The Need to Fall in Love
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 11 2010
Writers struggling to find an agent for their work often get frustrated by the response of many agents that they “just didn’t fall in love with it.”
Why do you need to fall in love? they ask. Just sell my book.
Why? Because in your perfect world wouldn’t you want a job you love? Doing only things you love?
That's why I write!
Hope you don't mind if I share agent Mollie Glick's thoughts on falling in love with a manuscript…
I don't think I would want someone to pitch my book if she didn't love it. Why hire someone to convince other people to pay for it if they don't believe in what they're selling?
I recently attended a writer's conference where one of the agents said he didn't agree with the "fall in love" aspect so many other agents talk about. Plenty of conversations in the hallway about that one. While I understand his point, I suspect were I an agent, I'd be in the head-over-heels required camp. I think I'd want to feel that passionate in the event it took a while to sell–because otherwise, I'd wonder if my commitment would possibly wane, and then be serving my client with less than my all. That's not fair to the client at all–why should I rob him or her of the opportunity to have an advocate who will continue to do everything within her power to sell the manuscript? Better (for me) to pass, to let that writer find his/her best representation. Not to say that agent was wrong; clearly he knew his stuff. But for the vast majority of agents, and with so much out there to sell, falling in love seems to make sense.
Joan Mora – thanks for the link! 😀
Falling in love takes time…
Trust me on this, the difference between an agent who is merely doing his job, and one who genuinely loves your work, is like the light difference between midnight and noon.
Here's the thing — how do agents know they're going to love the NEXT book the writer produces?
Because most authors (unless they are creating a genre brand of cozy mysteries, for instance) DON'T write the same type of book over and over again.
I had an agent a year ago. She loved one book (the book she signed me for) sent it out, and it didn't sell it. I could tell she didn't like my next book, she kept putting off sending it out. When she finally did sent it (to only four places) it got amazing rejections, tons of praise, far more than my first book, and a couple of close calls. But after those four subs she gave up and wouldn't send it out anymore.
THAT is what has made me really wary about agents and "love." Because at some point, doesn't professionalism have to win out over "love?" Professonally speaking, she really should've given that second book a chance, since it had far better responses than the first one. After I left, I realized it was going to be really hard to get another agent to take on that second book, and give it the subs it should have had, because it had already been "shopped" to four places. Honestly, that agent's "love" and subsequent "hate" probably set me back a year.
Love is great. I'd rather have professionalism.
This made me smile. In the midst of an agent search where the general refrain seems to be, "liked it, good writing, didn't fall in love."
And I needed to hear this. Thanks.
I'm sorry to hear your story, but I just set down a proposal from a client of mine. I think it's the fifth time I've read this proposal. She's published seven books and I can tell you I love everything I read every time I read it. Even when I send it back for revisions, rewrites and a gutting.
Want to know what love is? Love is getting swept up in the voice no matter how much work the book or proposal need. Love is feeling like crying when you put it down because it's just that good. Love is emailing the author with changes and honestly telling her you love her because the book was just that good.
The problem with love is that sometimes, sadly, it ends. No relationship is perfect and while we might love someone, we might learn later that we don't love them enough.
There are no guarantees when it comes to love and publishing. And sadly, sometimes we just have to pick up the pieces of our broken heart and move on.
See how profound I can feel. All because of love.
I want an agent who loves my book as much as I do. If the agent feels passionate about the book that excitement will show when they pitch it to editors and it will have a much better chance to sell.
Maybe agents could change it up a little? Like, "It's not your book. It's just me." Or "Let's just be friends?" Or maybe "Do I HAVE to get a restraining order?"
While I understand that everyone's different, and that the "I didn't fall in love" response creates frustration in some people, I don't understand the bile and anger over the issue that I've been seeing lately. Personally, I very much agree with what Emily Casey said a few comments above. I don't want an agent who doesn't feel passionately about my book. I can't expect even the most professionally competent agents to be as devoted to something they don't love as something they do.
You said "in a perfect world". But, the thing is, it's not one.
Great topic. I love my job. But I can say that I don't love every aspect of my job. For example, I'm not too crazy about negotiating features contracts or overseeing my department budget but I do it because it's part of my job. I want an agent to love my work. Just like I'm sure my reporters want me to love their work. Most times I do and when I don't, it's usually because it needs work. And, as their editor,it's my job to help them. A agent can't possibly love everything a person writes, but he or she still has a job to do and should work with their clients to do the best work of their lives. (This is for the person whose agent gave up on the second manuscript after a few tries.) The problem is for those who are trying to land an agent. I, too, have heard over and over the love statement. I get that. I really do. I want to fall in love, too. Love is a wonderful, terrific, all-consuming thing. But the best kind of love comes when two people (an agent and writer) make a connection and that bud of a relationship, of hope for the future, blooms into something that lasts and carries them through even when there seems to be more rain than sunshine. Am I making any sense at all?
But very few people *get* to do only the jobs they love. Most of us have jobs doing what we need to do to survive.
But the main reason this is frustrating has nothing to do with the agent. An author who wants to be published is willing to learn what is required of him. When an agent says only that the work just isn't right or they don't love it, that's an indication that there is nothing wrong technically, no obvious flaw in writing skill. The only blemish is in the ideas the author brings to the table — and an author cannot learn his way out of that. Saying that you just don't love a work is the most personal kind of rejection possible, because you are not rejecting the writing, you are rejecting him.
That's why it's frustrating. But, again, it's just how the game is played. We endure. We have to keep hoping that somewhere, there's an agent who will love us for the things we cannot change.
As a writer and reader, I rarely fall in love with a book–but I often buy it cuz it sounds interesting. How can you expect to be in love every time? Wouldn't that severely limit the amount of books we buy?
Yes, I want an agent to really like and champion my novel, but LOVE seems a bit over the top.
Sometimes it's so frustrating to get that "didn't fall in love," answer. And as simple as your post here was – it offered some insight. I read it and I thought, no, the world isn't perfect, but we all try to do what we can to make as close to as possible. So yeah, I get it. Sure in my perfect world, that response wouldn't exist (because, who wouldn't love my work?), but I can deal.
This actually makes me feel better. People don't 'fall in love' every day. So we shouldn't expect agents to either. cue 'somewhere out there…'
Remus, in my opinion, an agent who rejects a book is always rejecting the writing, never the writer. "The writing" can mean a lot of different things. The idea. The plot. One or more characters. A book can be 90% of the way there and still be rejected. Never take it personally.
The "fall in love" thing makes perfect sense to me. It isn't that an agent can't sell a book she doesn't love, although it tends to make most agents truly impassioned advocates (which helps an editor "fall in love" as well.) It's that the numbers just aren't on the writer's side. Agents are getting pitched thousands of books, and seriously considering hundreds. And an agent working on and trying to sell hundreds of books is going to have less time and energy to sell each individual one. An agent trying to sell 20 books a year is going to have a much better chance of selling each one and be better able to serve her clients. Given that, "love" just means the difference between "it's one of the 200 best books I've been pitched this year" and "it's one of the 20 best, and I want to represent it."
As tough as it can be to hear that response sometimes, I think that it can also be reassuring. Sure, it would seem easier if agents only had to like a manuscript – but in the long run, couldn't it then turn around to be the exact opposite? Just like we wouldn't want to go through life simply loving the one we're with instead of finding our perfect match, it would also be a disservice (to both sides!) to do the same with this. It's too special a journey to go on with someone who doesn't approach the ride with that same whole-hearted love for the project. Yes, the initial "just didn't fall in love with it" hurts, but I'd like to think that will only make that perfect match, so to speak, all the more exciting.
Ah, falling in love is a whole other ball game and oh so…"subjective" (which is another famous agenty word. I would be way more interested in knowing why "intriguing" isn't sufficiently enthusiastic and why "sounds like an interesting project" isn't enough to warrant a few pages. Personally, I think it's a matter of hitting the right agent on the right day in the right mood. It's enough to make your head explode. This is just one of the many reasons I started my own blog for unpublished writers – even if it is just a place where I can talk to myself and try to make sense of it all so my head doesn't explode! 🙂
Let's face it- we are passionate about writing, otherwise we wouldn't be here. Those who are equally passionate about reading understand the importance of "falling in love" with something we've read. Readers must be thrilled about what they're reading enough to spread the word. If your agent, who knows what will sell and what won't, doesn't get this thrill, it's probably reflective of how readers will receive it.
To me, you have two choices: keep querying, but also continue to try and improve your writing. As for me, I choose both of these courses of action.
I think it would be pretty tough to sell something you aren't as invested in. If you have a real connection to the ms and fall in love with it, selling it is probably going to be somewhat easier.
I have to say that I'm of several minds about this. I have a 'day job'. I don't love it. Yet, I do it and I'm paid for it. My boss doesn't care if I'm in love with the work I do.
On the other hand, I also edit for a literary journal. We get pieces in that I do NOT love, but someone else on staff does. It's all very subjective. I wouldn't want to have to take a hands-on editor role with those pieces, and I don't.
However, I'm perfectly capable of proofing them, 'type-setting' them and anything else that needs to be done. But hands-on editor? No.
Many literary agents and hands-on agents. Which means they spend a lot of time with the manuscript helping the author fine-tune it for shopping to publishers. I have a feeling that those are the agents who need to feel love. No casual, one-night stand shopping for them – they need to feel involved.
Excellent point. An agent-writer relationship is kind of like a marriage. Most Marriages without love don't work out.
I completely understand. I am one of the writers whose story you didn't fall in love with ages ago, and I actually respect an agent who won't represent a product they don't feel passionately about. How can someone do their job well if it isn't in their heart? And though we'd like to believe that money makes the world go 'round, it's actually love that does. Love for whatever it is you're doing.
Publishing is also a business and agents don't always have to love something to market it well. They have to know they can sell it, and believe it's marketable. If they love a certain project, that makes it all the more worth while. But not all agents "love" everything they rep, and I thought I'd point this out to the dear readers of this blog who are looking for solid publishing advice.
And, there are many (too many) times agents love projects they know they can't sell, which doesn't make the job easy.
Had an agent who took me because I had an offer. She didn't love me or my writing. The relationship didn't last because she couldn't feel passionate about being my advocate.
Now? Baby, I'm lookin' for love. I want to rock some agent's world, and I won't settle for less. I hope the agents on my query list won't settle for less, either.
It's a good thing my boss just walked by and I had four seconds to reconsider what I was going to post. My god, are you spoiled.
I just signed with an agent who loves my writing so much that every conversation is a dream come true.
I can't imagine settling for someone who was just confident she could sell me.
Imagine you're an agent. You have two books to sell. The first is something you enjoyed and you know an editor who will be interested.
The second book is Harry Potter, and you're the first to get queried by JKR.
Which book are you going to sell enthusiastically, with all confidence, and feel brilliant when it does well?
THAT is loving your job.
It's a tough question. Of course I want my agent to "love" my work, but love means different things to different agents. The agents I've had for nonfiction "loved" particular projects because (they thought) they were saleable. The agents I've had for fiction "loved" my voice, my style. Of course, I am not saying this is true of all (or even most) nonfiction and fiction agents, that's just my experience. But I do think different agents "fall in love" in different ways.
Great point. I think I would want an agent who LOVES my book, as opposed to an agent who just thinks there's a niche for it but doesn't have the sort of personal motivation to sell it. And it always is important to keep in mind that an agent doesn't mean it personally. There could be things she loved about the book and things she didn't like, but because taste is so subjective, there may be someone out there who loves my book enough to want to sell it. Appreciate the insight!
Love makes the word go round.
Anon. 1:55 thank you, I needed to read that.
I love my book, the characters, the story and to think it came out of my head…how amazing this all is…but I feel like I gave birth to a child that no one loves and that lack of love is based on one page which isn't even in the book but about the book.
I didn't love my husband when someone told me about him(query)…I didn't love him when I first met him(synopsis)…he was hot though(first three chapters)…I fell in like(about half way through)…and in love, really in love when…okay enough of this, he's asleep on the couch I think I'm going to go wake him up(love scene)…and that's all folks.
If you are under contract with an agent for your first novel, and the contract only specifies the first novel and makes no mention of future work, is it permissable to query another agent for your second completed novel?
Maybe as an unagented, "pre-published author", I'm looking to high, but I don't just want an agent. I want the perfect agent. And the perfect agent – for me – has to love what I'm giving them, otherwise I just don't think it will work. Thanks for the post, I'm glad to hear agents are looking for love too.
@ Anon 11:48
Regardless of your contract language, it's not appropriate to query another agent without talking to your current agent and explaining that you have chosen to terminate the relationship.
Most agents will not even consider representing you unless the divorce is final, so to speak.
Fantastic blog. Keep on rockin, Radu Prisacaru – UK Internet Marketer & Web Developer
I totally agree. It's not about finding ANY match, it's about finding the right match. There are many agents that I like and respect, but aren't right for what I do. That doesn't mean I like or respect them less, just that we're not a good match at this point.
I want someone who is as passionate about bringing my work to an audience as I am about writing it. And someone who's enthusiastic about the fact that I write many things (and I sell many things, there's no day job), and doesn't try to put me in a box, because it's an easy 10-15%.
A few years ago at a writers conference there was a panel of agents introducing themselves. Several of them mentioned needing to love a project before offering representation. One agent had a different opinion. He said he doesn't ask himself, "do I love this?" but rather "can I sell this?"
So for those writers that prefer a dispassionate approach from agents, there is at least one agent who operates in that manner.
He does not happen to be on my list of agents I wish to query.
When you do find an agent and it takes over a year to sell your book, then the next book doesn't sell after a year of trying, and the third book does sell, but only after two rounds of submission in a very tough market — you will get the love thing. You'll understand why an agent who loved your work enough to send it through three rounds of editors, with no guarantee of any financial return, is so much better than one who kind of liked it but gives up on you after round one and a few months of trying. You will get it when your agent is willing to read your ms. or proposal several times to get it just right, so that it is competitive in a publishing economy that recently imploded and where you are competing with talented, multi-published authors whose options weren't accepted. Who would do that unless they loved it? How many books do you read several times, and in the space of a few months? Seriously, when it happens to you, you will get it.
As for those saying we don't get to do what we love in the real world. So true. I'm a published writer with a day job that I like some days. On the days I like it, I tend to beat my boss's expectations. On the days it's just a paycheck and I daydream of being a full-time writer, it's hard not to put in a half-assed performance. I bet you've had days like that. It's required of the real world, but when you've beaten the crazy odds and finally found an agent, I promise you won't want half-assed.
Thank you for your input. I asked because this topic reminded me of my own agent. She phoned me to tell me that she "loved" my book and wanted to represent me. So I signed with her last August. FIve months later she retired and "gave" me to one of her underlings.
I felt like a bride left at the altar and stuck with the "best man."
Again, thank you. If anyone else has an opinion on this situation, I would be glad to hear it.
Anon 3:26 — I had an agent that "loved" my ms too and signed me. She then didn't follow up on subs, didn't want to do a second round of subs, and failed to read my next ms though she had it for over six months. When I complained about the lack of attention, dumped me off on another agent at the agency, who also sold nothing, and with one particular ms, sent it to just a few editors, so it was shopped just enough that I couldn't query another agent for it when I left.
This was an A-list agent, and an A- list agency. Her famous and best-selling clients got her attention, I got nothing. THAT'S why I say "love" isn't what you are looking for. Professionalism is. To one agent "love" means doing their best. But to another it means, I think I can make a fast buck off of this, and if I don't, I'll cut the author loose.