I’ve been attempting to pitch The First Nine for a while now. I’ve sent it out to about ten agents, have received ten rejections, put it through Pitch Wars, PitMad, PitchMadness (All run by Brenda Drake who’s blog is here), and now AgentMatch (run by Samantha Fountain), and I’ve learned a whole lot about what agents are looking for in submissions. Here’s a list of things I’ve noticed:
- Agents are extremely subjective and usually go after book ideas that they’d want to read
- Quality of writing doesn’t seem to be as important as it used to be
- They want diversity in the characters and characters that don’t live in the United States
- The accepted word count is dropping
- They don’t want books that are clearly part of a series
- They want unique plot lines, but often go after ones that aren’t or all sound the same
- They want action
Stuff like that. Things I wasn’t expecting. And looking through all of these, I realized that no one is going to want to take on my novel, Is there an Elephant in the Room?.
Why? Well here’s what I decided:
- There’s more thought than action. I got back a critique on the first chapter of Elephant telling me to cut the thought and add more about the action. Except, the problem is that Dustin’s voice is thought. He’s a very wordy person, but those words are all in his head. Agents don’t like that. Many would call it “telling,” even though it really isn’t.
- There is no real plot. I mean, there is, but it’s not like Harry Potter, or The Fault in Our Stars. There isn’t an antagonist that’s going to come in and force the character to face something. No, the driving point of the plot is time. It’s showing Dustin’s life for the two years the book covers. It’s about his self discovery and his own issues. Yes, things happen. Yes, someone does come in and pushes him over the edge, but it’s not because there should be a villain, but because that’s life. It’s kind of like “How I Met Your Mother.” It’s a telling of this kids life.
- The time. I saw a lot of agents say they want books that take place over two to three days. Elephant covers the span of TWO YEARS. That’s a long time. There are a lot of jumps and time skips. It hits on the big parts of those two years and shows his growth as a man in society. Something like getting over an abusive relationship doesn’t take three days. It takes years, which is why it spans the long time. But agents don’t like that.
- The subject. Elephant deals with a very, very touchy subject, and that is the abuse of men and how society views it. It’s one of those topics that I’ve been told won’t sell well, and so agents won’t want to pick me up. It’s a risk for them to take.
- The length. Elephant in it’s first draft was 210,000 words. In it’s second draft, it was 250,000 words. I’m probably going to be able to cut it down to 200k, but that’s about as low as it gets if I want to talk about everything and stay true to Dustin’s voice. He is a wordy guy. He thinks a lot. He feels a lot. He might not talk about it to others, but it’s there, and I don’t feel right cutting that out. But as I’ve noticed, the acceptable length for a manuscript is getting lower and lower. 60,000 words? That’s almost 20,000, or a third, words shorter than the first Harry Potter book. That’s not a long book. But people want it. 75k is the sweet spot for YA. All through high school and even now, if I were to see a book that short I wouldn’t want to pick it up. Even with TFN at 100,000 words, I’ve been told it’s too long. Elephant stands no chance.
Those are a few of the reasons why I’m about 100% positive no agent will want to sign Elephant. I’m still going to write it, and I will try and get it traditionally published, but it’s going to be a challenge for sure. Hopefully in a year when I’m able to start pitching this book, things will have changed, but we’ll see.
Update time! So I’m taking a nice year long Hiatus from The First Nine because I’m tired of getting rejected and I haven’t taken a break from it…ever, so I think I need one. No, I know I need one. I’ll come back to it in a year and see what happens.
But Elephant is coming along great! I’m on chapter 12 of 44 and I have the whole rest of it planned out now. It’s going to be great! I’ve also started typing it up and editing some chapters. So far only two, but I’m getting there!
I’ve started a newish story. I basically took my old story from a few years ago called R.U.N, which is a ghost story, and changed it a bit. It’s now called, Dancing Down the Rabbit Hole, and is a paranormal ghost story retelling of Alice in Wonderland. I’ve started it and I’m on chapter 2, but I need to take a break and finish chapter 12 of Elephant.
I’ve also joined this new site called WriterPitch, which goes live today at some point. Dunno when. It’s basically a bank for authors to put their work up for agents to look through, rather than authors only pitching to agents. I think it’ll be cool.
As for my Million Word Challenge (I didn’t forget 😉 ) I have no idea where I am on it. I’ve had a lot of crazy stuff happen and school is taking over my life. Once I’m done with this semester I’m going to go through and find all the things I’ve written since I started the challenge to add it up. I can tell you now, I’m probably behind.
I think that’s all my updates! I’ll try to post more, but as I’ve learned, that’s not always going to happen. Any comments? Thoughts on publishing and agents? Disagree with some of my findings? Let me know! I love getting comments, even if I don’t reply to them (because I’m really bad at remembering to reply.)