by Tamela Hancock Murray
Often I receive queries and proposals in which the author will say his submission is out of the box. I’m not opposed to groundbreaking work, but I have to decide what will and what won’t work for me. I am the first to admit, this process is subjective. Our own Steve Laube is routinely teased by a couple of his successful author friends he turned down. If an agent as wise as Steve Laube misses a call, everyone does. But here are a few questions I’ll answer to show why it’s not easy to sell an out-of-the-box work:
Is the economy making you more selective? It’s not helping, but in any economic environment, we agents must choose the best of the best and most marketable submissions.
But you and the editors are all friends. Why not take a chance even on work you’re not sure about? I do take the occasional chance on out-of-the-box submissions that are so stellar I’m awestruck, but I’m not often awestruck. I must be mindful that I am putting my name and The Steve Laube Agency name on every submission I send. In addition, the submissions I get behind must compete with other submissions that have been vetted by other professional agents. I would venture that the quality of agented submissions is outstanding. So getting me on board is hard, but getting the publisher on board is harder.
Why can’t editors take more chances? Editors must be enthusiastic about your work and then convince other editors, along with sales and marketing people, that the book deserves a place on the publisher’s list. At most houses, an editor fighting for a novel that challenges readers to look at God a new way will have to work hard to kick a romance or Amish title off that season’s list. In other words, as in any business, the untried has an uphill battle over the already wildly popular.
How can I convince agents and editors to take a chance? Whether you are writing in a popular genre or breaking new ground, the answer is the same: write an amazing book that people want to read.
What is your favorite book that was (for its time period) or is currently considered groundbreaking?
Which do you enjoy more in your leisure reading: being challenged or entertained?