Monday, July 21, 2014

It's not you, it's me

I know it irks a lot of writers to receive a, 'I just didn't love it' type response from an agent or editor, but it's something I completely understand.

You don't have to be an agent to get excited about reading something, and then have the expectation fall flat.

There's a book I read recently, which (of course) I'm not going to give the author/title. There was (unfortunately) no sample available for download, but there was the 'look inside' feature, and I did read the available pages before I bought the book.

There were 20 Amazon reviews (all 4 or 5 stars), but other than that, there wasn't a lot of information about the book. 

But the premise was so cool that I just had to take the chance and buy it.

This was definitely one of those moments were I could empathize with an agent reading a great query, reading a great first 10 pages, getting all excited... and then the story quickly spiralling into "lessons" for young readers, adult character almost entirely steering the plot, steering the characters, etc, nearly point-form plotting, and the very interesting ensemble of characters (including the main character the book started with) disappearing from the pages completely while a rather boring side character suddenly took over the story, which was then filled with cardboard-flat and comic-relief add-ins who are easily manipulated by the boring side character, and everything works out perfectly.

Yeah, I was really disappointed. I certainly won't be buying the sequel.

Obviously those 20 Amazon reviewers were not disappointed, and of course, whoever the agent was (and editor, etc) who took on that project.

But I didn't love it. And that's okay.

So, why am I thinking about expectations?

I'm one of those err-on-the-side-of-caution writers. I haven't yet seriously joined the query trenches. I've joined a couple contests that put my work in front of agents, and I sent out 10 queries from a previous story. I've never sat down and researched agents and agencies, made lists or spreadsheets.

I have bookmarked lots of agent interviews and (some may think this weird) blogposts by writers who have separated from their agents.

Although there's always a lot of politically correct language, it seems many agents/writers who split turn out not be a good 'fit' as partners, but the stories I am most interested in re-reading are from writers who have gotten an agent with one style/genre of book, and then been at odds with their agent because their second, third or tenth book is in a different genre/style, one that the agent doesn't connect to or doesn't represent.

When (in the future) I do eventually query seriously, TRoRS would be the book I'd go with.

The main reason?

It's a weird book.

Rather than show up to a first date in brand new heels & clothes, I'd prefer to be in my usual sneakers & jeans, and I'm sure as heck not going to be ordering salad and water if I want steak and wine.

I think it's better to lead with real idiosyncrasies than with a well-meaning facade.

...and TRoRS would be the equivalent to showing up in my much-loved and worn-in Converse One Stars.

Getting an agent excited thinking they're getting 'A' is making no one happy if you're really giving them 'B'.

And I'm not just talking just about a query/10 pages... I'm also taking about a writer's career. If what you love and want to write forever is Adult sci-fi, perhaps it's not the best bet to seriously query with a MG contemporary... Not that you can't do both, but that's certainly a necessary conversation.

I'd want an agent who knows s/he's getting scuffed Converse by reading the query, reading the first 10 pages, and still is getting those same faded black runners when s/he hits the end of the story. I want the consistency to carry through my story, from the first paragraph, to the last.

...and I'd want an agent who wouldn't be surprised, or unhappy, to get a pair of green DC's next instead of pair of Giuseppe Zanotti's (yes, I had to Google 'designer high heels' to find that name brand...)

In other words, someone who loves 'my style'. My voice. My stories.

As a reader, I want to love every book I buy, but that's impossible. Even out of the ones I like, there are very few that I'd want to read more than once.

So, for agents who have to re-read manuscripts over and over again, yeah, I totally get the "I just didn't love it" response.

And I think that's a good thing, because as a writer, I want (and deserve) to have an agent who loves what I write and who would want to read it more than once, and who would look forward to whatever project I work on next.

Also, no more buying books on my Kindle unless they have a sample to download. I suppose, since my online Wish List is hovering around 620 items, that shouldn't be a problem :)

Yeah... still on the codeine-enriched anti-spasm muscle relaxants, can ya tell? I'm sure my grammar is a foggy mess :p

So sorry about that. Those ribs just still don't want to stay where they should.

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