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Learning from rejections


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#1 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 18 December 2018 - 10:49 AM

See post 1 and #8 

 

 

 

So, I've had quite a few rejections as many of us have had with our stories. Recently, I got a partial request and a full one from two different agents. I was ecstatic, sent my MS out, and waited. Sometime later, I got replies. They were rejections. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken. But from what I've gotten, I'm trying to see what common issue there might be or if it's just taste as the industry can be very subjective. From what I see, I'm guessing it's not a craft issue? Here are the letters and tell me what you pick from it. My MC is not the nicest person, and idk if that might turn them off. Then again, my betas haven't had issue with him and he does change during the novel. And there are plenty of not-so-nice MCs in other published books. Please, let me know what you think from these letters.

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to consider the manuscript for "       ", and for your patience while I did so. I had the chance to read through it, and unfortunately I don't feel I'm the right fit for this project. I think your voice is compelling, and I was extremely intrigued by the premise, but unfortunately, I didn't connect with your MC as much as I hoped I would. For this reason, I found myself disengaged from the narrative as a whole, and have decided to pass.

Thank you again for the opportunity to review your work and good luck with other agents.

 

 

and

 

 

Hi,

I enjoyed my read of these chapters - you have a great concept and are a talented writer. But much as I liked the pages, I unfortunately didn't fall in love, so I'm going to thank you for the opportunity and step aside.

I wish you the best of luck as you find a home for your MS.



#2 lnloft

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 06:00 PM

Sorry about the rejections; I had a rejection for a full, and honestly I feel like it was the most painful moment of this past year. It's so hard to gauge from the little that agents respond with, but my best guess is that you're correct, it's not a craft issue, it's just that they weren't connecting. With my full rejection, the agent listed some more specific things as to why she said no (and invited to revise and resend). So basically she was saying that she liked the story but the craft wasn't quite what she wanted. Since you don't get those specifics, the best I can guess is that the agents liked the craft but not the story. I don't know if that makes it tougher or easier, because on the one hand, maybe it just means you need to keep looking for the agent who connects with the story, but on the other hand, it doesn't give you something concrete in your hand to try to remedy. Sorry you didn't get something clearer. The only thing I can suggest is keep querying (your query's getting the job done, at least, if you've gotten a couple requests), and maybe find one or two more betas with the request to read specifically looking at how they connect with your MC. Good luck.


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I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#3 JoQwerty

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Posted 20 December 2018 - 04:35 AM

I don't think you can or should read much into these canned responses. Agents have their prejudices. When they see a promising concept, they also want to see it developed in a particular direction.  If your development aligns with what they wanted, you win. If not, well, try the next agent on your list who might have prejudices in align with how you want to tell your story. As agents never tire of saying, the selection process is completely subjective.



#4 mwsinclair

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Posted 20 December 2018 - 09:47 AM

The other part of it is the sheer difficulty of winning this lottery we're all aiming for. The agents don't have the liberty of accepting every manuscript they come across and like.

 

They need to fall in love. (There's a woeful but possibly appealing character trait for someone to write about, right there!)

 

They flirt with us -- a partial. A full. Perhaps some feedback.

 

But alas, we're out on the proverbial street once more looking for someone to fall in love with us.

 

Keep at it. Learn from it. As tough as this is, it's part of what makes us better writers.



#5 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 25 December 2018 - 06:27 PM

Ha, I just got another full request from an agent, and she seems much bigger than the other two. We'll see what happens! Thanks for the awesome responses. 



#6 RSMellette

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 08:52 PM

You have a blessing and a curse in these replies...

 

"...your voice is compelling" That is high praise. Cherish that. It also means that it's going to be harder for you in someways because many people in this industry are looking for writers who sound like the flavor-of-the-month -- even though they'll never admit that, even to themselves.

 

"...great concept" Kudos.

 

I've met and/or worked with dozens of agents and editors. I've also had to write thousands of rejection comments for films submitted to a film festival. I can tell you that agents, editors, and film festival directors don't lie. Sure, you'll get vague rejections that say bland things like, "I just didn't love it," or "it's not for me," but if they say something as specific as what you've got, they mean it. 

 

Also, agents really do have to fall in love with your work. Often, that's all they'll be paid - the joy of reading your work. An agent is your first fan. 


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#7 lnloft

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 09:42 AM

Congrats on the full.

 

The other tough thing I've noted about agent feedback is that they might tell you one thing, and then you'll pick up a book that has exactly the thing they didn't like. After one partial, an agent came back to me saying there was too much exposition. But there's one book I tried reading where literally the first 10 or so pages is just dry exposition about how this kingdom interacts with this other one and the history of this place. Far more extreme than what I have, but that one still got published. And after my full got rejected, one of the things the agent said was that dialogue tagging was excessive and therefore distracting. And the book I just finished reading was very noticeable for the dialogue tagging. So sometimes you want to point and say, "But they did it!", but it just reinforces that so much of this is a subjective business. And while I've trimmed a little bit of exposition, overall I don't think there's too much of it. But on the other hand, I don't think it hurts to pare away at the dialogue tagging, especially after reading this other book. I look at it and say, "Well, maybe my book can get published with the dialogue tagging as is, but on the other hand, do I want it to come across as mediocre as this book I just read, or do I want it to really be the best possible piece?" Take what they say, use what you think will make things better, and realize that someone will probably think differently on the rest.


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I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#8 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 10:17 AM

Ugh, got a rejection from the other full.



Thank you so much for sharing " " with me, which I’ve now had a chance to look at and think about. The concept is truly enticing, and I’d like to see where this plot is headed, but the first fifty pages just haven’t clicked for me, and I find myself reading further to see what happens rather than because I am emotionally invested here. I’m sorry to report, I just don’t think I’m a match for this. I wish you all the very best of luck in your other submissions, and thanks again for the opportunity to read.



All best,




I'm really trying to pin-point what they're not connecting to. Perhaps the MC as mentioned one agent? He is not super likeable since he gets annoyed with his brother who has autism, but they become close to the end. Though, there are plenty of unlikeable characters in fiction, take Gillian Flynn who does that all the time. I don't like pixie-perfect characters, I want them to be real. Idk if some believe MCs should be an example for readers? My betas haven't mentioned problems with characters, even saying they love them, so I'm not sure. It could be they're looking for a very specific thing as mentioned. It comes to a point where if I butcher a character to fit their needs or do I stand my ground and keep authorial integrity? I could polish the MC a little, but he fits the themes of my book which I hesitate to make him a softie. He develops a deeper understanding by the end and has progressed. I wish they'd be explicit 😥

#9 lnloft

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 08:50 PM

Ugh, I'm sorry. That pain of rejection is so real.

 

As I mentioned above, it's so hard when agents come back with what didn't work with them when you've seen the same thing done in published books. With unsympathetic MCs, I will say this, though: the ones who pull it off still give the reader a reason to keep following, and it's in one of two ways. In one, the character may be terrible but they're still entertaining, and the reader sticks with them because they want to see how far they'll go before they're finally put in their place. In the other, the character may not be a good person, but the reader can still see a spark in them that suggests they can be redeemed. From what you describe, I would suspect you are going for the latter. So does your reader at least get an idea that they will be watching a story of the character growing from someone who gets frustrated at his autistic brother to someone who loves him unconditionally (or whatever is the plotline)? It's a difficult line to balance on, but I suspect that's where you want to be.

 

I'll also ask the obvious question, and apologies if you know, but are your betas your friends/family? I do believe friends and family have value as critics, but they ultimately can't do the same as an impartial reader. Even if you're ahead of me on this and have had ten complete strangers give you feedback, I would still suggest going to the Wanted Ads forum on this board and look for a CP whom you can ask specifically to read with thoughts on the MC and connecting with the MS in general. I have had fabulous success finding CPs through the forum, and with my latest round I've asked them to read with the comments of my rejecting agent in mind. (But only in mind; I still want them giving their own thoughts, and when I asked about one point after the fact, one of my readers actually disagreed with something the agent said.) Hopefully a CP specifically looking for these points will be able to give you guidance, and if they come back as well with the conclusion that they connect fine, then at least you know it's the agents, not your story. Just remember how many books you pick up that might have rave reviews and many awards but don't connect with you. If enough impartial betas like your stuff, then there should be an agent out there somewhere who does as well.

 

Good luck.


Please note I'm also posting on behalf of people who can't sign up, so if I provide a link in the main body of the post, make sure to reciprocate on that thread.

 

I've got 250 words I'd love your feedback on: Untitled fantasy project


#10 JoQwerty

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 04:31 AM

@mojicanpuertorican,

 

Thank you so much for sharing " " with me, which I’ve now had a chance to look at and think about. The concept is truly enticing, and I’d like to see where this plot is headed, but the first fifty pages just haven’t clicked for me, and I find myself reading further to see what happens rather than because I am emotionally invested here. I’m sorry to report, I just don’t think I’m a match for this. I wish you all the very best of luck in your other submissions, and thanks again for the opportunity to read.

 

 

I think you are drawing the wrong lessons from this snippet. The agent says nothing about the MC. She liked the concept, however, she did not like the execution. It could be an issue of craft, or a problem of not meeting their expectations.

 

In the commercial genres, agents have certain expectations regarding story development that are genre specific and need to be respected.

 

In the literary genres, voiding conventions is a good thing, but finding an agent who appreciates your violations can be a challenge.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, your story may have developed along lines the agent felt were too cliched, things she has seen a dozen times before.

 

In short, the agents comments leave open multiple interpretations. Hacking your manuscript based upon these vague comments might do more harm than good.



#11 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 04:11 PM

@Inloft Yeah, I wish they'd be specific, even if it is a subjective thing. With my MC, I sprinkle in moments with his brother that are somewhat nice. It's sugary bits on the dark chocolate that I want the reader to keep eating. He mostly treats his brother with animosity because he's pretty much battered (unintentionally) his mother (physically/emotionally) even though she loves him, and my MC is the only one who can take care of him. And as for betas, I've always used people from here. I never used family or friends just because I don't want their love for me to blind them to the objective quality of my writing. I've had about 5 betas and have never had a problem with my MC. They recognize he's not all that nice, but  are still interested. I'm guessing I'm over-thinking it, and it just comes down to subjective taste? Wish I knew.

 

@JoQwerty Yeah, it does leave me to multiple interpretations which drives me crazy. Whatever the cause, I'd love a specific response, but I'm not getting it. In the end, it could be just subjective tastes.  



#12 RSMellette

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 04:38 PM

You'll never get specifics... not even when an editor for a publishing house asks for changes... it is EXTREMELY annoying. 


From Elephant's Bookshelf Press

 

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by R.S. Mellette

"WOW. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt reading this book - WOW. I was so pleasantly surprised - oh, let's be honest, it was more like blown away!" -- Holy B. In NC, Amazon Review.





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