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Friday, February 22, 2008

Maybe We Shouldn't Take it Personally

Sometimes even agents get a generic blow off from a dismissive editor. See below:

Hi [name of agent],
Thank you for giving me an exclusive on this; I really appreciate it. I wish I could say that I just fell in love with it, but I didn't feel connected to the characters. I certainly see the potential, but in this tough climate enthusiasm has to be high, especially for fiction. Good luck, and thanks again. I hope you find a nice home for [name of author]. And I hope you'll try me again soon--for nonfiction as well fiction.
All best,
Antonia Fusco
Algonquin Books


Anonymous said...

Every cliche in the book. (da-dum!)

Seriously tho, if this is such a bad market & the agent & editors & publisher must all fall in love with something to get it out, if there must be such a big happy consensus of love to get your crumby $7k advance, well, why are there so many shallow stupid dumb or unremarkable books being published today?

(Because the simple shallow stuff is easier to love?)

(Do ya think for even just a second in the summer of 1904 that they'd ever form a consensus of love for FINNEGANS WAKE, eh?)

This is not my subjective "opinion," either: take time's "opinion" into account & ask how many books from last year are still remembered. Or the year before. Or still in print.

It's not about quality. It's never about quality. It's not about what's right, what's good, what's great. It's not even about what will sell.

It's about what the agent and the editors and the publishers think that THEY can sell.

And they come into the game wanting or thinking they can sell a certain thing, they're looking for THAT.

Look at Nathan Bransford's blog where he recently admits that he has no idea how to tell what is good and right versus what is bad (or not as good), or wrong: to him, it's all subjective! And he's asking the readers of his BLOG for tips!

Most of these agents (and, alas, editors too) aren't going to understand Plato and St. Augustine, they won't consider themselves Thomistic thinkers: ergo they don't understand that all beauty in art comes from its integrity (it all works together as a discernible whole), its harmony (the diverse portions fit in perfect unity), its proportion (the various magnitudes of the work, whatever they may be, have measurable equilibrium throughout), and finally its splendor (which manifests its artistic expression). All art orders the mind who feeds upon it to its ultimate and greater good -- in other words, it is moral. None of these criteria are subjective. It's not our "feelings." They are, rather, wholly OBJECTIVE and universal criteria and they are applicable to every work in every time through the history of man.

(Yes, I understand that most authors submitting their works are not even after Art, they aren't vying for a slot next to War and Peace or the Decameron -- but a few of us are, and whether we make it or not or are even up to the enormous task at all, the fact remains that what we are doing is measurable and its sum-total can be discerned. Otherwise we'd only be talking apes pleasing ourselves with happy shapes and colors. Which is, yes, an "opinion" most agents probably hold, a priori!)

Kate Evans said...

OMG-to make matters worse, this is a form letter. I swear it sounds exactly like some of the letters editors sent to my agent. They must share a boilerplate because, you know, writing with an original voice, style and ideas is really really hard.