Friday, June 13, 2008

Ask the Agent

What's Jack up to? Just being Jack on this fine spring day. He's checking out the scenery and seeing what sort of trouble he can get into.

Welcome to ask the agent for this week with Fab agent Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency. Thanks for joining us again this week . Here goes...

I'm curious as to what makes a manuscript you like turn into a "pass" instead of asking the author to rework the whatever portions don't quite click with you?

This was a left over question from an answer that I gave last week and I thought it really had some merit so I figured I would revisit.

The above situation always involves a gamble, usually one on a couple of different levels. When I’m reading a partial (or a full) I have to give it my own personal rating system. If it’s something I’m enjoying and I see potential in and I think to myself “ok, so you like this, now how much do you like it”. I start to weight the merits of the manuscript on every level from the page that it hooks me forward. I look at the quality of the idea, the development of the plot, the evolution of the characters, the authenticity and readability to the voice, the world, the strength of the writing, the skill of the story-teller, and the list goes on and on and on . . .

Then I stop and I look at my pros and cons. When I start to realize that yes there are a lot of things I really like, but also there are a lot of cons, that is when your question really comes into play.

I stop and evaluate these cons and try to figure out if they are all related to one another. I try to figure out if we can go in and fix this and that, or if once we do that it’s going to be like a giant thread and once you tug, the entire story will unravel. I look at what these fixes will take. I try to figure out if it’s something simple like working on a certain writing “tick” or if it’s something greater that shows the author just isn’t there quite yet in their potential.

When I have a story that I really love but isn’t quite there I always strike up a dialogue with the author in question. I figure out where they are in their querying process and where they are in their writing career. If they have another idea that they are working on I’ll take a look at that too to see exactly how much I love the writing of the author.

Basically I try to figure out how serious the errors are in a partial. If they are substantial but fixable I’ll offer suggestions and see how the author does with the editorial process. If they are errors that show me the craft just isn’t there yet, there is no amount of revision that can really expedite that process so I will most likely just say, “Until next time, good luck” and pass.

Hope that clears that up.

Thanks Elaine and thanks to everyone for stopping by. Please be sure to post your comments and questions.



Anonymous said...

Hey, wonderful blog! It's interesting to learn the process of editing the work of a writer. I also noticed you have some interest in watching shows, like The Mole for example, so I wanted to ask if you've heard of If Looks Could Kill. If not, I work with Toyota and we just had our launch party for it this week. I think you might be into it! Here's the rundown: We have released these thrilling new webisodes that follow an aspiring fashion designer, Bianca, who's involved in international espionage by night. If you're familiar with the BMW shorts from a couple of years ago (Guy Ritchie, Madonna), these webisodes definitely have a similar production level.


Interactive: Toyota has gone one step further, the viewer can interact with Bianca to help her unravel the mystery that has suddenly become her life. I really enjoy the multiple levels; it adds a dimension of reality to the story and builds a unique relationship between the main character and viewer.

Launch party: We just had our official launch party this week in NYC— with a special performance by Keyshia Cole, and appearances made by Alexis Phifer, Rosci, Avant, Eric Benet, and Mashonda!

I'd really love your take on the first episode—Haute Pursuit—and discuss more as the other episodes roll-out. Myself, I'm still trying to figure out who the bad guy is—the ex, the boyfriend, the boss? Or maybe it's Nana? lol

Again, would love your take because bloggers like yourself definitely have a good eye about what's cool, hot and current. I would have contacted you via email but I didn't know which the best way to reach you was. I hope I didn't overstep my bounds by directly contacting you.

Don't be shy! :)

Whitney Maiers
ILCK Ambassador

Natalie Hatch said...

Elaine, thank you, that answer has helped a lot. I'm glad Kwana has roped you into answering our questions, hopefully it won't become the Spanish Inquisition by the end of it. How do you sell your clients work to publishing houses? Do you take a group that you might target or do you have someone in mind as you read the authors work?

Kwana said...

I sure hope not, Natalie. We want to keep her around! Great question. It going on list.

Kwana said...

Thanks for checking me out, Whitney. I'll be sure to look up If Looks Could Kill. Sounds really interesting.

Anonymous said...

I was so relieved to read your response on stories you like, but pass on. I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed (and by that I mean grinding my teeth in fear). If agents are passing on stories they love, what chance does an unknown have? Your expanded explanation gives me a renewed hope. Thanks so much for the wonderful advice you're offering here.

pve design said...

Still must be painful every time the writer hears the four letter word "pass"- It pains me to think of all the gifted writers must endure this until finally, they hit the jackpot and are published. I will try to remember that tip of listing pro's and cons when I am working.
Seems like an excellent tip for editing!

Marilyn Brant said...

Thanks for offering some terrific insight on the many elements an agent has to consider before taking on a new author and project. I always enjoy reading your posts! And thanks to you, too, Kwana :).

Anonymous said...

If you have a book that was previously micro-press epublished a few years ago, but you regained the rights and rewrote it for a new market and time period (previously a period-set memoir, now a modern YA novel), and are seeking representation, at what point should you inform the agents of the manuscript's history? Upon request? Offer? Never?

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