This post, by Lynette Labelle, originally appeared on her website on 1/4/12.
You have a critique group and the members love, love, love your work. They’ve been nagging at you for months to send it out. You finally got up enough courage to submit and even received requests for partials and fulls, but in the end, nobody liked the manuscript enough to take it on. What gives?
Let’s take a look at six reasons agents and editors may not love your work as much as your critique group does.
1) The Relationship: This can mean different things depending on the group. For some, they’ve developed a friendship with the members of their group and can confuse “she’s a great person” with “she’s a great writer.” Some members may realize you’re not such a hot writer but don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they tell you what you want to hear instead. Others aren’t in the same league as you. Beginners will love stories written by intermediate writers and might even believe the book should be published, when in reality, it still needs a lot of work.
Lesson: Use a combination of your judgment, that of your critique group members, and feedback you get from agents and editors. If the rejections you’re getting are all canned, you really need to take another look at the book or start something fresh. If you’re getting personalized letters with specific notes on what’s wrong with the work or how to improve it, then you’re on the right track. Just remember, it’s your story. Only make changes if they feel right.
2) Super Premise: Your critique group loves your premise and thinks this is the next bestseller. They may be right. However, they don’t have the inside information agents and editors have. In this case, the industry experts may love your premise but if it’s too similar to something they’ve recently bought or something that’s currently on the market, they won’t want to touch it no matter how good it is.
Lesson: It’s not always about the writing or the idea. Sometimes it’s about who gets their idea out first.