While traveling recently I brought along a full manuscript submission to read. I had already read the first three chapters and was thrilled. It was a thriller with a unique and different hook. The characters were well drawn and likable and the writing was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have been more excited. In fact, I rarely travel with manuscripts, using airtime to read for pleasure, but in this case the manuscript was entirely pleasurable. Until I finished.
I loved the idea and could picture it not only on bestseller lists but also as a movie option. I loved the writing. The author had real talent, and although she’d been published before with a small house I knew she could make it big with the big houses. So what was my dilemma? The plot was a disaster. This was a thriller with no mystery at all. Intern Lisa and I both read the partial first and were shocked to discover that every suspect in fact did commit the crime, we were picking up on clues faster than the protagonist, and in fact we had solved the entire mystery before finishing the first 50 pages. It took the protagonist 400.
Easy reject, right? No. For some reason I was stumped by this one. I knew the author could write mystery and had, in fact, been well reviewed for her previous works. But why couldn’t she write this? I had a long list of revisions, but did I really want to take on the task of working with the author on them? What if she couldn’t do the rewrites? I mean this was big. It wasn’t just a piece here or there that needed correcting, this needed to be an entirely new book. And did I want to risk that? Did I want to ask her to do rewrites only to get them back and discover that it couldn’t be fixed? On the other hand, asking her to make the changes could result in just the book it could and needed to be.
Decisions, decisions. I was leaning toward offering representation. I really felt this was a book that I could do amazing things with, but I wanted to talk it over with the BookEnds team. I didn’t need them to read the book since I knew very well what was wrong with it, but I just needed their opinions and advice on how to handle the situation. I was waiting to bring it up at our Wednesday meeting.
Well, the decision was made for me. That author got a call from another agent who signed her right out from under me. Sure I was disappointed, and of course knowing someone else moved a day faster than me bummed me out, but I suppose it took the pressure off too. The decision was made for me. Do I think I lost out by not moving faster? Yes and no. I lost out on an opportunity to work with a really talented author whom I was excited about. On the other hand, the book needed a great deal of work, and doing that would take time away from my other busy clients. In the end I’m not concerned, I’ll find something else just as fabulous and that needs a lot less work.
So now I’m on a thriller hunt. I’m looking for the next Karin Slaughter or Kathy Reichs. I want a female protagonist who is tough with weaknesses. I want someone readers can relate to and a book that keeps me turning the pages late into the night.