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Things literary agents say

(23 Posts)
ScarletBegonias Fri 05-Feb-16 09:36:17

I've been getting responses to my novel back from agents and although no one has yet wanted to take things further, I have had what appear to be some relatively positive comments. What I don't know is whether these are things they say to everybody, to lots of people, or just a select few.

For example, the comment that my draft "stood out from the many we receive" - or "though there was much to admire we unfortunately didn't feel strongly enough ..." Or one direct from a publisher soliciting manuscripts for online publication, which included "interesting premise ... story and characters need further development ... definitely keep writing."

I suspect these are fairly standards phrases but would like to think they don't get sent to everybody. I can see that there are some very experienced people posting here, so would welcome any thoughts. And don't worry about hurting my feelings - I'd rather know the truth!

Quoteunquote Fri 05-Feb-16 18:23:09

What about getting an editor lots of authors do, you will find working with one brings up lots of interesting feedback.

ScarletBegonias Fri 05-Feb-16 18:52:32

Thanks, Quoteunquote. I do have it in mind to get a professional critique but I think I want to do another major revision first. There are still parts of the book that I'm not entirely happy with myself and I think I probably got over-excited and started submitting it a bit too soon.

AristotlesTrousers Sun 07-Feb-16 18:07:39

Have you tried Googling those phrases with the name of the individual agency who sent them? That's how I found out that my rejections were standard - though the last one you mention sounds more specific.

I'm in the same boat, and am about to start another round of submissions after a major edit, so fingers crossed for us both.

ImperialBlether Sun 07-Feb-16 18:57:13

Those comments sound very positive. I've found if it's just a straightforward 'No' then they make it clear it's just not right for them. If you want to let us know (either here or PM) which agencies they are then I'm happy to let you know what was written to me.

My brother and I had both got rejections from the same agent twice. On one occasion I got an extra nice paragraph and on the other he did.

ScarletBegonias Mon 08-Feb-16 07:37:42

Aristotle - that's a really helpful idea and I don't know why I didn't think of it. Have just tried it a bit. My "stood out from the many we receive" has gone to a couple of other people too from that agency but some others don't seem to have had it, which is mildly encouraging. At least one other person has had "much to admire" from the same agent as me. Interestingly, though, the (longer) one you thought sounded more specific seems to be word for word the same as at least one other person received!

I note from my googling a number of people commenting that anything saying 'no' which doesn't go into specifics should be treated simply as a rejection letter and it isn't worth lingering over whatever polite words may have been included. There's probably some truth in that, although I'm still inclined to think that the varying degrees of 'warmth' in rejection letters may have some significance.

Imperial - many thanks for the offer. Will PM you shortly.

EricNorthmanSucks Mon 08-Feb-16 07:41:35

I think they sound like more than the stock rejection.

However, I would urge any writer not to over analyse any response! It's not worth the effort and energy.

Just keep subbing and writing the next book.

ScarletBegonias Mon 08-Feb-16 07:59:24

Eric - I think I'm forming the impression that each agent probably has two or three different stock rejection letters conveying varying degrees of 'warmth', so that submissions which they don't want to pick up but think are quite good get a different response from those which they don't think have much (or any) merit. I think that's how I'd do it, anyway.

But I'm sure you're absolutely right on what's worth spending time on and what isn't.

EricNorthmanSucks Mon 08-Feb-16 08:18:36

FWIW I once spent a week at my agent's office, helping mostly with the slush pile ( I was writing an article about it ).

It's an important part of an agency's business, as, apart from a few who run a closed list, most agents are constantly on the hunt for fresh meat.

Agents are optimists by nature; always certain that the next Harry Potter is in the post grin.

Anyhow, I say this only to confirm that we approached every sub positively IYSWIM.

Very quickly it becomes obvious that the majority are not going to go further.

Of the ones that do prick the interest ( enough to ask for a full) there are still a million reasons not to take them on (many if those reasons, nothing to do with the book per se).

Do it's always worth pursuing another agency.

If a writer's subs are getting only standard rejections ie no requests for the full, then thry might need to rethink. It might be the sub package is poor, or there is a glaring error somewhat eg too short /long for genre.

Or it might be the idea. The execution.

My advice to new writers is always to make multiple simultaneous subs. Make them in manageable batches. As one rejection comes in, send another out.

If you get any bites ( requests for a full ) then you're on the right track. If you don't, then you need to reassess.

phoebemac Mon 08-Feb-16 08:43:14

Eric's advice is spot on. Don't over thin it all and if you're not getting requests for further material see if there are things you need to improve.

Carry on subbing and writing. It's hard but persistence pays off in the end. (9 years of persistence in my case before I landed a publishing deal!)

phoebemac Mon 08-Feb-16 08:44:49

"Over think"!

ScarletBegonias Mon 08-Feb-16 16:49:48

eric - thanks for that. Very interesting and helpful.

I actually went out to 7 agents and 2 publishers in November and none since then, although responses are still trickling back to me. I think my inclination now is not to try any more until I've either come up with something new or radically reworked/improved the current draft. Apart from anything else, I think I need to sort out the fact that it's an unholy mix of different genres.

phoebe - no danger of 'over thinning', I'm afraid! Since I gave up working for a living last year and have spent lots of time writing, I seem to have gained a bit of weight. I've had enormous fun, though, which is probably the main thing, even if it never leads to publication. But I shall certainly persevere.

phoebemac Mon 08-Feb-16 17:12:57

Scarlet I have had a similar experience since cutting the day job hours to write. Never mind. Once we get some better weather we can out go for creative juice stimulating walks!

EricNorthmanSucks Mon 08-Feb-16 17:49:07

Personally I think 9 subs is too few upon which to base a retreat. I would go for 20. And if that illicits no requests for a full, then that would be a good point to reassess.

That said, cross genre fiction is a tough sell.

Whilst publishers continually say they're looking for new and fresh arenas, their purchases show that they are deeply wedded to well trodden genre paths.

This filters to agencies who are less likely to take things on that they know in advance might not sell.

Madhairday Mon 08-Feb-16 17:51:14

Scarlet sounds like we're in a similar place. Was your 'stood out from the many' from CB? I got exactly that and was excited to get something beyond 'no'. Also got a couple more positive rejections if you can call them that.

I don't think they'd send that to everyone - but maybe I'm clutching at straws. I haven't had any bites so I'm in a hiding re-assessing stage. All my beta readers say it's strong but that's not enough - wondering if mine is too overdone in the genre. Sigh - it's all a roller coaster.

Glad you're enjoying the writing, that's the main thing I think. I'm trying to be laid back about it and not worry about the publication - it's the execution that matters and the enjoyment and fulfillment of that. And there's always kindle, which is a great opportunity really for so many to get their work out there.

Good luck! if you want to pm feel free as we're at similar stages smile

ScarletBegonias Mon 08-Feb-16 18:36:03

mad - yes, CB!

Have sent you a pm.


kungfupannda Sat 13-Feb-16 12:27:29

I used to be on a writing forum and people often posted agent responses. The general consensus was that there was a range of standard rejections, and some tailoring, depending on the quality of the submission.

I did see the 'stood out from the many' and the 'much to admire' ones mentioned and I think they are standard rejections but ones aimed at a better quality of submission, if that makes sense. People on the forum certainly had much less positive rejections, usually along the lines of 'Thank you for letting us see your manuscript but unfortunately this isn't for us.'

The one from the publisher sounds more like an individual response, and an encouraging one at that smile

ScarletBegonias Sat 13-Feb-16 14:00:21

Thanks, kungfu. I share the general consensus and know exactly what you mean about standard phrases which are reserved for submissions which aren't acceptable but still have some merit.

I've also had some "this isn't for us" responses. I suppose they leave scope for it being for someone, if not them!

The one I had from the publisher did sound less standard (and quite encouraging) until I discovered at least one other person who'd received word for word the same...

Helmetbymidnight Thu 18-Feb-16 15:57:49

Who is this CB?!! I would like a nice rejection letter!

I put in my last rejection and it came up as the classic 'what agents learn to say'!

ScarletBegonias Thu 18-Feb-16 17:26:36

Curtis Brown (Creative).

Helmetbymidnight Thu 18-Feb-16 17:38:39

Ah hadn't approached them...

I've only done seven ish so far- I'm going to spread my net further (when half term is over!)

ScarletBegonias Thu 18-Feb-16 17:39:14

Helmet - do give them a try and report back. It may not be a rejection letter but if it is, I hope it'll be a nice one.

(Not that I want too many people to get nice rejections, because that will devalue mine!)

Helmetbymidnight Thu 18-Feb-16 17:40:52

Ha-You just want me to get the crap rejection letter!

Okay, challenge accepted smile

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