A Facebook friend asked me the other day why we agents don’t just take on a project based on other people’s reviews, and I realized that it is part of the process that most writers really don’t understand.
Our job as agents is to sell your project to the publishers. In order to do that, it has to be in a genre that we understand, one in which we are well-read, and it has to be a story that we absolutely love. It doesn’t matter to us who looked at it and loved it before. We have to read it, know it inside and out, and love it completely. Because if we don’t, it would be impossible to convince someone else that they should spend a ton of money to produce it. And remember, we don’t get paid until we sell your book. So all the reading, sifting through, revising, and chatting with the prospective author is done without reimbursement. We need to know for ourselves that the risk we are taking is worth it.
Imagine you are the publisher. Would you take on a project if I told you it was a good story and it might sell if you give it a chance? Or would you take on the project that I stood in front of you, jumped around like a lunatic, and told you that I loved it and it was the best story. Ever.
Don’t get me wrong – if you told me that Stephen King had read your book and was willing to put a blurb on the cover saying how much he liked it, that would make me look at your manuscript
so fast I’d get whiplash a little quicker. But I would still have to love it. Because I just can’t sell something I don’t love 100%.
The solution? Instead of telling us how much all those people who read it loved your book, make the writing shine – write a gripping opening, with real characters you can’t help but love (or love to hate), give us a great voice, make us laugh or cry or both, and make us never want to put the book down. And allow us to decide for ourselves.