What Is Love?

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 22 2010

In the blog post The Need to Fall in Love, I made a comment in reply to one reader’s question about how an agent knows if she’ll love the author’s next book. Since I was so impressed with myself [said with preening smirk] I thought I would share my comment in a post. I also hope it will help others who feel they’ve been burned by an agent’s love.

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 needs. 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 amazing.

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 or maybe we love them for who we thought they were, but learn later that they really aren’t who or what we thought.

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.

**let me clarify that the love for the author I’ve been working with has not ended. in fact, I am happily working with her on revisions for yet another book. What I am saying though, is that love ends and can end. It can end for authors as well. There are plenty of times an author signs with “the perfect agent” only to discover later that for whatever reason, she’s had a change of heart.


23 responses to “What Is Love?”

  1. Avatar Kimber An says:

    It's easier to *let go* of the last story if I'm already emotionally invested in the next one.

  2. Avatar wry wryter says:

    Okay then, suppose I am the book, suppose I am the author, the broken pieces on the floor.

    Maybe it really wasn't love because with love comes commitment.

    Comparing the love of a book to that of a person is one sided. As the author, my love of the book is as a parent for a child.
    My love is unconditional, even if it's bad I love it because it is my baby, even if it stinks, I'll change it, even if it's horrible, I'll stand by it until it becomes someone or something even I don't recognize as my progeny.
    So to profess the love of a project to an author over and over again and they fall out of love is like saying I once loved your child and now I do not.

    Be gentle because parents/writers get very defensive.

    If I had been the author you wooed and dropped the devastation would have been awful and I have the hide of a rhino.
    They have ointment for that you know.

  3. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Writers seeking publication have to let go of that whole "my work is my baby" thing. Sure, think of it that way while writing, but let it go once you're at the point of wanting to find an agent. You'd never sell your baby, or hold her up for all the world to critique when some of those reviews will be brutally harsh. You'd never pimp your baby to a TV producer (for a tiny option and pitiful back-end, no less) who thinks she'd make a good weekly drama. Once you're published, you'll get what I mean, but I think if writers realize this before publication, it would make the road-to-publication less painful. I think a productive mantra would be: ms. is not baby; ms. is commodity.

  4. Avatar wry wryter says:

    I have been published, 57 times and each and every one felt like a child. My tear-sheets are like a family I am proud of.
    It's called a comparison…get it.
    The post compared love of a person to love of a piece of writing.
    The agent doen't have to screw the author to love her work any more then I have to pimp my child.

    I told you parents get defensive.
    Why do some writers sit on such high horses.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    wry wryter,

    You're right – I did get a little high horse — didn't mean to. I just see so many writers get torn up by how harsh the business is. I don't mean the the agents' love for me or my book, because I believe an agent/editor needs the love to rep and publish you well. Agent/editor love is great while you have it, but as Jessica says, it's fleeting. I meant a writer's love for her work. I still love my work (on the good days, anyway), but the minute I put it out there for my agent/editor/readers, I know it's fair game. For me, it became easier to take once I separated the love of writing from the business of it. As in all things, ymmv. Anon 9:01

  6. It's a coincidence you posted this blog today because just last night I was weeping after hearing my husband's latest composition (he's a pianist and film composer) which he wrote for our son Johann. The piece evokes feelings of the divine which is how I describe my love for certain music and books. I recall that when I finished reading Barry Unsworth's novel Sacred Hunger, I wept for days because the book had ended and even if I read it again that feeling of firsts would be gone. While I'm sure you read plenty that doesn't touch you in that fashion, the ones that do must feel so utterly spiritual and special. Thanks for this great post!

  7. Avatar Rod Reel says:

    This is a tough business, and we need to be tough and thick-skinned, even when it's our baby. My agent fell in love with my first book, and my current project, he lost interest in the moment my editor got cold feet. She wants me to do something else, so as a result so does he. Fine. To heck with both of them. There are other agents and editors out there. This is not the golden age of american literature. My editor was good, but she wasn't Maxwell Perkins. Hell, Maxwell Perkins probably wasn't Maxwell Perkins either.

    Move on. no hard feelings. It's all business.

  8. Avatar J. D. says:

    Sadly, sometimes an agent only THINKS they love you, then that love ends up fickle infatuation. Maybe it's your voice that snags them … maybe it's a particular story. But then in the end, you keep whipping out new MSS and they keep shooting them down.

    I caught my agent with the first novel I ever wrote (and then worked and re-worked). He loved it, signed me, and we sent it off to some pubs. We're having a hard time selling it, and in the meantime, I've written two other novels that he's hated.

    Now what do I do? I personally love the other books I've written, and would be willing to make some changes if need be but he won't give me any input. Doesn't think they're salvagable. It's almost like I can't do anything to please him anymore.

    There's always been a part of me that wonders if he's been subbing my first book all wrong. I've always felt it was more of a mainstream than anything, and I think that's where my other novels lie. He doesn't do mainstream, so maybe he can't see it?

    I don't know. It's hard when the passion burns out too fast. I'm scared to let him go because it is near impossible to find representation nowadays. But I'm also scared to waste my time writing anything else because I'm afraid he'll shoot it down, too. I don't know. Maybe I don't have a choice. Once the love is gone, you got nothin' left, baby.

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What you do, JD, is find an agent for those books. If your agent doesn't want them, find one who does.

    This "love" talk is really a bunch of shyte.

    AS a matter of fact, if this agent has not sold your book in the time it took you to write two more, it's high time you gave this loser the heave ho!

  10. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Talk about a timely post–I'm ending a series after writing twenty books and novellas with the same characters. Started on 21 today and it's so bittersweet, knowing I'll be saying goodbye to fictional characters who have become much too real to me over the past five years. I accept the fact it's time to move on, but that's not making this any easier! Unfortunately, both my agent and editor have obviously "lost the love," as both agree it's time for something new. They, however, are NOT the ones who will be haunted by an entire pack of shapeshifters, wondering when I'm going to write their next story. And yes, I probably will need therapy…

    *sigh* Love is so fragile and fleeting…

  11. Avatar Levonne says:

    I love the title of your post. Could not resist clicking it open. Yes, in this world, the one guarantee is that things will change. You're confirming that this is true even with an agent that loves(loved) your work.

  12. Avatar DUO says:

    Love is important for the writer and their future agent. Publishing is so subjective that it can take just one person to love something, and it's that one person that helps get a book published.

    A writer needs to love what they write in order to go through the hurdles of writing a book.

    It's love adn determination that keeps a writer writing until the book is finished.

    If a writer doesn't love what he or she writes, then no one else can.

    More information on this subject here:

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What a rotten and hurtful thing to say. I would never want you as my agent. Ending a client relationship should be discussed privately and with sensitivity.

  14. Avatar anita says:

    To Anon 10:57~

    If said agent has been trying to sell the book but it hasn't sold, it's not necessarily the agent's or the writer's fault. This is a REALLY tough market right now, and everyone is afraid to take a chance on something different. I speak from painful experience. As to “if this agent has not sold your book in the time it took you to write two more”? How do we know how long it took J.D. to write the other two? Some writers can belt out two books a year without blinking (yours truly included) and it can easily take a debut novelist more than a year to break out.

    To J.D.~

    It doesn't mean your agent's "lost the love" (at least I sure hope not) just because he's not googly-eyed over everything you pen. My agent signed me over a year ago, and honestly, she didn't like the next two MSS that I wrote thereafter.

    Yeah, it’s a panicky feeling, and frustrating (no doubt to her, too). But what I realized—after some deep soul searching—is that I’m writing love stories, and she reps straight down-the-line romance. In that respect, we don’t fit. And that would be the nail in the coffin in any other business. BUT, this is writing. And there are so many genres to choose from. I love to write romancy scenes, but can't seem to follow the conventions while staying true to my stories. My agent loves (hopefully) my voice, but needs me to follow conventions or she won’t be able to market my books as romances. What option does that leave me? Well, we could part ways. Or, I could expand my horizons, think outside the box.

    YA romance is really hot right now, and they’re much more flexible in the rules, so—knowing that my agent recently started repping YA—I went to her with a YA proposal and some chaps. Now she’s as excited about my current WIP as me. We’re in sync again, and it’s a great feeling.

    Am I going to shelve those other MSS I wrote forever? Heck no. I hope to one day get them out there. But to be a successful writer, you have to roll with the punches and prioritize. What's best for your career right now?

    Talk to your agent. It sounds like it’s time for you to either expand your literary horizons, or find a better agent fit. Whatever you decide, I wish you luck and success!

  15. Avatar jfaust says:

    Anon 1:08:

    I think maybe my post wasn't clear. I have been working with a client on a proposal over and over and over again. I have not parted ways with anyone and I certainly didn't do it on the blog.

    I've corrected the post to make myself more clear.


  16. Beautiful post, Jessica; thank you.

  17. Avatar Stephanie says:

    Thanks Jessica! Great post!

    Bottom line, this is a business and no matter how much love there is….if it can't sell, it's not gonna work.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    The vital glue in any love relationship is the ability to understand each other.

    I just received a personalized rejection letter. The agent said my query didn't make sense to her.

    It was very sweet of her to respond at all and a personalized rejection was exceedingly nice.

    However, I still couldn't help but laugh.

    Because I have three Offers on the Table right now.

  19. So, that's the right term to describe that funny feeling huh? It is also like watching a movie when you cannot help but shed a few tears because it is so damn good.

  20. So…you're saying I should get a divorce?

  21. Avatar Anonymous says:

    i know tihs is probably a dead post now, but if anyone's out there … I'd like to hear from one of the agents on the subject of not liking some of thier client's works. Does that make you wonder if you messed up signing the person? or can you still see the potential and feel the love even if you don't think the plot or idea is marketable?

  22. Avatar Anonymous says:

    what does ymmv mean?

    I have heard: "your mileage may vary" and "you make me vomit"

    -note, I am not one of any of the previous anons, just curious.