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Linda Adams
07-05-2007, 02:19 AM
Here's an odd problem ---

I'm currently in submission of a co-written thriller. The writing, I believe, is solid, as is the story. We went through a lot of pain and learning to make the story work. So far we've submitted it to about 35 agents (most of whom took some form of 10-50 pages of the book) without anything beyond form rejects and one comment from an agent: "difficult combination of genres."

The book is basically 'Most Dangerous Game' with a woman, and it was written for women readers. Lots and lots of action (there are also male main characters who get a lot of action). We've included elements for the guy readers, but it does have a focus on things the women like to see. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in thriller like it. The books written by women tend to be romantic thrillers or crime thrillers, and the books written by men tend to be about going in and fixing a problem. Ours is right between them.

The book is also in a historical setting, which we found out later wasn't a good choice for a first book.

Co-writer has been discussing with me that maybe the book should open with a male character instead of the heroine. We've also been considering adding more details for the guys (military, historical, gun details, etc.). But we could spend a lot of time spinning our wheels with that revision and not fix the reason why it's getting rejected. Or it could be that we simply picked a difficult direction to go. I should also note that the first chapter gets into the story, but doesn't start with a big action scene (that's in Chapter 3).

We've even been holding off writing the next book because neither of us want to recreate the same problem. That book isn't a historical, but is planned be another 'Most Dangerous Game' with a woman.

Any thoughts on why agents might be passing on it (assuming the writing itself works)? We're also going to ThrillerFest next week and attending the agent luncheon. One of my plans is to ask the agents if there is a market for this type of book and what they look for in the opening chapters of a thriller.

Soccer Mom
07-05-2007, 06:52 AM
A lot of women read thrillers. (raises hand) I would love to see one with a female protagonist. I think ThrillerFest is your best bet for picking agent brains. It's probably just a matter of getting it into the right hands. Genre bending can mean a huge market if you just find the right agent and publisher to take a chance on it.

Good Word
07-05-2007, 04:50 PM
What kind of agents did you target? Strictly thriller ones? Any women's fic ones? Would that be appropriate? I never saw Most Dangerous Game.

Linda Adams
07-06-2007, 01:57 AM
What kind of agents did you target? Strictly thriller ones? Any women's fic ones? Would that be appropriate? I never saw Most Dangerous Game.

Good Word:

We've been hitting mainly thriller, but have tried to focus on agents who also represent romance, women's fiction, or urban fantasy. We also tried submitting it as Women's Fiction, which just got a fast reject.

You probably have seen elements of Most Dangerous Game around. It's a famous short story from 1924, and at one point was required reading in schools. Many, many action television shows and films did some variation of it, and Clive Cussler mentioned it and had the character use the ideas in it to escape from the bad guys in Dragon. Basically, it's the story of a hunter seeking the ultimate game: man (or in our case, man hunts woman, though that phrasing may have other more unfortunate conotations).

The short story is online:

http://fiction.eserver.org/short/the_most_dangerous_game.html

And here's all it's film and TV incarnations on Wikipedia, all the way up to 2007: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Most_Dangerous_Game

SoccerMom - Thanks! That helps. :)

Jamesaritchie
07-06-2007, 02:59 AM
Just my opinion, and one where I haven't read the novel, but it sounds like you wrote this book by trying to aim at a particular reader segment, but also wrote a book that doesn't fit into a specific genre devoted to this reader segment. Doing so usually creates a book that's betwixt and between, and darned few things are harder to sell. When you aren't writing in a woman specific genre, it's usually best to not target women readers in a specific manner. Publishers don't know what to do with such stories. Just because women buy more books than men does not at all mean (outside of romance) that most of them buy fiction aimed at women readers. Women buy a LOT of books with male protagonists, and aimed primarily at a male market.

It doesn't even mean all the books women buy are for themselves. Women also buy huge numbers of books for their husbands, boyfriends, kids, and friends. Too, they buy them as Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, etc. This really skews the numbers dramatically.

I know many women read thrillers, but so do many men, and, honestly, while I love the short story, a Most Dangerous Game for women doesn't appeal to me in the least. Which is neither here nor there, but does it appeal to enough women? The premise sounds like something that would actually be better as a TV show or TV movie than a novel.

I do think the historical setting was a big mistake, and this might well be the biggest part of the problem, but aiming a book like this specifically at women strikes same as something publishers are not going to fall all over.

It might help if you could do some research that shows agents/editors where something similar has done very well.

This I can say. What turns me off most is the comparison to Most Dangerous Game, even if it's true. I don't know if this would affect others the same way, but if you're using this in your queries, you might consider dropping it, and just describing the novel's plot and events without any comparisons.

Linda Adams
07-06-2007, 05:05 AM
But there is also some precident for the possibility this kind of book. When I was growing up, most of the books available for girls were nurse stories and romance. Nancy Drew, who was a smart competent heroine, was pretty much it outside of that.

Today, I read Young Adult because there are some strong action heroines in there, and the books are very clearly for girls. Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduced the world to a kick butt heroine, and Urban Fantasy took off with that. There's a small press publisher who is solely publishing Urban Fantasy/Romance with heroines. Mystery has introduced many new series that are for women readers, such as a needlecraft series where the heroine uses her skills at relationships to solve the crimes. Harlequin introduced the Bombshell line, which was a romance/thriller combo that included a political thriller and a treasure hunt story. I was estatic when I saw the line, but unfortunately, a lot of the writers had trouble writing action (that may have been why it didn't sell well). I've even found thrillers in Chick-Lit, though I did find the numerous designer name references annoying. I would love to see some stories like the above turn up in thriller.

The 'Most Dangerous Game' reference wasn't in any of the original query letters--though it was how the story was conceived in the first place--but is likely to turn up in some of the future queries.