I've blogged on the romance/agenting business before--it still works. Agenting involves unrequited (and requited) love, passion, rejection, abandonment and loss--and bliss. Bliss comes in many forms. When we started our literary agency, we thought we were pretty smart. After all, between us, we have over 30 years in various aspects of the publishing business. We are avid readers. We know the difference between good books and bad. How hard could it be to read queries, chapters, and manuscripts; find the "flowers"; pitch them to editors; sell them?
We were blissfully ignorant of just how hard it really is. We were in love with the work--success would follow!
We blissfully read the incoming material, falling in love too fast. Saying, "Yes! Send us the partial.....Sure, send us the manuscript!" Sometimes we even said, "Let's do it! Let's work together." We fell in love, in some cases too easily.
The reality of this romance is that it's a tough business, a business about SELLING. We may love a book, but if we can't find the right editor, we're all dead in the water.
But, we're learning. We know that the editors have to be totally convinced that our book can make a good showing or they won't take it on. Each house has its own formula for determining that, and it's up to us to learn those formulas and to learn what each editor wants. The result is that, like a disappointed lover, we aren't nearly as much fun as we used to be. Like you, we get rejected frequently by editors and it's awful. To prevent that, our goal is to become much more picky about what we take on and much more educated about who takes what at the publishing houses.
We are saying "yes," to authors very infrequently. And we're taking on new clients very slowly. Our mantra is, "It's better to reject a query than to reject a partial. It's better to reject a partial than to reject a manuscript. And, if we're rejecting manuscripts, we need to rethink our strategy."
So, what's the upshot of this romance? You need to work harder to write books that editors will want. We need to stop wasting your time and to bring on only those books we KNOW we can sell. After that? BLISS.