Monday, July 5, 2010

Another Visit From My Agent

Hey everybody! I'm still on my month-long blogging break but my lovely agent, Sara Megibow, offered to share some notes from last month's referral experiment and I knew you'd find them interesting. Enjoy!


Dear readers and writers -
Thank you for all the wonderful submissions referred by Natalie last month! I've had a delicious month reading romance, romance, romance! Just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and for considering me in your agent hunt.

Here are the results:
I read 75 partials (still have a few in my database, but not many)
I asked for 3 fulls
if I sign any new clients, I will definitely let Natalie know


Of the partials that I read, there were three main reasons for passes - I thought I would share my notes in case it helps. These notes are not true of all submissions of course, but were more of a general observation.


1) stories that opened with dialogue in which the purpose of that dialogue was to "explain" the story to the reader:

ex. (and I am making this example up - it's not taken from any real submission)

Chapter 1
"Fred, how could you? You know that mom and dad sent us here to Wisconsin specifically so you could learn how to get along with others and stop fighting!"
"But Sally, I've just had such a hard time since mom's cancer and I don't like anyone here in Wisconsin anyway"

To me, this feels like an awkward way to introduce a story to the reader, so it was one reason why I passed on some partials.


2) occasionally, I saw examples of weak writing right up front. Yes, as an agent, I could "edit" this kind of thing. But, if I see it up front, then I'll gamble that it's throughout the book. An editor at a publishing house would pass on a book for weak writing and therefore so will I.

ex. (again, making this up)
James looked out across the mesa. James picked up his coffee cup and took a sip of the hot liquid. He didn't know what was next in life, but he felt overwhelmed. James felt like this a lot.

Obviously, no submission is perfect. But, if I saw too much of these kinds of mistakes (poor use of pronouns and "telling" the reader what James is feeling instead of showing us), then I would pass on the sample.


3) data dump. This is the number one reason that I pass on projects submitted to the agency in general. I know it's really hard to integrate backstory and get the reader "into" the story. But, editors will only read 30-50 pages before nixing a work, and that's how important those first 30-50 are. So, there is no room for datadump especially upfront.

ex. (again, not taken from anything specifically)
Gretchen was an only child and the last chance for the Duchess to produce an heir. She's been sent to boarding school, trained to perform, pampered, educated, pushed and prodded. And yet, she was 22 and single. Her mother was losing her patience and Gretchen was losing her confidence. Really, there was only another month until her 23rd birthday and her mother was insisting on throwing a big ball in an effort to attract suitors.


I hope my thoughts and notes are useful and I wish you all Happy Writing!
Sincerely,
Sara Megibow

Nelson Literary Agency


Good stuff, huh? I've struggled with all three of these things. My first manuscript was a lovely little story that began with a gigantic info dump. I did learn a lot from writing it though and I'm glad I didn't give up after the first attempt. Practice. Practice. Practice. The more we write the better we get!

I hope you all have a great July and I'll see you in August.

35 comments:

Jessica Nelson said...

Very useful and very nice of her to share! Backstory isn't something I struggle with (I don't think, lol) but I probably need to double check my dialogue. LOL Thanks!

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Very helpful info. I am always thinking about the best ways to work backstory in. Thanks for sharing!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Great notes! Thanks, Sara.

And Nat, I'm glad you didn't give up either because I love your stories. Hope you're feeling better. Sending lots of love your way.

Lisa said...

Great post! Thank you!

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Thanks for the info. It's always interesting to hear what agents get bombarded with. I have made several of the mistakes they come up with in the past. Thankfully I can remedy them and definitely won't every give up! =)

Patti said...

I love when agents share why they pass on projects. I used to info dump as well, a habit I'm working hard to correct.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is good info. It's wonderful to hear an agent's rationale for rejections, and I LOVED the examples! Thanks, Sara and Natalie. :-)

Olivia Herrell said...

Thank you, Natalie, and please pass a thank you on to Sara, as well! It's so awesome that she took a look at all those ms's and asked for fulls! Too bad my own isn't complete yet, I would've loved to have submitted. You're the best for bringing such a wonderful opportunity to so many people.

Have a great July! Olivia

Ted Cross said...

Hmm, I wonder if she put her non-romance partials on hold. I've had one out with her for several weeks. Well, I'd rather it took a long time and had a positive response!

Diane said...

Good tips! Thanks for sharing them with helpful examples. :O)

Amy Jo Lavin said...

Thanks for the post! It's helpful to learn directly from agents. Now I need to go back and take another look at my manuscript to make sure I don't do those three things.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Sara, thank you for giving ACTUAL reasons for passing. We writers are usually faced with just guessing.

And in guessing, we believe our fears, which usually are far from the mark.

And thank you, Natalie, for being caring enough to do this post. May your book be a bestseller, Roland

Janet Johnson said...

Super helpful. Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to explain.

Terri Tiffany said...

Tell her thank you for all this great information!

Laura Marcella said...

This is really helpful! Thank you for taking time to give us these tips, Sara!

Natalie, hope you're enjoying your break!

Melissa said...

These tips are so helpful, thank you for taking the time to show us your general observations Sara!

Natalie, I hope your enjoying your break a lot!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for posting!! I am one of the 75, but unfortunately not one of the 3 lucky fulls :( Sarah gave me some great feedback...she said I was trying too hard to set the scene...so I guess that falls into info dump. I have a partial out with someone else right now...so if that ends in a rejection, I will definitely give some thought to reworking the story.

Jemi Fraser said...

This was so nice of Sara to do. What a sweetie. I wasn't quite ready to query this time, but I'll definitely keep her in mind - she seems like a great lady :)

Heather Sunseri said...

Great info. Thanks to Sara, and thank, Natalie, for sharing.

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks so much for sharing! Great info.

Tabitha Bird said...

Wonderful information. Thanks for sharing.

Sandy Shin said...

These are really, really great info. Thank you, Sara and Natalie, for sharing! :)

Sherrinda said...

Wow! That was great info! Thanks for sharing!

Anita Saxena said...

When I first started writing, I know I was guilty of one or all of of these no no points. I'm now proud to say that I know better. Thank you for sharing.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

interesting thanks Sara!

DL Hammons said...

That was really helpful Sara! Truly! And thanks also to Natalie for sharing her agent with us! :)

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Wow. Great post! I learned so much. Thanks for doing this.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I love coming across posts like this. Truly helpful information. Thanks so much, Sara, and thanks Natalie for hosting. I feel like I just eavesdropped on a conversation with your agent ;)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Love these posts, Natalie. Good info from Sara!

Jody Hedlund said...

How very COOL that your agent gave us an inside glimpse at why she passed on the manuscripts! That is so awesome!

Hope you're feeling better soon, Natalie. I'm surprised that things have gotten worse for you as you're nearing your due date! Hang in there!

Amy Tate said...

Natalie, thank you for posting this! Yes, that helps to see and hear about what agents don't like. I hope you're feeling well - I thought about you the other day when another writer buddy told me that she is expecting. Must be in the ink!

Medeia Sharif said...

I made some of these mistakes early on. It was great of your agent to share this.

Mystery Robin said...

I love the info from Sara - thank you!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

I gave you a blog award today :)

hope you are feeling good.

Erica75 said...

Thanks for the referral opportunity, Natalie. I was one of the 75 and I am only slightly ashamed to say my partial opened with dialogue about not wanting to move to Wisconsin. Hmmm...(no characters named Fred, though!)