QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Love Matters

Courtesy of nellart

You're standing in the middle of a bookstore. On every side are aisles and aisles full of hungry paper. Staring at you. Each a siren's song meant to entice you into their story. Author shaped shadows huddle behind the covers, waiting. Pleading.

And yet, unless you've happened upon a rather large fortune recently, there's no way you could bring every good and worthy book home. Because there are a lot of them.

Maybe you prefer action and high tech gadgets to beautiful scenery and romance. Or maybe you like glass slippers and happily ever afters to misshapen monsters lurking in the dark, just waiting for their victim to pass by.

Odds are, as a reader, you're going to be drawn to certain stories over others, narrowing your genres. Does that mean the stories with sultry evenings or undeserving corpses are not good enough? Of course not! It means that there are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank. Time is finite, and people tend to those things they enjoy the most when they can.

But the good news is that there are a lot of readers. And they all want different things.

So while you may not be feeling much towards the entire technology section, you're eyeing the time travel novels with anticipation. So you start pulling them off the shelf--ignoring the author-shadow rustlings--and admire the covers before flipping the book over and reading the blurb on the back. Some of them are well done, and some of them are the annoying kind. The kind that have a lot of quotes praising the story without giving you, the reader, any idea what the story's about. And some, well, yes. Not quite what you were looking for.

And you only have $24.00.

You find ten lucky books and stagger off into the corner to get to know them better. You flip a couple open, fanning through words, hoping to find gems. That one's all right, but not singing. That one . . . no. Not what you were looking for after all. This one, yes. Definitely a possible yes. You set it aside. You dig through the stack, anticipation racing through your fingertips.

And then you find it. The one that has a great plot, awesome characters, and an incredible voice. That voice that feels like a leaf from your heart. Your eyes race across the page. Devouring. You're right at that part--you know, the one where everything hangs in the balance and one wrong breath and it all collapses like a house of cards--and someone taps you on the shoulder.

Excuse me, sir/madam, but we're closing now.

You blink at the sale's clerk, disoriented. What is she talking about? If only that person could figure out that clue at just the right . . . and then the bookstore filters back into your consciousness. Your heart is thumping against your chest. You're head comes back to rest on your neck. And your stomach redoubles its attempts to catch your attention.


You look at the scattering of books littering the floor at your feet. Sheepishly, you hand her two from the pile and clutch the one you've been reading as you follow her to the counter.

That'll be $28.50.

You eye the three books sadly. One of them's going to have to go. You lay one aside, promising yourself you'll stop by the library the next day. But in your hand burns gold.

This is what I imagine it's like for agents as they go through queries and read through manuscripts. A lot of them pass on things that are perfectly good (and sometimes not so good), because they only have $24.00 to spend a day, so they pick the stories they love.

As writers, sometimes we get so caught up in needing to get to the next step, that we rationalize everything in our head. If an agent would just . . . If only he/she would . . . But do you want just any old agent? Someone who might enjoy your story without ever having loved it?

Or do you want someone who is in love with your story? Who won't rest until it's on the shelf, even if it takes a few years to get there. Who sees gold in the tangle of words and won't be satisfied until they dig it up and polish it for the whole world to see.

I don't know about you, but when I find those books on the shelf, the ones that last with me long after The End, those are the books pulsing through my veins that I come back to time and time again. Those are the books that remind me why reading is such a magical experience.

And I want my agent to feel that way when he/she picks up my manuscript. It's not enough for them to like or enjoy it. That wanting needs to burn through them until the words hollow out a place in their heart for it.

Because I want my agent--my advocate--to love my story as much as I do.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  


REG said...

With such encouraging words,I should be happy to be rejected any day of the week. Thanks for putting the process into perspective.

Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

I'd like them to love it even more... that will inspire me to keep going, even when I'm frustrated with it as I revise.

Stina said...

Brilliant post, Danyelle.

I'm always having to remind writers (and myself) this. I've also noticed that what other readers gush about might still not be the book for me (that's why I'm careful now about overly hyped books). Plus, I might not connect with the mc in the same way as another reader connected with her. Same deal with agents. One agent might not connect with your mc but another will. Of course, if none connect with your mc, then you're headed for rewrites (or shelving the book).

womenswrites said...

I love this blog and often think about commenting but don't usually have time. This one, like so many others, is just wonderful. Thanks for posting!!

M. Dunham said...

So very true - we as writers sometimes forget the agents are people, with just as much finite time, money, and preferences for what they love.

Good post, Dany! :)

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Great post! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Danyelle, a great post among greats!

I love the bookstore metaphor, but in a way it's the publisher that has the $ to conserve. But an agent's love for the MS is gold.

It's encouraging to think that agents who pass on the MS aren't the right ones to help make it successful.

BTW, I blogged about this post at my blog today. And thanks so much for your insights!

Claire Merle said...

I totally agree. I was lucky enough recently to get three offers from three good agents, and while I liked the two I didn't pick, the agent I did pick and who is now my agent blew me away with her enthusiasm. I came off the phone to her feeling on a total high. She loved the book, loved the characters. We get on extremely well and as a consequence the revisions we agreed on together before submitting felt totally right and went very smoothly. I guess in the end the same thing could be said for finding an editor/ publishing house.
Great post! Thanks

Anonymous said...

We're all lookin' for some lurve!!!

Nice post, Danyelle! :D

Danyelle L. said...

@REG: Thanks! Perspective, I've found, is a key ingredient for querying sanity. ;-)

@Shakespeare: Very true! Definitely better if the agent loves the story even more. :D

@Stina: Thanks! I agree. Books are an insanely personal experience. And what doesn't connect for me, will very well connect with someone else. (And very wise words on shelving for rewrites. :D)

@womenswrites: Thanks! And thanks for stopping by!

@Marisol: Thanks! We're going to have to figure out a way to convert the finite into the infinite. ;-)

@Mary: Thanks! :D

@chriskellywriter: Thanks! :) The $24.00 for the agent wasn't so much money as time. 24 hours in a day. ;-)

@Clare: Congratulations! Yes, I think that enthusiasm can make all the difference. :D

@Laura: Thanks! And yes, indeed. >:)