Here’s your answer, its the email i sent to a writer friend this morning:
Subject: You Damn Theif
Body: You owe me five hours sleep. "***** ******" was awesome.
Mike

That’s it.

We want a book to invade, attack, lay siege and occupy our attention for hours, it needs to overrun the other stuff we need to be doing. If there are flaws to the book, they need to be stuff that doesn’t compete with the entropic advancement of the story.

The story does also have to be marketable. Given the pushback of readers and the ennui of agents and editors over vampires, particularly the sparkly, PETA-Greenpeace-Emo variety, even if you turn in a captivating novel who’s only flaw is that the barely-legal-centuries-undead male lead is the type who likes chick flicks, reads poetry and sleeps with a teddy bear, you’re probably not selling the book.

And while simply holding the attention of the average reader can be difficult, remember that no agent or editor is looking for a reason to publish your book. They are looking for all the reasons they shouldn’t. Also, no agent ever lacks for things to read. Be it slush, client proposals, new books from clients, industry news, or the map that might help them relocate their scattered wits; it’s far easier for an agent to put down a book because of how much ‘free’ stuff they have to read.

  • Anonymous

    Can I have some of what you're smoking?
    I believe you're sincere — that you truly believe this, and I admit it is nice stuff to believe. But it's just not true. Not only does it fly in the face of my own experience — it flies in the face of every writer I know.
    Yes, even the published ones. Even the ones with agents. Even the ones with agents they like.
    Agents want a repackaging of the same crap they sold last year. Make no mistake, anything new and interesting is a very tough sell. They don't want new and interesting. They want sure bets.
    Your PETA-emo-vampire who watches chick flicks is a lot more likely to find his way out of the slush. Granted, there are probably 50 such vampires, and the agent will probably make a token effort to choose the best-written vampire out of the 50. But the "sure bet" (as seen through the most jaded, cursory look at recent sales) wins every time.
    Look, agents are salespeople. That doesn't make them bad people — but they're not experts on writing. They're experts on selling.
    Ask any successful salesperson who works on commission. The best will tell you that knowing your product, or even liking your product, isn't what counts. They tell you it's all about "soft skills".
    And yes, I know that's not completely true (though it's mostly true). The agents sort of know it's not completely true, even while they say it — but they also kind of believe it, just like any good salesman does. Selling requires a very specific conception of "the truth" that most people just don't have. Good salesmen know how to bend the truth, far enough to get what they want but not far enough to get caught in outright lies.
    And any agent who's not a good salesman won't survive in business. I had such an agent once — very supportive of my work, and a very honest, hard-working guy. But he couldn't sell enough books to stay afloat, for me or any of his clients.

    • Re: Can I have some of what you're smoking?
      Sorry, that's just not so…
      I talk to other agents and editors and to a good number of writers on a regular basis.
      The first two groups have been praying for the end of emo-vampires for at least three or four years.

      • Anonymous

        I just looked back at my original post, and I wish I could edit it a bit. I knew it was going to sound cynical, but I didn't want for it to be rude.
        And yet, I was rude. I'm somewhat cynical about some things but that's no excuse for rudeness; I'm not often rude, but that's no excuse either. I apologize.
        It does seems strange to me that emo-vampires remain so common, given that nobody in the industry seems to want them anymore, and that there's all this enthusiasm for fresh new ideas.
        Maybe the "sample" of published writers that I know personally is just too small to be accurate — it's less than ten — being in the business, I'm sure you know many more. I suppose it's reasonable to assume that your "sample" is more accurate.
        I must thank you for responding so politely.