from. So, any book that won't sell quickly -- even if it's a GOOD, well-written book -- will probably get passed by.

If you've stacked up a number of rejections, you might look at the manuscript itself. What is truly unique about it, in voice or style or plot, that you can pump up in your query or synopsis that will GET the agent excited? Are there any grammar, spelling or composition errors? Again, if an editor is going to drop their schedule to look at something based on the impassioned plea of an agent, then it had better pretty much be ready for the shelf.

As one editor for a major publishing house once said (and it's very true), "We're not looking for good books. We read good books every day. We're looking for exceptional books that will sell without any help from us."

Does that make sense?

mollythemagnificent
10-21-2005, 07:54 PM
Cathy,

That makes perfect sense, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I write literary fiction, and have been careful to tackle only agents who represent that genre. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "In the real world of publishing, it means that the agent doesn't feel that they can... get an editor excited enough to drop their regular work and buy it on the strength of the phone call." I firmly believe that my story is a good, well-written book, but I doubt it would be an easy sell -- it's an introspective tale that deals with the many layers of a friendship between two young outcasts who are trying to survive in an unfriendly world. There's really nothing crazy, sexy, or cool about it, and therein, I would suspect, lies my problem.

I'm going to try and get the manuscript in front of the eyes of some beta readers to figure out where my problems are and how I can fix them. Are you available? ;)

Thanks again for the good advice.

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2005, 11:07 PM
I've received a small bundle of rejections (so far) on my first novel. The recurring theme: "not right for us." What exactly does this mean? I've run the gamut from "the novel just isn't to my taste," which is what I'm hoping for, to "this sucks and I'm just trying to be kind." What's your take?

It means "No thanks, I don't believe I can sell this."

There is no agent code, no hidden meaning. "Not right for us" always means, "I can't sell this novel."

Now, roughly 10-30% of all clients agents take on are unpublished writers, and something over half of these have novels the agent will never be able to sell. The agent will try hard for at least a year, and often two or three years, but these novels will never ever sell. So agents do often take on novels they can't sell quickly, or at all, just because they like the novel and hope it stands a chance.

In truth, I don't know any agents who sell novels quickly and efficiently, unless those novels come from already established writers. I don't even know any agents who can tell whether or not a novel will sell quickly or slowly, or at all. Even top agents frequently take on numerous novels they are never able to sell.

But such phrases as "Not right for us," "Doesn't excite us," "Just not to my taste'"etc., are buzz phrases found in the majority of rejections. They have no meaning other than "No, thanks."

triceretops
10-22-2005, 06:38 AM
(FORGIVE ME FOR REPOSTING THIS FROM ANOTHER THREAD--SAME THEME THOUGH)


15 years ago they called me the shotgun query/submission king. Well it worked then, with those cookie cutter letters of intro, but it doesn't anymore. Six months ago I thought James Ritchie here, was off his lid about this quality isssue--he's not. It is all about being attentive, specific, and knowing your target agent/editor inside outside and backwards until you feel that you've slept with them and you know if they leave the toilet seat up or down and what kind of toothpaste they use.

Read and devour their websites--try to understand what their philosophy and mission statement is. Remember to comment on it, honestly, no pandering--give them the straight dope on how you think you can contribute to their roster with your fresh and innovative ideas and talent. If possible, read some of their author's books, throw in a few comments about how you found their themes and storylines, and what direction they took that pleased you. Name a specific book of theirs (that they repped) and how it comes close to your style and technique. Dig up a little history on their titles and spit a few stats at them, that will raise an eyebrow, believe me! Note that one of their authors was doing a signing in or near your home town and that you might like to check them out. Take note of one of their author's editors and don't be afraid to name drop............the point to all this is:

Personalize--personalize--personalize.

Show this agent, or even editor, that you've stripped away that magic veil and you know who is behind that curtain. This type of attention will garner nothing but respect and admiration from an agent/editor, who gets the same old blah, blah, blah, every day, day in, day out.

This, will put you at the top of the stack.

As for mulitple queries--I do them--but they are tailored now to fit the individual, and it's living flesh behind that desk that is tearing your letter open, or real live eyes reading that pitch on the screen. The idea is to snap those eyes open, and make them draw a surprized breath. Now how does this writer know that I attended so and so con in Break Neck Arizona, and that I like a little romance in my sci-fi? He's even a little opinionated about characterization, even a little snippy, but I like that aggresiveness. I'm intrigued--I want to know more about this person, who certainly knows a lot about me. We'll give him a shot.

Good luck and good hunting

Triceratops

kristie911
10-23-2005, 02:47 AM
Are there sites where you can find who agents who (wow, that's grammatically incorrect) out there or do you just have to wade through pages and pages of google searches? There are authors out there that I admire and would like to query their agents (since my writing is similar) but I just can't seem to track down who their agents are. I've tried author pages and such but I'm not having much luck. Can anyone help?

triceretops
10-23-2005, 02:55 AM
Some agents list their titles and authors on their websites, so that is a source to look into. On the other hand, and one in which James sites often, is to visit a book store (physically) and read the dedication/acknowledgment pages for an agent's name, who's book belongs to an author that you like.

Tri

kristie911
10-23-2005, 09:55 AM
Yeah, I have all the books by this author and she doesn't acknowledge her agent. I'll just keep looking! Thanks!

Pencilone
10-23-2005, 02:40 PM
I'm starting to believe that there are about 2 main types of agents:

1. The type that want to be told how wonderful they are, how successful they've been to have such and such authors, and how your book is so much like what they have already sold, etc. ,etc.

2. The type that are honestly looking out for a good story to sell and would consider the "how wonderful you are" stuff just some "fluff" not good enough to get under their skin. This is the type that don't expect You to do their work for them.

I really hope to aim at type 2.

But then I might just be an incurable idealist...:tongue

Cathy C
10-23-2005, 06:50 PM
by molly: it's an introspective tale that deals with the many layers of a friendship between two young outcasts who are trying to survive in an unfriendly world.


Hmm... you might consider comparing your work to that of S.E. Hinton. His books The Outsiders (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/014038572X/103-8946454-4038235?v=glance&n=283155&s=books&v=glance)and That Was Then, This Is Now (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140389660/103-8946454-4038235?v=glance&n=283155&%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance)are classic, introspective YA (young adult) novels about just this thing. While they're genre fiction, the prose is considered literary by many. If you haven't already read them, you might pick one up.

Good luck!

Jamesaritchie
10-23-2005, 09:02 PM
I'm starting to believe that there are about 2 main types of agents:

1. The type that want to be told how wonderful they are, how successful they've been to have such and such authors, and how your book is so much like what they have already sold, etc. ,etc.

2. The type that are honestly looking out for a good story to sell and would consider the "how wonderful you are" stuff just some "fluff" not good enough to get under their skin. This is the type that don't expect You to do their work for them.

I really hope to aim at type 2.

But then I might just be an incurable idealist...:tongue

No good agent falls into the type one you list, and no smart writer would ever put anything like this into a query. A writer who puts one word of fluff in a query letter, or writes one sentence telling the agent how wonderful she is, deserves to be rejected, and almost certainly will be.

No agent alive can tell how well you write, or how good a story you have, based on a query letter. If they could, they would only ask to see manuscripts that would sell quickly to the first publisher who saw them. They'd never ask to see a manuscript with bad writing and poor story.

If agents always asked to see manuscripts because the query letter contained what might be a good plot, they'd soon need a warehouse to hold all the manuscripts, and they'd never be able to read a fraction of them.

But what any good agent can tell from a query is whether or not you've done your job. No agent expects you to do their work for them, but they do expect you to do your own work for yourself, and part of that work involves not wasting an agent's time. Or your own.

Every good agent out there is looking for a good story to sell. But every agent out there also has different tastes in fiction. Just because you find ten agents who all sell traditional mysteries in no way means all ten of these agents will like the same kind of traditional mystery written in the same style.

Your job is to show that agent you've done your homework and know the sort of story and the kind of voice she likes. If you don't, she knows the odds are at least ten to one that she won't like the novel you send her, which means asking for it is a complete waste of her time and yours.

I sometimes think writers forget how many thousands of other writers are all after the same agent, and that reading manuscripts is something most agents can only devote a relatively few hours to each week. No good agent can ask for more than a tiny fraction of the manuscripts she's queried about because there's only time enough in the world to read a few of them.

So you have to do your job and give that agent a reason to request your manuscript, and a few lines of synopsis in a query letter that tell her nothing about how well you actually write fiction, or how well you can actually tell a story, is not going to get the job done very often.

This is also why credits are important. If you want to sell a mystery, and the first sentence of your query letter says you've sold short stories to Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock, the editor now knows you can actually write fiction well enough to be paid for it.

And if you actually do your job and read some of the novels the agent has previously sold, the agent now knows you understand exactly what kind of fiction she wants, and the style and voice and particular type of story she believes is good.

No good agent expects the writer to do the agent's job. And no smart writer expects an agent to do the writer's job.

Seriously, if an agent asked for every manuscript that sounded like a good story based on the brief synopsis in the query letter, she'd have to hire a hundred readers just to stay even. You have to give her something to work with, something that separates you from the five hundred other writers she'll hear from at the same time. At most, she'll have time to ask for no more than a couple of dozen manuscripts, if that, from that entire batch of five hundred writers, so you have to give her something, you have to stand out. And that something isn't the synopsis part of your query letter that will sound no better and no worse than at least half the other five hundred writers.

Pencilone
10-24-2005, 12:49 AM
And if you actually do your job and read some of the novels the agent has previously sold, the agent now knows you understand exactly what kind of fiction she wants, and the style and voice and particular type of story she believes is good.

What you mean is that all these agents are already set in their own pigeon boxes and they already know the kind of novel they want and they are not prepared to try something different or try thinking out of their own box?

When I wrote my novel I wrote it as good as I could, and without copying someone else's style and voice. I was not making my novel similar to any other one out there. So, why should I try now to force it as being similar to something else? Maybe the agent that eventually takes on such a similar novel has little chances of selling it after all.

The writers that have managed to break through have created their own market, their own niche by being original and not copying someone else.

Maybe the agent also needs to keep an open mind on the story he is looking for, and be ready to try something new if it sounds exciting enough.

Flapdoodle
10-27-2005, 02:22 AM
I've received a small bundle of rejections (so far) on my first novel. The recurring theme: "not right for us." What exactly does this mean? I've run the gamut from "the novel just isn't to my taste," which is what I'm hoping for, to "this sucks and I'm just trying to be kind." What's your take?

It means they're not interested.

I used to get those - I was sending in absolute rubbish - however, after years of trying and improving, my rejections from publishers changed considerably - I got a couple with handwritten notes with complimentary comments & one that said "it's worth trying this elsewhere.". Similarly with short stories - rejections became "personal" rather than a bog standard "Not suitable." Lots of complimentary comments (Including one that said "It's an original, powerful story, and well written but not the type of thing we publish.)

For some bizarre reason - I don't know - I sort-of gave up around that point (I _think_ it was due to starting a job and having to write up a Phd.)

Flapdoodle
10-27-2005, 02:41 AM
What you mean is that all these agents are already set in their own pigeon boxes and they already know the kind of novel they want and they are not prepared to try something different or try thinking out of their own box?

When I wrote my novel I wrote it as good as I could, and without copying someone else's style and voice. I was not making my novel similar to any other one out there. So, why should I try now to force it as being similar to something else? Maybe the agent that eventually takes on such a similar novel has little chances of selling it after all.

The writers that have managed to break through have created their own market, their own niche by being original and not copying someone else.

Maybe the agent also needs to keep an open mind on the story he is looking for, and be ready to try something new if it sounds exciting enough.

I've got about 4 MS that are "nothing like" anything "out there."

That's because they're garbage.

triceretops
10-27-2005, 08:47 AM
I'm seeing a kinda of a "glut syndrome" with the following examples:

"Our Roster is full right now."
"We regret we're not taking on any new clients."
"We have only enough time for our current list."
"We are not reading at the moment, but will be in 2006-2007-2008-2009 etc."

65% of my query and synopsis submissions are nabbing the above examples.

I'm seeing a lot of packed houses right now--much more than I've ever seen, of course I've been away from it for years.

Tri