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View Full Version : "Great but not marketable." What do I do?



Haydee
11-23-2006, 06:28 AM
I have recieved this reply from several (if not many) agents while trying to shop my novel. Actually this has happened with two novels, now that I think of it. I am a published short story writer and I'm a professional writer/marketer for a respected online company, which always gets my foot in the door. And I always get rather glowing responses to my manuscripts, stuff like "very strong," "thoughtful, intriguing," "you're very talented," etc.

Nevertheless, no matter how much an agent liked my novel, I always get that "...but too hard to market" line tacked on at the end.

I am completely aware that my material is "hard to market." I write mostly contemporary fiction-- a hard market to break into-- often with atypical protagonists. However, as a marketer myself, I know perfectly well that nothing is utterly un-sellable. I also truly believe that good books will "make it" in the end over all the crap that's pushed around out there. That's why we have classics.

So... any advice here? Is there anything I can do except to sit down and force myself to write a "marketable" book for my first sale? Are there any agents who look for material that's not necessarily mainstream? I have thought of forgoing the agent route entirely and shopping my novels with small presses, but I'd really rather have someone who is experienced in the field on my team.

Scarlett_156
11-23-2006, 06:35 AM
What do you do? I don't know you, so I can't give effective advice here. But if it was me, I know what I would do: Keep writing.

I hope this was helpful!

ORION
11-23-2006, 06:51 AM
After more than 50 I found an agent that loves my work.
How many is many?

Haydee
11-23-2006, 07:08 AM
My current novel I've submitted to about 20 agents. I would say 3 had positive responses, one had a super positive response, and the rest were just the generic "no thanks" which doesn't really say anything about why they rejected it. It's been a couple of years, but as I recall the last novel had about the same response (and is now gathering dust). I've basically gone through all the applicable agencies in the "Guide to Literary Agents." Any other places to look for names? (Aside from books that semi-resemble mine?)

And Scarlett, of course I keep writing! But how will it help me get published if I have 10 "unmarketable" manuscripts???

ORION
11-23-2006, 07:25 AM
You need to submit more. You're getting good response. 20 is not many. You may need to research more on your agents. Try to find something remotely similar in the bookstore. Go on agentquery.com.
Get some input from beta readers.
Keep writing.
Unmarketable is subjective.

Carmy
11-23-2006, 08:14 AM
Thanks Orion, you give me hope although I haven't come anywhere near 20 agent submissions -- yet.

Haydee,

If you're writing contemporary fiction, why not submit to some publishers who are open to unagented manuscripts?

As you say, nothing is unsellable. I've 'half read' some pretty bad novels that should never have been published yet they were published and by some bid-name publishers. With your background, at least yours would be well written so you're already ahead of the pack.

Don't give up.

ORION
11-23-2006, 08:42 AM
Don't do it. Don't submit to publishers yet. You haven't tried enough agents - you muddy the waters when you do this...really...

Haydee
11-23-2006, 09:21 AM
Don't do it. Don't submit to publishers yet. You haven't tried enough agents - you muddy the waters when you do this...really...

I agree. My understanding is that if I go to any publisher without an agent, they are 1) less inclined to work with me and 2) if they do reject me, then I've just decreased my chances of ever securing an agent.

Anyway thanks for the encouragement. I will keep looking and send out some more. I've been trying to find similar books at the store, but again... it's a little atypical. I will check out the website you recommended ASAP though.

Thanks again!

Haydee
11-23-2006, 09:26 AM
PS I just checked out AgentQuery.com! Orion, you are awesome! Thanks so much for recommending this.

ORION
11-23-2006, 10:36 AM
No problem.
For my writing journey check out my blog.

http://pkwood.blogspot.com/

Good luck

badducky
11-23-2006, 09:15 PM
Don't forget that most of the books on the market today similar to what you are describing gets published at small presses without representation by an agent.

If you get tired of querying agents, consider reaching out to legitimate small presses.

If you really want to write marketable novels, use your resume to get your foot in the door at some book packagers. They aren't really evil, after all, merely businesses like any other. Why sell yourself out unless you're assured adequate payment before you begin the scrivening?

Manat
11-24-2006, 04:57 PM
[quote=Haydee]I agree. My understanding is that if I go to any publisher without an agent, they are 1) less inclined to work with me and 2) if they do reject me, then I've just decreased my chances of ever securing an agent.


I don't agree. I had similar problems with agents. "your writng is fabulous but I don't think this work is marketable, send me something I can sell";
"you have an impressive voice but the subject matter is too difficult and emotionally jarring." etc. etc.

After trying about 30 agents, I was thinking like you are now, but I decided to try publishers instead. From 6 queries I got 4 requests for the full. Two I haven't heard back from yet. Out of the 4, one rejected it, a mid size pub and a large e-pub made an offer, and a big NY pub that I told about the offers said they'll try and get back to me in a few weeks. My experience is that the publishers are far more open to darker edgier work than most agents are. I'm beginning to think that publishers are looking for the next new thing, while agents are looking for the next sure thing, and that's a very big difference.

I'm going to have an entertainment lawyer supervise the contract stuff for me. My current WIP is clearly more commercial than my first, and I'm thinking that with it, and a sale behind me, I'll find it alot easier to get an agent on the next go around. Agents are great if you have something that's good, and hot for the market, but if you have a good book that just doesn't fit the mold, I'd certainly try a few publishers before giving up on it. You might want to check out these guys. Good luck.http://www.kunati.com/

writingmom
11-24-2006, 08:52 PM
Well I think it was nice for Orion to give the advice to agentquery.com which is now saved to my favs, has well. I also want to say that when i visited the site: htpp://pkwood.blogspot.com/ I was really inspired by all that I viewed.
For me it was an inspiration to see someone in this day of age so full of life, and commited to it. When you need some up-lifting visit, I did and felt better.
writingmom...

ORION
11-25-2006, 06:56 AM
Thank you!
You made my day!

Haydee
11-26-2006, 03:34 AM
Well I just looked up the publisher for the book that I think most closely resembles my work... and it accepts no unagented submissions. So I think that's my answer... continue to search for an agent!

triceretops
11-27-2006, 10:12 AM
Haydee, to carve down to the quick of this, are you being rejected mostly from your query or synopsis? From what you are describing (and I'm going out on a limb here), it sounds like there might be a problem with the premise or concept of the book. Could that be it?? Have you put your synopsis or query up on the SYW thread? We might be able to help there. Is it your subject matter?

Not commercial enough can mean so many things, it's almost a blanket statement. Sometimes I believe a strong voice/style can save a story. I mean, for crying out loud, how did a book about a seagull learning to fly ever make it if not for the delightful way it was written/told. If somebody would have told me that Johnathan Livingston Seagull was a widely commercial property, I would have told them to dream on. Yet it happened.

Tri

Bartholomew
11-27-2006, 10:26 AM
If it is GREAT, than it is marketable. Period.

Anything other than an offer for representation is a polite rejection.

It just means you need to shop your MS elsewhere.

Take a look at what Miss Snark Says About This Very Issue. (http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/11/carnivorous-agents.html)



I have recieved this reply from several (if not many) agents while trying to shop my novel. Actually this has happened with two novels, now that I think of it. I am a published short story writer and I'm a professional writer/marketer for a respected online company, which always gets my foot in the door. And I always get rather glowing responses to my manuscripts, stuff like "very strong," "thoughtful, intriguing," "you're very talented," etc.

Nevertheless, no matter how much an agent liked my novel, I always get that "...but too hard to market" line tacked on at the end.

I am completely aware that my material is "hard to market." I write mostly contemporary fiction-- a hard market to break into-- often with atypical protagonists. However, as a marketer myself, I know perfectly well that nothing is utterly un-sellable. I also truly believe that good books will "make it" in the end over all the crap that's pushed around out there. That's why we have classics.

So... any advice here? Is there anything I can do except to sit down and force myself to write a "marketable" book for my first sale? Are there any agents who look for material that's not necessarily mainstream? I have thought of forgoing the agent route entirely and shopping my novels with small presses, but I'd really rather have someone who is experienced in the field on my team.

Haydee
11-28-2006, 10:01 AM
Haydee, to carve down to the quick of this, are you being rejected mostly from your query or synopsis? From what you are describing (and I'm going out on a limb here), it sounds like there might be a problem with the premise or concept of the book. Could that be it?? Have you put your synopsis or query up on the SYW thread? We might be able to help there. Is it your subject matter?

Oh, everyone loves my queries! :-D About 50% of the time I get asked for a synopsis and 3 chapters or so, and I either get rejected at that point or at the whole-manuscript juncture. I'm very good at writing queries so I'm not suprised by this; it's just a matter of getting someone's attention and then they ask to see something. However I think my actual novels, while enjoyable, are ultimately not mainstream. What I mean is that there are books that I would recommend to everyone I know, and there are books that I would only recommend to maybe one other person. I write in the "one other person" category. :-)

Actually, I decided to email my most recent rejecting-agent and told him I had other books, which he has requested to read (yay!) So I think I'm still doing all right. In the meantime... I'm querying like there's no tomorrow! :)

popmuze
11-28-2006, 09:29 PM
Oh, everyone loves my queries! :I think my actual novels, while enjoyable, are ultimately not mainstream.:)

This pretty much sums up where I'm at with my latest. I think the "not marketable" or "not mainstream" comment is really something of a form, along with "didn't love it" and "just doesn't fit with my line."

I think most agents are looking for the path of least resistance; if anything comes along outside the norm, it needs much more of their attention; ie. they actually have to read the whole book and be able to quote from it (more than my last agent was able to handle). This is the kind of book you could sell if you already had another one on the charts, or you had your own talk show on network tv.

On the other hand, it's a risk going to the small presses, in that, if they all reject it (which could take years) you'll never find an agent. But since many agents don't want to waste time with books they know are not meant for the majors, the decision is a toss up. As for myself, I haven't made it yet. But anything would be better than giving up and self-publishing.

ORION
11-28-2006, 10:02 PM
popmuze - start your next book...and your next...
That's what I did.

Bubastes
11-28-2006, 10:16 PM
Well I just looked up the publisher for the book that I think most closely resembles my work... and it accepts no unagented submissions. So I think that's my answer... continue to search for an agent!

I'm sure you've already thought of this, but have you checked the Acknowledgements section of the books from this publisher? Authors sometimes thank their agents in there, giving you names to target. Good luck!

popmuze
11-28-2006, 11:19 PM
popmuze - start your next book...and your next...
That's what I did.

I may be at a different point in my career than you were; this is already at least my fourth (with the first three being YA novels published by Houghton Mifflin over 20 years ago). I made my name in non fiction and that would be my next (with several ideas already in discussion with an editor).

My feeling is I may not get the next fiction published until and unless the latest non-fiction sells so well that the publisher agrees to do me a favor if I keep supplying him with non-fiction titles. Or if I otherwise become famous for doing something else equally implausible.

ORION
11-29-2006, 12:03 AM
My advice still stands.
Keep on writing books
Although, this is a good example how different NF and F are.
Is your 4th book YA? Or is it another genre all together? Were you agented with those previous books?
I guess if you are already discussing other NF books with editors I am unclear what your concerns are.
I know that lackluster sales severely affect an author when they go to shop subsequent books. But this may not be true in your case.
Best wishes.

popmuze
11-29-2006, 01:07 AM
This latest is not YA. As far I can tell its genre is A for Adult (not literary, not commercial, not mainstream, but not anything else either).
The previous books were done with an agent. This year is the first time I've had to search for an agent, but I've been searching all year.
In the non-fiction field in which I specialize, big sales are not the norm. I maintain some relationships with editors who will publish my books as long as I'm willing to work for what they offer (less than $10,000).
But I am not at the point where I'm ready to give up on the fiction, since it's garnering a lot of interest from agents and seems to be "close," whatever that means.
I'm hoping the six agents who are reading it now will soon clock in with their opinions; I'm hoping some of them will actually give me their opinions.

ORION
11-29-2006, 04:22 AM
good for you
I will think good thoughts