Agent Monday: What’s Love Got to do with It?

From time to time, I’ve heard discussions among writers who have received rejections from other agents that basically said, “Sorry, but I didn’t fall in love with this.” One reaction writers then say is, “I don’t care if you love it or not. Just represent it and sell it!”  This often leads into writers saying that this whole need to “fall in love” with a project is a ridiculous notion. It’s just a form letter. It’s because they don’t know what else to say. So in today’s Agent Monday post I’d like to share my view of  “What’s love got to do with it?”

Now I’m speaking about FICTION here, since at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency I don’t personally represent non-fiction. So bear that in mind…  But with a fiction manuscript, yeah, I’ve got to fall in love with it.  Why? Because if I don’t finish that manuscript and feel my heart completely ripped out, or my world rocked in some way, I don’t want to invest myself in that book.  I need something I truly believe in.

I want to be able to convey my passion to an editor.  And I want that editor to feel, at the end of her read, that her heart is completely ripped out or her world is rocked in some way.  That’s kinda the point.

But what about the “meh” book that I know will sell because it hits all the marketing points? It’s steampunk, which is supposedly hot. Or talks about bullying, which is a book people will “gobble up?”  Well, if I’m not in love with it, I don’t personally believe an editor be in love either…and an editor must turn around and “sell” the book to the marketing committee and they must sell it to the world, and reviewers must feel the love, too.

What I’m looking for is a book that will sell because it’s exceptional. If it hits all those marketing points, groovy.  If it doesn’t, but it’s exceptional, it’ll find its audience and that’s groovy too.

From my agenting point of view, I have to live with this manuscript and this author.  If I’m not in love with their book, but I sniff dollar signs in the air for some reason, am I respecting that author? Am I excited enough to read through the manuscript over and over again and edit it? To create a passion-filled pitch and offer it up to top editors?  And if I think of it as “meh” but an easy sale for some reason, what if it doesn’t sell easily? Will I have the drive to continue to market it with passion? Will I feel like just giving up and cutting you loose? You see where I’m going with this?

I invest a ton of time in my clients, and I choose them carefully. I go with my gut, and believe that their talent will take them far over the course of their careers. They are more than one book, one quick sale to me.  I’ve passed over books that may have sold, but that I just didn’t care about. Why would I take that writer on, when I can invest my heart and soul and countless hours in someone whose writing I do care about?  I’ll also definitely take on books that may not be the easy sell, but that feel important and strong and that I believe HAVE TO BE READ. And I’ll work my tail off making sure that happens.

It’s important that I believe in your work and in you.  You deserve that and should demand it.  If I don’t “fall in love” with your novel, then I’m not the agent for you, and you should find an agent who will.  Because that is the person who will best represent your work. Who will champion you and all your efforts with energy and drive. Who will believe in you even when the world doesn’t seem to, and continue to submit your work with conviction until the world finally sees the light.

And who will eagerly await your next book, and your next.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

8 thoughts on “Agent Monday: What’s Love Got to do with It?

    • Amen? 😉 And don’t you ever give up blogging. Your posts are AWESOME. Folks, check out fellow JDLIT agent’s blog here:

      Hey, interested in doing a guest Agent Monday post here? I’d welcome you and your salty Blabbermouth voice anytime, sistah-agent-friend. (Okay, somewhere my daughters are cringing at the uncoolness of this sentence…)

  1. I love your agent posts, Marie. And I think it’s not only better if an agent loves a piece, it’s the only way I’d want it! Who wants to be represented by someone who doesn’t care? That doesn’t make any sense! And, I think you should wear that blue wig in the photo you posted up there at your next signing…

    • Hi Jess,

      Hm. You may be right. And I could totally rock those glasses too. Er… maybe not.

      Anyways, so glad you enjoy these posts. I think when writers say they don’t care, it really is born of frustration. As a writer myself too, I totally understand that. It can be hard to keep the big picture foremost in our minds at moments of frustration…

  2. Very well said, Marie. The whole ‘falling in love’ with a book shouldn’t be an unfamiliar notion to a writer, as long as they’re also a reader. I’ve read plenty of books that left me feeling ‘meh’ – including those others ‘loved.’ It’s subjective. But the person championing your project must be behind it, and you, 100% or what’s the point in the relationship? Ideally an agent could articulate a few points about why they didn’t go beyond ‘meh’, but that isn’t always easy to do (or too time consuming, perhaps). Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Karma,

      You said it very well, too! You’re right. It is subjective. How many times has a friend recommended a book they loved, and I’ve read it and thought, “Really? Am I being punked?” It just shows the subjectiveness of this art we call fiction.

  3. Terrific, Marie. I believe in love! My own adoration for my work as a writer (which is what keeps me going, after all), and I clearly see why the agent, too, must love it. Passion leaks from our nimble fingers on the keyboard and rises, like cream, to the top.

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