Agents' words

Karin Gillespie had a link in her blog about the words that agents use. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Like all professionals, literary agents are often reluctant to express their true feelings about a manuscript, and freight their rejection letters with euphemisms. And for good reason. Who needs an argument with an author you're never going to work with? The following glossary, offered with tongue in cheek, might help literary hopefuls decipher messages received from agents in response to their work:

"Interesting - Boring

Has potential - Amateurish

Moving - Show it to Mom

Needs work - Hopeless

Mid-list - Won't sell

Intelligent - See 'interesting'

Ambitious - Too long

Spare - Too short

Poetic - Insomniacs only

Plot-driven - Superficial

Excellent - Possible, with a rewrite

Cinematic - Unreadable

Marketable - People will buy anything

Challenging - See 'poetic'

At this time (as in, we can't use it at this time) - Never

Experimental - In your dreams

Character-driven - No story

Novel of ideas - No one will read it

Talented - How did you get in here?"


Shopgirl said...

And see, mj, I thought ambitious meant the author had gone "all out" and brought something fresh and exciting to the table.

Up to this point, I would have been flattered to have that word tossed at me. I could see myself perched in front of an agent: "Miss. Hausen, this manuscript is quite ambitious," he'd say.

"Oh, thank you."

Then he'd roll his eyes.

Margaret Larkin said...

This is what matters: acceptance and support of your work. If it's a rejection, it doesn't matter what they say.