Short Saturday: Why You Can’t Find an Agent

There’s always something good going on over at Jane Friedman’s blog, and in case you missed it, here’s an excellent guest post about how you might be sabotaging your manuscript. Aside from the number-one reason—the book is bad—the author lists three reasons why your manuscript might be having trouble finding a home.

Here’s a little bit of one:

1. Too Much Input, Not Enough Output

Smart authors know that getting feedback on their work is the key to growth and revision. But authors sometimes get stuck in a kind of analysis paralysis, trapped in a cycle of soliciting feedback, revising, soliciting more feedback, revising again, getting another beta read, removing the prologue and bumping the scene with all the explosions to chapter 1, and on and on. The result is frequently disastrous.

An example: I’m presently working with an author whose book has been in development for something like five years, during which time various drafts have been analyzed by members of her writing group. My very smart, talented client has taken a lot of the feedback from this group to heart, despite the fact that not a single person in the group has ever published a book or worked in a professional editorial capacity. …

When you receive a critique built around the phrases “I liked”/ “I didn’t like,” you’re actually gathering more information about your reader than your draft. What I respond to in a manuscript isn’t significant unless I can articulate why. Does my aversion to a character stem from his reliance on hackneyed tropes? Do my questions about the book’s conclusion come from a lack of world-building consistency? A valuable critical eye sees beyond what doesn’t work to why it doesn’t work, and hopefully further still—to how you can fix it.

Critique is a game of quality, not quantity.

For a slightly different approach to the same issue, I’ve written about the three things agents and editors look for when they are acquiring manuscripts. Together with this article from Jane Friedman, you should be all set.

Have a great weekend!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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