Friday, April 30, 2010

Real Life Example of Agent Subjectivity

We hear all the time that the writing business is subjective. It's true.

I wanted to share a huge lesson I learned while querying my first book. Two agents gave me detailed rejections.

Rejection #1

Unfortunately, I didn't find Prue to be a likable character. She sounded childish and was too curious and trusting

Rejection #2

While I enjoy your writing style, and I think you have a nice, strong heroine...,

That's right, my fellow bloggers! Opposite opinions. Are you surprised? Don't be. Agents and editors are readers, just like us.

This is why it's so important to weigh a professional's advice carefully. With the first rejection, the agent invited me to resubmit if I reworked the heroine, I decided not to for various reasons. I went with my gut and although that story is shelved for a while, I'm now confident that it's possible for others to like my heroine.

Do you have a real-life example of subjectivity to share? Have you ever gone with your gut and ignored advice? Did you regret it? Or not?

25 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

I've gotten the EXACT same thing with contest judges. I usually let it sit for awhile and then come back to it. I do go with my gut sometimes, and othertimes, I go against it.

Here's an interesting story.

I paid for a professional critique. Make some changes that I didn't necessarily agree with. (This was a very well known, reputable critiquing service run by a published author) Took it to the conf and pitched my work to an agent, who gave me feedback that pretty much went against what the critiquer said and asked me to change it before submitting the full to her. So there ya go! It's all so subjective.

Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, I love that example Katie! Isn't it funny how that goes. And you put so much work into it...but at least you got to change it back to the way you previously liked it. :-) Thanks for sharing that!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I have had this happen with my work and it can get confusing. Time usually helps me sift through it, but I'll be honest...this is why I am excited to get an agent. I want insight from someone who makes a living at this.

~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

Me too Wendy. Once I have an agent, that's whose word I'm going to take probably 95% of the time.

Terri Tiffany said...

It is so subjective! Hopefully as you all mentioned, when I have an agent, he/she will have enough objectivity to know what works and doesn't work.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, yeah. This is the post of the century, my dear. All of us have experienced this, unless we've hidden our ms. under the bed.

I pitched a book idea to one editor and two agents at a conference last summer. The first agent said, "you need to change this devotional book to a non-fiction; no one is buying devos. Make the chapters longer and widen your audience." The editor said, "Can you make it into a daily devotional? We are interested in buying devotinals. I'd love to see the proposal." The second agent leaned forward, listening attentively while I pitched and read one chapter. She later offered me a contract.

Go figure.

Jessica Nelson said...

Terri, yep!

Wow, cool story Jeanette! Thanks so much for sharing that!

patti said...

Great example of one man's treasure is another man's trivia.

Hmmm. I usually go with my top advisors, Natasha and a couple of soulmate writers, who seem to know what I'm trying to do better than me!! LOL

Happy weekend, dear Jessica!!
Patti

Nancy said...

You made the right choice. It would be a shame if the second person were right and you trashed your heroine just to please the first person. Hope you can wake her up some day and finish your book.

Keli Gwyn said...

Before I decide to follow someone's advice regarding my story, I consider the source. Jody Hedlund had a great post last week called How to Handle Feedback in which she prioritized the people giving us comments on our writing. At this point, I've stopped entering contests and am focused on implementing the suggestions my agent gave me. She knows her stuff, and I trust her.

I received a good deal of feedback from contest judges in the past, and I looked for agreement. If several judges said the same thing, I took a serious look at the area they had problems with. If the feedback was varied, I went with what I thought was best for my story.

Jessie, I think it's cool that you got the go-ahead to resubmit on your first pass. That shows you've got talent and the agent recognized it. The fact that two agents took time to give you personalized rejections on your first query does too.

T. Anne said...

It IS subjective! These are just people. I say go with your gut! And per your comment on my blog I think it's fine to ask blogger buddies for title advice. ALthough it might change it will be a marketing device to find an agent.

Erica Vetsch said...

I see it a lot as a coordinator for a writing contest. Scores, recommended changes, and likes/dislikes are subjective.

Jessica Nelson said...

Erica, you coordinate? Wow!!! I imagine that takes a ton of time and organization for you. Thank you!

T. Anne, you're so right!

Keli, Jody always has good info on her blog, right? :-) Thanks for your sweet words. With contest judges I look for agreement too. When querying though, these were the only agents that mentioned my heroine so I'm really glad I didn't change her for the first agent. I like her the way she is, even though she seems to bring out strong reactions. LOL

Jessica Nelson said...

Patti, I'd say Natasha is def. a trusted advisor. :-) I hope you have a wonderful weekend too!

Exactly Nancy. ;-) Yeah, I think I do plan to send her in to some pubs, even though she needs some tweaking.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I know it's so funny yet frustrating. I once submitted to writing contest where the judge (although very nice) said I'll never get my book published unless I changed the heroine.
Well, I didn't. And it WAS published. LOL!!!

Cindy said...

That's an interesting example--thanks for sharing.

I haven't gotten much agent feedback to this point but I have gotten complete opposite opinions about my work. I agree that having an agent will really help.

Angie Muresan said...

Very interesting. I am not at that stage yet, but plan to be real soon. We'll see how it goes.
Happy weekend to you, Jessica.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but then again, I'm fighting a migraine. Maybe I should come back tomorrow. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Angela said...

This is probably the most frustrating part of being on submission. I love it when my agent passes on feedback, but I get a case of the crazies when there is a huge variance in why the editor passed.

Karen Lange said...

Oh my, guess that's the time to pray for the right balance to know how to proceed. Thanks for sharing this:)
Happy weekend,
Karen

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Yup. I hear it's the same with submissions to editors too. One loves your setting and not your MC. Another connects with your MC but ones the setting developed more.

It's all about finding the right fit for you and your story.

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post and comments. I've certainly received conflicting criticism. It is so important for us as writers to learn how to chew the meat and spit out the bones, be humble and grow, but also learn to trust our guts and keep writing the stories God gave us.

Jessica Nelson said...

I agree, Susanne. It's a fine balance and I think sometimes takes time to learn. Love your metaphor!

Karen, Exactly!

The other Karen, *grin* that would be Karen Lange, praying is def. something I should do more of when these things happen. Thanks for the reminder!

Jessica Nelson said...

Jennifer, I don't understand! I loved your heroine. She was great. Hmmm.

Cindy, are you querying right now? I'm crossing my fingers for you. :)

Angie, woohoo! I hope it goes well, or at least productively for you!

Susan, i'm sorry about the migraine. Hope it went away....

Angela,
I can't imagine! I have a friend going through that and it's really tough.

Deb Shucka said...

First of all, congrats on getting such great rejections!

The responsibility always ultimately rests with us, doesn't it? I think if we listen to all the advice and let it ferment a bit, some clearer truth will always bubble to the surface.