Pat and I were discussing this few weeks ago and I thought I would share.
During the couple of weeks that Miss Snark did her Crap o Meter I thought it was fairly obvious from the hooks which ones were going to be awful, and which ones had promise. After reading the first 750 words, I thought it was even more obvious. I don't think I'm alone in that. I think that most readers feel they could probably recognize the "next big thing."
But what about when professionals don't?
I'm going to use two examples, both my friends.
First, Pat. Pat received a rejection from an agent at Writers House and his reasoning was basically that he just did not connect with the voice. Since Pat's book is told from the point of view of a 30-some-odd mentally challenged man, voice is everything! If you don't connect with the voice, you don't connect with the book.
But just a little while later Pat was picked up by a lovely agent at William Morris (and received offers from others as well.) She and her agent worked on the book for a little while and when it was ready, they sent it out. It sold in a week, at auction, for six figures.
That is almost unheard of for a debut novelist.
What did the agent at WH miss? He later sent her a very nice congratulatory note, and you have to wonder, were there some sour grapes in there? Was he kicking himself a little? Why did he not recognize the huge potential?
Example number two, my friend Stephenie. She sent out about 15 queries and received two requests for partials. (She says her queries sucked . . . I don't know about that.:)) But a very small, upstart agent requested her first chapter and wrote her back to say that, although it was cute idea, there just wasn't a market for this kind of thing.
Tell that to Little, Brown who offered her the biggest advance they had ever given a first-time author. And believe me, it paid off.
What did this agent miss? She didn't just miss a publishable book, she missed a book that hit the NYT bestsellers list shortly after its release, and the second one debuted there and stayed for over twenty weeks.
Aren't agents supposed to see that coming?
But sometimes they don't.
Kristin Nelson mentioned several months back that she hardly ever regrets the ones that got away. She even did a post where she posted the covers of several books she remembers rejecting and, although she is thrilled for the authors' successes, she doesn't regret not being their agent. She did mention one she was sorry about because she loved the book. But it was very early in her agency's history and it was a genre she was not representing very strongly. But she'd have loved to be the agent and, if she had received that project now, would have taken it on.
My own story is a little weird too (and will hopefully be followed up with some fabulous deal, bestseller, jealous agents, etc. etc. etc. *wink*) As most of you know, Jodi was the very first person I ever sent anything to. And she got a barely better than first draft edition. An edition that was rejected by dozens and dozens of agents. One of the things that is still surprising to me is that she contacted me when she was half-way through that very first edition to say that she was loving it.
By that time, I was embarrassed by that version. The story was essentially the same, but the writing was so-so at best. Jodi was very happy to get the revision and mentioned that I had fixed many of the very things she was going to suggest. But what got her attention, was that first draft. She saw something in my book that she was intrigued enough by to let me know she was already seriously thinking of taking it on, halfway through that awful version. She saw something she liked enough that--had I not had a revision for her--she was willing to spend time working on to make it right.
Did she see something real? Is it something anyone else will see? I guess we'll find out.
It's amazing to me what agents do and do not see. And I know every agent has the unpublished book on their shelf that they love, love, love, but that nobody else loves. But we don't hear about those very often, but I know they exist. (Man, I hope that's not in my future.)
I wonder if this shakes their self-confidence sometimes. Both the ones that they let go, and the ones no one else seems to want. Because I have to believe that agents do take their clients' work personally, if not to the degree that the writers do.
Anyway, sorry for the novella here. But it's really been on my mind.