July 17, 2012

What Agents Really Mean When They Say "We're not a Match"

If an agent tells you "sorry, we're not a match," what they're really saying is: you're better off swinging by Walmart, picking up a 10lb bucket of sherbert and parking it on your couch for the rest of the year watching old Roseanne re-runs than writing another word.

The truth is, no matter how nicely an agent tells you that they are not your match, a rejection hurts. This isn't news to anyone, really, but if you look more closely at how I wrote that sentence you might notice something: the agent is telling you they are not your match. Not that you aren't good enough for them. Not that your novel sucks. But that they are not right--them!

This may seem like a super trivial distinction to draw, but it matters. A lot. Think about it this way: how many times has your book club, or circle of friends, or extended Italian family, or whoever, read the same book and had completely different opinions about it? All. The. Time. I don't think my book club has ever given a unanimous thumbs-up for a book. And we're just twelve lovely ladies who like to drink wine (shout to The Novel Bites!).

I have so many good friends out on sub right now. So many twitter buddies are out there climbing the same mountain, and generally feeling terrible about each rejection. Or rather, each pass. I'm calling it a pass, because, really, that's what's happening. You are being passed on to the next agent. And that next agent might just be your match.

What does that mean, exactly? Your match is an agent, or editor, or publisher who reads your novel and gets it. As in, if they had attempted to write your novel, it would've come out similarly to what you wrote(except better).
NOT: I read this and have so many suggestions that what would result is a completely different novel.
NOT: I read this and kind of liked it but think you should change the setting to Japan in the 14th century with midget twins for MCs.
NOT: I like this.
Your match will love your novel. They will say they loved it. They will be full of ideas which make total sense to you, and are an evolution of your own thinking. Working with your match will be like working with you, only a better you who's done this many times and has the experience to push your novel to its absolute best. Chances are, you do not have this quality within you. That's why you need the right match.

Note, not a good match. Not a thank-God-they-want-me match. But the right match . . . and there are only a handful of agents out there who will match you. So if someone says they are not your match, it's really okay. There is absolutely NO WAY that any one writer could be every agent's match. We're all different flavors. Only the right pairing works.

For more wonderful cartoons about a writer's life, please hop on over to one of my very favorite sites, Inkygirl! Seriously awesome illustration and writing awaits you.

If you need help finding a match, check out Agent Query, Publishers Marketplace, and my personal favorite, Literary Rambles, which offers in-depth info on each agent's profile. And if you're working on a query, check out this post on query resources.


15 comments:

  1. Melanie -
    Thanks for this post - really needed to see it today! :)
    Just wanted you to know that I awarded you with a Fabulous Blog Ribbon. Stop by my blog, http://cherylfassett.wordpress.com/, on or after 7/18 to see what it is all about!
    Cheryl

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    1. That's so sweet! Thanks for thinking of me, Cheryl! I'll drop by tomorrow :)

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  2. "There is absolutely NO WAY that any one writer could be every agent's match. We're all different flavors. Only the right pairing works."

    I am SO glad you said(typed?) this! I truly believe in this idea...if you write a great story, people will dislike it. If everyone liked your story, I think you'd be hard pressed to find people who *loved* it, so you have to take the bad with the good! You can't please everyone, but you are so right...it is all about finding *the one*

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    1. Thank you :)

      The insider scoop on these thoughts is this: I had an agent on my list and so I started following her on twitter. After some time, I realized I didn't care for her at all. I cringed when I read her tweets! I was grateful that I could put a little "x" in my list, because the more you know, well, the more you know. She should not have been on my list. Patience helps, but it's never ever an easy virtue.

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  3. I haven't started compiling lists of agents yet, it sounds like a daunting task! I also read Literary Rambles and have made some notes for when I'm ready to query.

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    1. Check around the blogosphere--there are LOTS of great lists and resources out there about finding a good list of agents. It is daunting, but it's just the way the business works--it's not you!

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  4. Rejection sucks but it's part of the journey. You wouldn't want someone who wasn't smitten by your work. I know I wouldn't.

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  5. Melanie, Thank you for this excellent post on how to keep perspective with the query process. It will definitely help me when I'm reading rejection letters. I also appreciate the links for agent information; Literary Rambles, in particular, looks great! Thanks!

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  6. Nice to read. I remember googling the exact words an agent used in a rejection to get a more thorough understanding what they meant. I think understanding this is very important. Thanks Melanie.

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    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I can't believe some of the things I've googled in my search for deeper understanding of the process. To date, some of the best information I've read is from editors. Editorial blogs are a goldmine, and many editors write them because people in publishing love to write!

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  7. Love this post, Melanie (I've bookmarked it!). It's so true and a great thing for writers to remember. Rejection is never fun, but it's something we have to accept for our work to find it's way into the right hands. Thanks for another good post!

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  8. P.S. I just awarded you the Fabulous Blog Ribbon Award. :) Swing by my site to check it out!

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  9. I have well over 200+ rejections for a book I thought would be an easy sell. I was wrong. I quit writing, feeling sorry for myself. I'm now better. I realize agents have a job to do--even though their job sucks--and that is to sift through countless queries to find the one true gem. Unfortunately, what one agent calls a gem may be another agent's piece of coal (putting the term mildly). I'm sick of the rejections. I'm sick of the business. I hope hurricane Sandy blows apart all those agent offices and flushed those literary tyrants into the Hudson.

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  10. Melanie- what a GREAT post! I totally agree. Though as someone who got more form rejections on her full manuscript, I do have to say R's suck!!! ;) Good luck revising your middle grade and loved seeing your process/notebooks on Skype yesterday. :-)

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