Monday, September 21, 2009

You asked for it. Now what?

Agent feedback. Most beginning writers will crawl across a field of cut glass on bare hands and knees to get actual agent feedback, but what do you do when you actually receive some? Do you blindly do what they say? Do you ignore it as if they don't know what they are talking about? (not recommended) Or do you analyze what they are trying to say and heed their advice given your own constraints? Let's look at some scenarios and I'll give you my opinion.

1. You only get one piece of feedback and it's craft related.

Example: Your characters aren't deep enough, or your descriptions don't evoke enough emotion.

In this case I wouldn't question the advice and just do whatever they said, right now. If you need to hone a skill to do that, then that's what you need to work on.

2. You get one piece of feedback and it's story related.

Example : The love interest between Han Solo and Princess Leia needs to come out much earlier and they need to get married and have kids.

This is tougher. It can change the entire face of your story. You are lucky that the agent spent the time to provide the feedback, but now you have to analyze whether or not their suggestion fits with your overall goals for the story, or not. It could be that the agent wants you to change the story to something more along their tastes. That may or may not fit with your skills, and goals.

If their comment makes sense, then by all means heed the advice. If it doesn't, then maybe that agent isn't right for you.

3. You get multiple pieces of advice.

Boy aren't you lucky. It means that you are getting close to being published. The fact that multiple agents are providing feedback means that you are generating interest, but something still isn't quite right.

Again, heed the craft advice and take the story advice into consideration with your goals.

4. You get conflicting pieces of advice.

Oooooh, this one is hard. I doubt that you would get conflicting advice about craft, but it could happen. If this is the case you are again dealing with agent taste, and you are left to your own judgment about what makes sense.

It's more likely that you will get conflicting story advice. There's no easy answer other than to weigh each piece of advice against your own skills and goals, and see which, if any, match up.

Agents know what makes a book sell. Most of them have been working with books for many years. I think that in general you should heed their advice. However just make sure that the type of books they sell are what you can deliver.

What types of agent feedback have you received?


  1. From what I've been hearing from people with agents is that some of the advice is very general. That leaves more for the writer to figure out himself or herself, and I think that's great because it allows you to keep your work your own. In the end, I think everyone wants to be proud of what they publish, so we should consider the advice before we make any changes and ask ourselves if it will make us happy. Great post!

  2. My agent feedback: This project isn't right for us.


  3. "Although this isn't right for us, another agent may find this irresistable. Good luck!"

    Okay. I made up the irresistable bit...

  4. Cool blog post!

    I may be back later to leave a comment on the type of feedback I've received. I can say that I really did appreciate the feedback from Donald Maass. It was complimentary and gave me a direction to work on. I'd have to dig it out of one of the moving boxes, so I guess I will have to wait on posting a comment on that.

  5. I got some great feedback from an agent that really helped me pull the ms together. He even said while it he would have to pass ;-{ I had a good shot at getting an agent.

    Sometimes the good and bad is what keeps me going.


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