I posted recently asking who’s opinion mattered more when it comes to buying books: agent, reader, publisher, etc? Recently, it seems this very question has been cycling through the publishing community. (Check out this entry over at Jenny Bent’s blog). Well, yesterday, I got to step into an agent’s shoes (kind of) and realized just how subjective this business really is.
I entered a contest of sorts at Cupid’s Literary Connection, a blog that “brings writers and agents together to form magical literary connections.” I don’t know who Cupid is, only that he/she is a writer and must have excellent connections. The contest I entered is a blind speed dating sort of thing. I emailed my query and first 250 words of my manuscript to Cupid. The first 50 on Friday and the first 50 on Saturday were entered into the contest. In Round One, four “Bouncers”, three writers and an editor, weed through the first 50 and choose which will advance to the next round. Next week, they’ll go through the second 50. In Round Two, twelve agents are each given a set of “arrows”. They read the entries and shoot arrows to choose manuscripts they’d like to request. One arrow for a partial, three for a full. They get a different amount of arrows each day and the cost per request increases throughout the week. At the end of the week, their requests will be posted and connections will be made.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? I was lucky enough to be one of the first 50, and even luckier that one of the Bouncers put me through to the next round. Now I just have to wait another two weeks to see if I get any requests.
So, how did I step into an agent’s shoes? All 50 entries are posted on the blog. I numbered a legal pad and started reading. Next to each number I wrote either “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or split up my answers based on the query and the first 250. Several received a “no” on the query and a “yes” or “maybe” on the first 250. I’ve then been checking the blog, somewhat obsessively, and writing down which Bouncers put through which numbers.
Here are my stats:
Of 50 entries, I said yes to 22, maybe to 9, straight up no to 12, and was split on 7. Of my picks:
The first Bouncer put through 1 yes, 1 maybe, 1 no, and 2 splits
The second Bouncer put through 4 yeses, 3 maybes, 2 nos, and 2 splits
The third Bouncer put through 12 yeses, 3 maybes, 2 nos, and 2 splits
*UPDATE* The fourth Bouncer put through 3 yeses, 1 maybe, 2 nos, and 1 split.
Bear in mind that
9 11 of those were entries at least 2 Bouncers agreed upon, so as it stands 32 entries have been put through to the next round. There are still 9 7 entries I gave a “yes” to that haven’t been put through yet, and one Bouncer remaining. Now, some I didn’t put through because they really just weren’t my taste and were, therefore, hard to judge, but most I tried to look past genre and judge on the premise and the writing.
If I were an agent looking for say, YA, and I received these queries one morning. I would have immediately rejected 17 for not being the right genre. Of the remaining 33, I would have outright rejected 8. Based on the query alone (which is all most agents see), I would have rejected 5 more. As for the maybes, they probably would have been rejections too because I didn’t love them, and I’d only have time to take on so many, so that’s another 5. That leaves 15. Of those 15, I was really interested in 10 (interesting note: only 5 of those were put through by the Bouncers). Of course, how many of those 10 I’d request would depend on my schedule, what I already had on my plate, and if I had anything similar or had recently tried to sell anything similar, so let’s just guess and knock it down to 5. That’s 5 out of 50.
It’s pretty eye opening. I appreciate an agent’s job so much more now. It’s such a highly subjective business. I’m certain some of the entries I passed on would greatly appeal to someone else.
5 of my outright “nos” were put through by the Bouncers. Several others had scores of comments underneath by people who loved the premise and sample; but it didn’t appeal to me. So next time you get frustrated, remember how subjective it is and that there could be someone out there who will love your work, you just have to find them. I think everyone should head on over to Cupid’s blog and try it out for yourself and see how your picks compare to the Bouncers! It just might surprise you (and will give you an idea of just what some agents are looking for/interested in).