I’ve been searching for representation for about a month now. Recently, one agent requested my full manuscript but then passed on it. In her comments she mentioned the first chapters were slower than she preferred for the books on her list. (I could understand that since she represented books that were grittier and faster paced than what I’d written.) And she said her comments were, of course, “subjective.” I felt sad that she thought she needed to include that word in her comments. I could glean the underlying subtext. She was worried I’d defend myself immediately. But I don’t do that, I’ve written for enough years to know I don’t need to be defensive, I need to write a good story (though I appreciate her sensitivity). I actually welcome editorial feedback from agents. I appreciate it. I’m always ready to revise because I want my work to be better. And editorial feedback from agents is some of the most precious feedback out there.
Agents read dozens of manuscripts a year. They know issues of plot, character, setting, voice, etc. Conflict. Even if a story doesn’t match their list of titles, they know a strong story when they read one. So if an agent is willing to offer a particular comment about my book, I’m all ears. I’m not so wobbly that I’ll for sure change it, but if the comment touches on a doubt I have, it tells me the issue resonates in a more universal way. If more than one person thinks an aspect is weak that means it’s not a matter of taste, but a flaw that needs to be addressed.
That this agent who passed told me my book was “beautifully written,” made my day. I take her comment to be authentic since she has no investment in flattering me, especially since she ultimately passed on representing me. But that one positive note propelled me to go on. Okay, I thought, I know the writing’s strong. Mark that off in the plus column.
Of course, my writing ego doesn’t live or die depending on one agent’s thoughts. As my husband says, I should write the book that I want. But feedback from a person who sells books for a living holds more weight than the average reader, and helps me narrow my editorial focus.
Since that agent’s comments came in a week or so ago, I’ve since revised my manuscript. In the past when I’d edited the book, I thought, wow, the danger really starts cooking on page 67. I often wondered if I needed to move that danger up in the story. I decided to go for it. Now the main conflict starts earlier and a piece of essential back story is further on. My lesson learned is to be open to the feedback and think carefully about how it fits in to my overall vision. In this case, I believe it did. It helped me strengthen the story for the next agent who may request a full manuscript. And when that time comes, I’ll feel more confident when I send it off.