Sunday, 20 June 2010
What agents want
My sister bought me a book she'd enjoyed and thought I might like, The Last Time They Met, by Anita Shreve. It didn't sound quite my sort of thing: crimes of passion, incest, negligence, loss and guilt, but I started to read it. And stopped again. Here are the first two lines:
She had come from the plane and was even now forgetting
the ride from the airport. As she stepped from the car, she
Word echoes: from three times, she three times. Now I know no normal, non-writing reader would notice this, or mind it if he did. Goodness, look how popular Stieg Larsson's novels are, and on one of his first pages, I found five sentences in one short paragraph beginning with She. But you'd think an editor would pick it up.
Of course, what made it a real turn-off for me is the fact that as an unpublished author, I'm constantly being told that any error, particularly on the first page, will cause my typescript to be tossed in the shredder. If my writing is not polished till it shines, it has no chance of getting read by an agent's assistant, let alone reaching the shelves of a bookshop.
I no longer think this is so. What agents are looking for, it seems to me, is not a polished book; nor is it a book that they fall in love with (whatever they say). They are looking for a book they believe they can sell to a publisher.
Posted by Lexi at Sunday, June 20, 2010