Among the simmering volcano of mail at our house on my return were the expected notes from agents and magazines. Kindly considered letters of rejection telling of how life is difficult for them these days, etc. I shed a tear on their behalf and re-read the reject note from the Literary Agency Janklow & Nesbit in London.
They say: “… we’re turning down lots of good work unless it ticks absolutely all the right boxes.”
My wife says this is meant to tell me my work is good but maybe at 59 I’m too old. I kinda agreed although I intend to write books for at least another 40 years so they’d get their money’s worth out of me. I’d slow down after that just little.
So I’ve taken the unusual step of writing back to that agency to ask what labels these boxes are we writers have to tick. Part of my letter says:
I and the 65 other former clients of the crashed Hill & Hill Literary Agency are bursting to know what these boxes are that a successful author has to tick. We can guess them (and sadly we presume one is ‘Is this writer a celebrity?’) but my group and blog await your list to confirm them and to add the benefit of your expertise.
So what do you think those boxes are?
I’ve had a reply from J&N within an hour. I knew my request might be mission impossible. They say: “Thanks for your email. In answer to your question, we have to feel confident and passionate enough about someone’s work, to feel we can go out to battle for it in today’s very competitive market.”
A reasonable response for an industry that has to run on gut feelings and a lot of luck! I suppose given the essential tick boxes of writing skills, oddball characters, plot tension and development, and wacky query letters, the rest has to be subjective and the hunt for factor X.