Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A thank you to feedback-giving agents everywhere

First, let me just say this isn't a post where I trash those agents who give forms on fulls. Really, it's not (do I like it? Of course not, but I get it). 

Three years ago when I was querying my first novel, feedback on partials and fulls was the norm. Full requests were thrilling for writers, because even if the manuscript was rejected, at least they would get some feedback. However, these days it's not guaranteed that writers will get anything, as more and more agents make the switch to the form rejection. This means the guy who wrote a 150,000 word "novel" during NaNoWriMo and then sent it off December 1st is getting the same rejection as the carefully crafted project that was two years in the making. I totally understand why agents do it, and in all honesty, I don't think any less of those who do.

Submitting your work is a lot easier than it once was, which means agents are requesting more than they used to. Writing personal rejections not only takes time, but it also opens up a conversation between the agent and writer. I've heard stories of writers responding to agents, requesting "suggestions" or asking them to expand on their original feedback. I can actually attest to this from personal experience. Last year (when I was agented), I participated in an online contest that involved picking entries to move on to a second round. Since there was something like forty entries, I only left feedback on the ones I chose. However, one person (in my group of entries) tweeted that he hadn't gotten any feedback and was really desperate for someone to tell him what wasn't working. Having been there myself (many times before), I told him I'd take a look at it. I left the guy some feedback, he made changes, and then he tweeted me, "Is this better?" Feeling slightly annoyed but trying to be understanding, I took another look at it and left more feedback. THEN he tweeted me AGAIN. "How about now?" I can't remember if I took yet another look at it, but I do know that at some point I just had to ignore his tweets.

So like I said, I get it.

But this is why I appreciate feedback-giving agents even more. They're taking the time to to help writers, despite the time issue and the fact that some writers will view them as their new-found crit partners. Feedback from people directly involved in the publishing industry is so very, VERY important! Selling books is there job, therefore, they can easily pinpoint problem areas that sometimes even the best critters/beta readers can't. My latest project had garnered a lot of interest, but unfortunately, no offers. It had been critted and beta'd to an inch of its life, so I was at a loss as to what wasn't working, and as many of you know, it is incredibly frustrating to get rejection after rejection and have no idea why. It wasn't until I received some agent feedback that things starting clicking for me, and thanks to those handful of agents, I now have a pretty good idea of what needs work. A simple one-liner, like "Needs more emotion" or "_____ doesn't seem authentic" can get the wheels turning in a writer's brain, which can then lead to revisions, and in turn, lead to an agent and/or book deal.

So, thank you to all those agents who take the time and risk the aggravation to help writers. It means more to us than you'll ever know :)

13 comments:

  1. Here, here! It means so much to get even the tiniest hint as to what can make the book better. I love it!

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    1. EXACTLY! Agents don't need to give a detailed list of what works/what doesn't just a line or two can help wonders!

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  2. Well said, and I also see both sides of the argument. Though I will add that sometimes no feedback can be good--at least for those authors who don't remember to take everything with a grain of salt. What one agent doesn't like about your MS can be what another agent loves and vice versa. Unless you have gotten a revise and re-submit, you should never try to tailor an MS to suit only one or two opinions.

    And you are so right about how easy it is to submit these days--and for that matter, to be a writer at all! Two years ago at the RWA national convention Nora Roberts was answering questions on a panel and one of the questions was addressing someone's comment about how much easier it was to get published 20 years ago, and how 'unfair' that is. Ms. Roberts actually agreed, saying that yes, there was far less competition in the publishing world back then. However, she also said that if she had to go back to being an unknown debut author tomorrow, she would rather have to deal with the competition and flooded book market of today, than have to go back to the typewriters, whiteout, and snail-mail of yesteryear.

    Can you even IMAGINE having to write and edit an entire novel without a delete key? Can you fathom having to print out and mail everything that was requested of you, and how expensive that would get?! God bless the computer!

    Okay... wow, long comment. I'm done now. :-)

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    1. TOTALLY agree! *Most* agent feedback is like gold, but let's face it, sometimes you get some WTH comments that make no sense whatsoever. Oh, and yes--never revise a manuscript based on one or two comments! If the feedback resonates with you, then great! If not, wait and see if any other agents tell you the same thing.

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  3. Nicole Resciniti *cheers* provided me the exact kind of desired feedback of which you speak. And I am CONVINCED that her input led me to landing my agent. Take whatever feedback you get with a grain of salt (preferably rimming a margarita) and then determine how/if it will work in your story. And always, ALWAYS be grateful. Like you said, their inboxes are overflowing--to get actual feedback is huge, AND means they found something worthy of commenting on.

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    1. Yes, finding a way to infuse their feedback (assuming you agree with it), while staying true to the story is the hard part. And I am ALWAYS appreciative of feedback--whether or not I agree with it or will ever use it.

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  4. I totally agree! A big thanks to those agents who do take the time (same goes for editors).

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