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Tromboli
08-21-2011, 05:31 AM
As a writer trying to catch an agent I've realized how much of this process relies on things you can't control.

Example:

I picked up a debut author's book this weekend. It was sold by an agent I admire. I expected this book to be amazing based on the hype and a concept that seemed pretty neat...I am 60 pages in and am bored to tears.
It's written well, the characters are... interesting. But I don't relate to them in anyway (an there is a very annoying amount of stupidity is involved, mostly with the less important characters).

This made me think about how this agent thought this book was amazing. So awesome. And (so far) I hate it.

Clearly she, and the editor who gave this novel a big deal and a hard cover printing, have completely different tastes than me. Chemistry and taste is one of those things you just can't control.


I mean this thread to be a discussion so anyone have any thoughts about this, or the other things you can't control while seeking an agent (or editor)?

DeleyanLee
08-21-2011, 05:37 AM
This made me think about how this agent thought this book was amazing. So awesome. And (so far) I hate it.

What makes you think she has to have thought it was amazing and awesome?

The real reason is that she could simply have known that she could sell it.

She is part of a business, after all. Knowing you can sell a book you may not be crazy about allows the bills to be paid so you can continue to work on the long-shot book you do actually adore.


I mean this thread to be a discussion so anyone have any thoughts about this, or the other things you can't control while seeking an agent (or editor)?

Everything outside of what I put on the pages is beyond my control. Whether or not whoever's reading the book had a good morning/day/sleep and is a receptive mood is out of my control. Whether or not the agent knows of an editor who's looking for this particular thing, or whether or not the editor still has that slot open, or whether or not the higher-ups have just issued a memo stating that the company focus is shifting away from this--it's all out of my control.

Which is why I focus on putting the best story I can on the pages and making certain I get it the way I meant it to be. Experience has shown that a damned great story will get attention and, in time, open checkbooks. I just aim to do my part of the job to the best of my ability and trust Lady Luck to help me out with the rest.

TAR11
08-21-2011, 06:35 AM
I agree, I think much of being an agent is about the marketing ability. Unfortunately, as writers, I think we tend to ignore that aspect, at least the best writers do because they're writing from the heart and whatever is important to them. However, we suffer if our own interests aren't part of a passing fad or escalating trend and that is a shame, but it's the way of most creative fields. I hope, that one day, my work will be published, but I'm not sure what I write can ever be considered mainstream. That's a reality I have to deal with, but I continue to write about the important things because they truly affect and matter to me.

Filigree
08-21-2011, 07:05 AM
Many years ago, when there were still Tower Record stores in Phoenix, and one of them had a top-notch Classical Music section, I asked the resident guru about that problem. He shrugged, already knowing his section -- and ultimately his store -- were on the chopping block. 'The pop outsells us,' he said. 'It's what subsidizes the classical sections of major labels. I don't have to like it, to understand that my job depends on that crap selling so many units a week out on the main floor.'

Same with commercial publishing. Every engineered or accidental blockbuster supports many lesser-known titles. I admire agents and editors who can make those sales happen. Even if the story is somewhat mediocre, its agent and editor know they have to gush about it to generate good feedback. Is THE NIGHT CIRCUS as good as the pre-publication blatherfest indicates? Will it succeed on its own merits, or because it's the current hot property? I have no idea, yet -- but Morgenstern is richer by at least 650K because an agent believed it could be stellar.

It's when agents and editors believe their own marketing department's hype that I worry. Too much danger of an 'Emperor's New Clothes' situation. And there are agents and editors I'm reluctant to contact, because they've represented authors whose personal viewpoints and/or stories I loathe.

Anne Lyle
08-21-2011, 07:11 AM
Not relating to characters is a very personal thing. I had a "didn't click with us" rejection from an agent I thought was a good match, so it just goes to show.

But yeah - there's almost no control over the process. This is why it sucks so much.

Miriel
08-21-2011, 07:15 AM
I do think there is such a thing as personal taste. I read a blog recently where they disparaged a book I adore, and listened to a podcast where they praised a book I thought fell very flat at the end and wouldn't recommend to anyone. It's quite possible the agent does love that book.

Terie
08-21-2011, 08:54 AM
There are only two things a writer CAN control: your writing and your market research. Do both of those things really REALLY well, and you'll have a pretty decent shot at selling your work (but even then, there's no guarantee). All else is completely and utterly out of the writer's control.

Old Hack
08-21-2011, 11:30 AM
This thread isn't actually about agents: it's about whether or not writers have any control over their work through the publishing process. So I'm going to move it to the Round Table, where it'll get a bigger and more appropriate audience. Hang onto your hats....

megan_d
08-21-2011, 11:40 AM
I don't think an agent would take on a book they were 'meh' about just because they knew it would sell. They know they're going to be spending a lot of time with whatever books they choose to represent, I think it takes more than money to inspire the passion each book requires in order to take it from manuscript to bookshelf.

seun
08-21-2011, 02:33 PM
What makes you think she has to have thought it was amazing and awesome?

The real reason is that she could simply have known that she could sell it.


Interesting point. Personally, I agree with it although I do see a lot of an agent has to love a book to want to take it on in this business.

bearilou
08-21-2011, 05:08 PM
I don't think an agent would take on a book they were 'meh' about just because they knew it would sell. They know they're going to be spending a lot of time with whatever books they choose to represent, I think it takes more than money to inspire the passion each book requires in order to take it from manuscript to bookshelf.

That's what I was thinking.

I know for myself I find it hard to work up being enthusiastic and excited about something I'm just 'meh' about just for the sake of 'face'. It's a lot more work to keep up that level of energy and I can't imagine agents and editors having it to spare with everything else on their plate.

ChaosTitan
08-21-2011, 05:23 PM
This thread isn't actually about agents: it's about whether or not writers have any control over their work through the publishing process. So I'm going to move it to the Round Table, where it'll get a bigger and more appropriate audience. Hang onto your hats....

Re: the bold.

:roll:


The only real control I have in is my manuscript. After that, it's out of my hands.

Anne Lyle
08-21-2011, 06:06 PM
Once your manuscript enters the heady world of requested revisions, offers, etc, you do of course still have the magic word "no" on your side :)

I point this out because some newbies are under the impression that editors can force you to make changes, or will change the book without your permission. I'm sure this has happened to someone at some time, but reputable agents and editors don't do this, and your contract should make the relationship and responsibilities clear.

Of course if you do refuse to make changes (without a damned good argument to back it up), you may find yourself without a contract - but it's still control, right?

Jamesaritchie
08-21-2011, 06:52 PM
As a writer trying to catch an agent I've realized how much of this process relies on things you can't control.

Example:

I picked up a debut author's book this weekend. It was sold by an agent I admire. I expected this book to be amazing based on the hype and a concept that seemed pretty neat...I am 60 pages in and am bored to tears.
It's written well, the characters are... interesting. But I don't relate to them in anyway (an there is a very annoying amount of stupidity is involved, mostly with the less important characters).

This made me think about how this agent thought this book was amazing. So awesome. And (so far) I hate it.

Clearly she, and the editor who gave this novel a big deal and a hard cover printing, have completely different tastes than me. Chemistry and taste is one of those things you just can't control.


I mean this thread to be a discussion so anyone have any thoughts about this, or the other things you can't control while seeking an agent (or editor)?

The agent and editor believed the book was one the majority of the reading public would find amazing. Good editors and good agents take on books they love. Great editors and great agents also take on books they personally hate, if they believe the majority of the reading public will love it.

Either way, what does it matter? Out of your control means just that. No amount of thinking about it, worrying about it, or anything else will bring it under your control.

Nor, I think, does it matter.

A writer who controls what he can, which is how much and how often he writes, how much and how often he submits, how much and how often he reads, and how much he learns about the business side of writing will succeed, if he has any talent at all. And if he does control these things, he doesn't even need much talent.

I'm a firm believer in Heinlein's Rules. Follow them, and if you have even a tiny bit of talent, you'll eventually succeed. These are business rules, not writing rules, and they flat work. Robert J. Sawyer sums it up nicely. http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

Shadow_Ferret
08-24-2011, 06:30 AM
I can't control anything. For me, it's all a crap shoot. It's a mystery to me why one short story sells immediately out of the gate and yet the next ten get hundreds of rejections.

Sunnyside
08-24-2011, 06:25 PM
Horses for courses, I'd say. You and an agent may have similar tastes, but it doesn't mean you'll agree on EVERYTHING. And I wouldn't fret over it one bit.

Jamesaritchie
08-25-2011, 08:28 PM
I can't control anything. For me, it's all a crap shoot. It's a mystery to me why one short story sells immediately out of the gate and yet the next ten get hundreds of rejections.

The same mystery applies to me, but I can still control how many short stories I write, and how many short stories I keep in submission until they do sell.

DeleyanLee
08-26-2011, 04:52 PM
Interesting point. Personally, I agree with it although I do see a lot of an agent has to love a book to want to take it on in this business.

I see a lot of that talk in the writing business, but from what little I've glimpsed of the agent business, I've heard talk that makes me think it happens as often as not. Could be totally wrong, but it is a business and business is business. I think anyone out in the work force understands that the job is the job, though you live for the times that go beyond the job. I don't see why agenting/publishing books would be so different.