Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inside the Mailbag, Installment #6

I'm in an annoyed mood at the moment because I can't access Livejournal due to a problem with our router settings, so I've decided to go through some of my accumulated partials instead. Enjoy. (ETA: The router has been reset and it works now. No idea why.)

  1. This is a horror novel that I thought I might like. I stopped reading on page 5 when the hero's wife lost control of her bladder. That was enough for me.
  2. This one I couldn't open the files they sent me. I e-mailed the author. If they don't get back, I write it off as a lost cause.
  3. This is a fantasy novel about someone chasing souls. The writing is decent, but I got confused about a page in (there are no page numbers, it's pasted into e-mail), so pass.
  4. This was a fairly interesting contemporary fantasy with a male protagonist. I read 37 pages before I stopped and decided to pass on it. Main reason: the character's voice was too rambly for me and it ended up getting in the way of the story.
  5. A YA sci-fi novel that killed me with adjectivitis. I stopped reading on the first page.
  6. This one is a retelling of a classic 19th century novel. The voice is pitch-perfect. I adore it currently. I'm asking for a full.
(And that's six things for installment #6. I believe I'll go to bed now. I've been working on this post on and off all day.)


Kristin Laughtin said...

Haha, now I'm itching to know which classic 19th century novel is being retold. I love that period in writing and usually enjoy retellings as well.

TerriRainer said...

#1 sounds hilarious (guessing the author wasn't going for that though).

I admire agents more every day...I know when I read a PUBLISHED novel, there have been times I have rolled my eyes at certain minor things that frankly get on my nerves. Unfortunately, I am SO OCD, that if I start reading a book, I MUST FINISH!

I could NEVER be an agent for that very reason.

:) Terri

Travis Erwin said...

I really like you giving us this glimpse into your thought process so thanks for posting this. I wish more blogging agents would do this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I probably shouldn't post this at all, and I understand if you don't want to approve it in the comments.

But, I'm incredibly torn about this post. On one hand, offering a glimpse of what type of books you request is very informative; on the other hand, there's always a creepy feeling I get, mostly because of the attitude behind the rejections.

It says more about you than a manuscript, I think, that you can stop reading something on page 5 of a requested ms, simply because you didn't like a detail (a character has to pee.)

The attitude towards the work itself just seems so cavalier I'd be embarrassed to write how little time and thought are given to requested work. I'd be embarassed to post this on a professional blog, even if it was the truth.

I hope (and no, I'm not being snarky) that when you finish your own novel and start sending it out, the editors you choose give it more than 5 pages before they toss you a form reject and then blog about it.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Anonymous, it wasn't the detail of the hero's wife losing control of her bladder that turned me off--I don't care that she had to pee, even if she's a fictional character.

It was that I read through those five pages, giving it that much time, and little things added up, making it more and more unrealistic a novel to me as those five pages passed. Plus, I've seen better writing. So that's the detail I ended up stopping on.

I could have easily stopped when the monster broke through the floor. I chose to read on two or three more sentences.

That's how slushing goes. Many, many manuscripts don't even get those five pages; I was being generous.

Jodi Meadows said...

It doesn't take long to realize when you aren't going to want something. Try going to a bookstore and grabbing random books from shelves, and read the first few pages. Do they grab you? Would you read on?

Really. Stop when you get bored. There are ten other shelves of books for you to look at the first few pages from.

That's what reading slush is like. And the books in the bookstores have *sold* and have been *polished*. Someone already paid *money* for them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply, Jenny.

I think my much larger point to my post was that the attitude behind your decision to stop reading seems so cavalier, and almost like it was something you were proud of -- I can't beleive these stupid writers are using too many adjectives -- I stopped reading after page one.

And thanks, Jodi, I know you are working for Jenny now, you don't have to defend her as I wasn't really attacking her to begin with.


Like I said, I probably shouldn't have posted. But really, Jenny, when you are sending out your own book you'll have a much better understanding of what I mean.

Jodi Meadows said...


I wasn't defending Jenny. She's perfectly capable. :)

It was a suggestion so you (and anyone else, not just you) could see how easily books lose you. It doesn't have to be one one thing. It could be moving too fast, not moving at all, it could be the bright, glittering adjectives that overwhelm the ink-stained page but do nothing to further the story. ;)

There are a few agents out there who like to ask for the first five pages off most queries that show a basic understanding of grammar and spelling. (Plus the ones who ask for the first five pages in the query.) I actually *really* like this process. (Even as a writer, yes. And this is why I like it *as* a writer.) It gives them just enough to see that the writer can write (or not write), and stories *should* hook a reader within the first five pages. Five pages of SMF is 1250 words. If something interesting doesn't happen in 1250 words...something interesting probably isn't going to happen.


Natalie said...

I think it just goes to show that getting into a book starts on page one. I'm currently submitting and not at all offended by this.

Agents have to love a book enough to champion it for a long time. If they can't get into it right from the start, for whatever reason, clearly they aren't the agent for that piece.

It may not even mean it's bad--but it is about taste, too. Just because one agents feels like way in the first 5 pages, doesn't mean the next will.

And heck, at this point in the process I appreciate a speedy answer more than anything. I'd rather not have either party wasting time.

Anonymous said...

I actually have a question about the page number comment that was made. If you paste five pages into an email (as most agents will not accept attachments, at least not initially) then the page numbers do not show up. Should I be adding in page numbers to these cut and paste jobs? Is that standard? I have been asked for several partials. I am preparing to send them. At least one wants it pasted into the email, and I want to do it correctly.

Lisa Iriarte

Anonymous said...

And a quick question for Ms. Meadows. I queried you some time back. The response was that my synopsis was confusing, but you had good things to say about my ending and several other plot points that you liked. If I have rewritten the synopsis for better clarity, would I be wasting your time by querying again?

Lisa Iriarte

Jodi Meadows said...

Go ahead, Lisa. I can't promise my answer will be any different, but it's worth a try. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am hoping to pitch to Ms. Rappaport at the Florida Writers Conference. However, the conference is extremely expensive (more costly than WorldCon) and if we can't afford it, then I will likely send another query your way. I appreciate the opportunity, and totally understand if it is still not right for either of you.

Lisa Iriarte

Anonymous said...

Oh, and my husband and I still want to challenge Ms. Rappaport to Trivial Pursuit (even though I really stink at it).

Lisa Iriarte

Elissa M said...

A gazillion years ago, I used to think it was rude for an agent or editor to reject a work without reading the entire manuscript. Then I joined a critique group.

I can tell that something isn't ready for publication by the first page, and I'm not even earning my living that way like an agent. But, because I'm reading to give constructive feedback, I slog on through, pointing out good things as well as those that need improving.

I would never expect an agent or editor to read further than necessary to make a decision. They just don't have the time. Response times are slow enough already. And I, for one, like to be reminded that my work has to be perfect, or it's going to be rejected in five pages or less (and maybe blogged about).

So thanks, Jenny, for this great post.

Anonymous said...

"This is a fantasy novel about someone chasing souls. The writing is decent, but I got confused about a page in (there are no page numbers, it's pasted into e-mail), so pass."

Yikes. I wonder if this was me. I sent the requested partial in this fashion as I didn't think attachments were smiled upon unless dealing with entire manuscripts. :( Poop.


Jenny Rappaport said...

Anonmyous/E.D., it didn't matter that the pages were pasted into e-mail. I don't reject based on format, unless I can't open the files at all or read the text in the e-mail; both rare occurrences.