Instinct, Insight, Imagination
Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Instinct. Insight. Imagination. Agents and authors share the need for all three.
Writers utilize instinct, insight, and imagination to create books, blog posts, back cover copy, marketing materials, and career plans.
And agents tap into the same from the other side of the virtual desk.
When an agent opens a query or a proposal, the agent holds out hope that it might be The One–the spectacular book idea, written exceptionally, well with a stunning hook, a fresh approach, and a ready-made audience, from an author with creds, threads, and spreads.
That’s credentials or credibility; a professional appearance and attitude; and bulging spreadsheets of other book ideas, clever marketing concepts, and readers-in-waiting (platform).
But every day–yes, every day–agents turn down potential clients. At times, it’s an easy decision. Many times, it’s an agonizing choice. So, how does an agent decide whether or not to offer representation?
Instinct plays a large role. Agents should be known for rock-hard abs, considering all the exercise their gut receives in the decision making process.
Does this book resonate? Is it the kind of book that will appeal first to editors, and then to sales and marketing teams, and finally to readers? Does it make me lean forward? Do I want to know more? Is it compelling?
Insight is another key factor in deciding to take on a client or project. An agent taps into insight gained from studying the market, reading widely, taking note of what’s selling and what’s not, observing the kinds of projects that draw the most interest from editors, and many other facets.
An agent is trained to recognize gaping holes in proposals, red flags, weak spots.
As is true with writers, agents ask “What if…?” questions too.
What if the author applied this level of writing talent to a different book idea, one with more chance of catching an editor’s eye?
Or what if the author’s writing skills matched the brilliant concept? Can the author grow fast enough in his or her craft for this book to work?
What would happen if the author found ways to expand his or her platform? Could that help create this book’s perfect storm?
What changes would turn this from almost there to there?
CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY
Instinct, insight, and imagination tells the agent that in the traditional publishing world, it’s a rare great idea that can override the lack of a substantial platform.
Conversely, a substantial platform alone can’t bear the weight of a poorly written book.
A great idea at the wrong time can spell disaster, too. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin missed being the first person in the American colonies to publish a magazine? Someone beat him by three days.
So what’s the takeaway, the moral to the story?
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE UP AGAINST…AND IT ISN’T AGENTS OR EDITORS
When agents or editors say no, which is more often than not, the decision isn’t arbitrary, thoughtless, or uninformed. It is a studied, careful, soul-searching decision.
Be kind. Be patient with us. Pray for clear intuition, sharp instincts, and problem-solving imaginations. And do everything in your power to offer irresistible proposals that tick all the boxes (see paragraph 4).
We’re praying the same for you.