Tag Archives: literary agent

Should You Rewrite for Representation?

open laptop and a personal organizer on an office table

I finally found an agent to represent my crime novel only if I can rewrite the book in the antagonist’s point-of-view.

Ironically, that is the only point-of-view missing from my original 120,000 word manuscript. First, I cut 20,000 words to get the novel within the 100,000 word guidelines most agents seek. Second, I cut the prologue and epilogue since most agents said they weren’t necessary. Third, I added a few flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle that had been deleted by the prologue. Finally, I rewrote the ending to add the symbolism needed to hint at the missing epilogue.

After sending the manuscript to 64 agents over many months and receiving mostly instantaneous rejections, I took a break and focused on other things. I learned about concept writing and rewrote the one line pitch and one page synopsis and gained the attention of my current agent-to-be whose only request was to rewrite the entire manuscript from multiple points-of-view to a single point-of-view.

It may sound like a simple request, but that’s not how I reacted.

After calming down, I sent an email to the agent-to-be requesting a telephone conversation. I woke up at 5:30 am and placed a call to New York at 6 a.m. For fifteen minutes I discussed my concerns, going over my woeful history of almost sales over 25 years writing fiction. “How was this experience going to be different?” I asked. “It’s just another request to rewrite without a contract.”

The agent-to-be listened patiently before she responded. “You don’t have to do anything,” she said. “You may shop the manuscript around and find someone interested in the story as it is or sell it on your own. But if you want my support and expertise, you need to rewrite the story from the antagonist’s point-of-view. She’s the most interesting character, the one I want to know the most about, and I feel cheated as a reader because so many questions could be answered by her thoughts and feelings but aren’t because I don’t have any access to them.”

Hmmm…my beta readers had actually said they liked not knowing what the villain thought and felt.

But here was someone who worked to sell manuscripts to major publishers who had time and money and expertise to expand an author’s readership.

Could I find the time between working six days a week, going to school, and parenting children to rewrite the manuscript from another point-of-view?

If I decide to embark on this task, I do so without guarantees. I don’t have a contract with the agent. I don’t have any promise of publication. I only have one person’s opinion and a dream to be read.

What would you do?


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Clarify the Concept

This is a follow-up to my October 2013 post Resilience.

“We like your writing, but we don’t like your concept. . .”

After receiving a dozen rejection letters from literary agents all stating the same thing, I started to wonder: what do they mean by “concept” and why don’t they like mine?

Concept is NOT what a story is about. It is a specific thing that happens to a specific person that must be specifically solved.

My query letters all stated situations, ideas, and plot points. As a result, my query ended up reading like an episodic adventure, which is why I kept getting those rejection letters.

I needed to rewrite my query to focus on the concept, to tell the dramatic core of the story and leave everything else out.

The problem was I didn’t know how to describe a novel in which multiple storylines overlapped. I only knew that if I left the query as it was, I would continue to get rejection letters.

I put the query aside and started focusing on other things: art, exercise, prayer, and family. I played a lot of hockey on the XBox and watched more movies of the books I wanted to read. I followed the advice of successful authors who suggested I read developmental studies on how to build a story from a concept and how to transform a weak query into a stronger one.

But, most importantly, I let go of all expectations.

Months later, I woke up hearing a voice. The person was reading from a piece of paper. It was my concept turned into a story. I leapt out of bed and sat down and transcribed the words until tears brimmed in my eyes.

I had my pitch!

Sometimes when we give up, we are really giving in to the universe and allowing our dreams to manifest. By turning away from my problems and enjoying the abundance of life and giving thanks for the wonderful opportunities I have been given to grow, I allowed my prayers to be answered.

Now the true test: will a literary agent like my revised concept enough to request the full manuscript?

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Resilience

Girl Jumping on Bed

“A hard fall means a high bounce…if you’re made of the right material.” –Unknown

Every single phenomenal story seems to take the same route: guy has a dream, guy fights and sacrifices and loses everything for his dream, but at the last possible moment, his dream comes true and everything is restored.

This week I endured another round of rejection. Everyone who read my query, synopsis, and sample chapters said the same thing: we love your writing, but we hate your concept.

Concept is the core story. Changing it is the equivalent of starting over and writing a completely different book.

Or is it?

When I asked the last literary agent what she meant by her comment, she suggested I just keep dating to see if I can find the right match without changing my hair color, losing 20 pounds, and getting Lasik surgery. In other words, she didn’t want me to gut my story and start over.

“If 65 agents say the same thing, then you should probably rethink your concept,” she said. “Anything less, I would keep looking.”

I’m only down to a dozen rejections. That leaves 53 more to go before I have to sharpen my pencil.

In the meantime, I have to stop fretting and doubting and worrying.

The only way to do that is to continue working.

After all, as the stakes keep getting higher and the sacrifices keep getting bigger, the payoff gets better.

Don’t let the rejections keep you down. Bounce back, higher and higher. Continue to strive toward your goals.



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The Quest for an Agent

Man holding a note that reads 'call me'
Searching for an agent is like dating.

I start by letting friends and family members know I am ready. My book is finished. It needs to be sold, and who better to sell it than an agent with a great reputation, preferably one who works with a writing friend. It’s a lot like scoring a date with your best friend’s brother. You know the family, get along with them well, and your future sister-in-law already feels like family. It would just be making it all official.

Of course, the chances of it working out beyond the first date are infinitesimally small.

The number of writing friends who have an agent who represents adult fiction dwindles considerably once I factor in the genre: suspense, thriller, crime, and mainstream. Those are the genres in which I feel the book fits. Trying to convince my friend’s agent who represents romance that my manuscript would be perfect for her would be a lot like trying to convince my friend’s brother who is gay that dating me would be a match made in heaven.

Once I exhaust the friends and family route, I determine to strike out on my own to meet The One. That’s a lot like being in the right place at the right time and saying the right thing to get the right response. I hang out where agents hang out: writer’s conferences, book expos, national and local writer’s groups, and publishing conferences. To mitigate the cost, I apply for grants and scholarships and chances to win an all expense paid for trip and an exclusive one-on-one meeting with the agent of my choice by writing a contest-winning essay or story. Hundreds of thousands of other writers also apply for the same chance to win. After paying the entry fee and waiting several months, I discover the winner is another lucky writer, not me. Since I have too many home and auto repairs to cover the entrance fee into the conference, not to mention travel, lodging, and meals, I proceed to Step 3 of my quest: Internet dating.

After all, I’ve heard so many stories of others finding true love through Match.com. Why can’t I find a literary agent through one of the online match making companies that bring writers and agents together? I fill out the online questionnaire, opt for the four week no cost special, and upload the first 100 pages of my manuscript into the database. Several times a day I check my mail, hoping someone read my partial manuscript and wants to see the rest of the novel. Whenever a new agent joins, I make sure I “wink” at them if they represent the genre in which I write. Sometimes they wink back and a dialogue begins about my book. Most of the time, however, they don’t. A few request the full manuscript, promising to get back to me within six to eight weeks with a response. Many, however, decide to pass.

Although I’ve abandoned my search for an agent many times over the years, I am hopeful this time I will find The One. It took three years before my husband finally asked me out on a date. Hopefully, it will take less time to find the perfect agent.


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