Tag Archives: police procedural

When an agent ridicules your manuscript


What do you do when an agent laughs at your manuscript and says it’s awful?


A.     Cry

B.     Beg her to read it again

C.     Throw a brick at her

D.     Learn from it and vow that one day, you’ll have the last laugh


This happened to me at a writer’s conference years ago. Well, not just to me. It happened to a lot of writers at that conference. We signed up for pitch sessions and critiques, where literary agents and editors reviewed samples of our manuscripts.

These sessions are similar to job fairs, but can be worse. Imagine a job recruiter saying he wouldn’t use your resume for toilet paper and that you’ll never find a job. A critique session can be a literary version of American Idol—you can find “judges” who are compassionate human beings or sadistic monsters who love crushing your dreams with brute force.

For my session, I submitted sample chapters of my novel Partners In Crime. It was a new experience for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, the agent I selected really let me have it. As she flipped through the pages and laughed while telling me everything that was wrong with it, my first instinct was to ask a female friend to do a Jet Li move and drop kick her across the table (after all, I won’t hit a lady).

However, I forced myself to listen. As much as her words hurt, I refused to curse her, like some other authors did that day with their reviewers. Some even cried. Of course, not all sessions were bad. Some agents/editors gave glowing reviews and two writers walked away from the conference that day with book contracts.

Obviously, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I chose Option D above. I learned from it. Now, I don’t even care about having that last laugh. I’m just busy improving my craft. So if you ever plan to have your written work evaluated, keep these things in mind:

Beware destructive critics

  • They’re also known as haters. They love to critique everyone’s work and point out what they didn’t like or what they would change. Rarely do they point out good things. You can’t please them. Of course, they’ll never submit their own work for critique. They don’t want to taste their own medicine.


Beware the lovey-dovey critics

  • These people are on the opposite end from the haters. These folks think that even a grocery receipt is a beautiful story that encapsulates the struggles, triumphs, and endearing passion of the human spirit. They’ll definitely think your writing will be an immediate international bestseller. As tempting as it may be, don’t seek them for advice. While it’s nice to hear their kind words, it’s hard to take them seriously, especially if they can’t give concrete reasons or examples WHY they love it. It may be that they just love you and not necessarily your work. Or perhaps you can’t handle rejection or criticism well and they’re avoiding the drama that comes with being honest with you. If that’s you, learn to accept criticism. You’ll never get better without it.


Appreciate the constructive, objective critics

  • This isn’t easy. Even today, I cringe a little when people critique my writing. I poured my heart into my book, and like every writer, I want people to love it and say it’s an awesome book. But I have to come back to reality. Every author can improve. Read Amazon reviews for best sellers; you’ll find readers trashing novels like the Da Vinci code, which only sold, oh, a billion copies. Even the bestselling book of all time, the Bible, has denouncers. What hope does anyone have of writing a perfect book?
  • So hold on to these valuable people who offer objective, constructive feedback, even when they say they don’t like something. They are worth more than gold.

Still, take the nuggets from scathing critiques

  • Even though I hated sitting in front of that agent that fall day in Los Angeles, I had to admit she had valid points. Although her tact and delivery could’ve been softened, and even though she was meaner than the worst of the aforementioned haters, she pointed out things I had to work on if I wanted to publish a murder mystery series one day. I just had to swallow my pride and listen.


The point? Do the best you can. Don’t let someone ruin your dream and never change your work just to please someone who didn’t like it. That’s not to say there may not be a valid point in what is said. You have to be objective and decide if it’s worthy feedback. But if you’ve done your hard work and put together the best product you can, I promise you that more people will love it than not!

Will Write for Food (but if you’ve got extra publicity, I’ll take that, too)

Before I published my first book last month, every published author told me that writing the novel is the easy part. The hard part is promoting it. It hasn’t taken me long to see that. And it wasn’t a surprise; I knew that going in.

Although my non-writer friends say I can be discovered by Oprah or a big-time Hollywood producer (“you just never know”, they tell me), I don’t expect to get that phone call anytime soon. There are a million books published each year. Behind every one of those books is a writer like me, fighting to be noticed. We’re like addicts, searching for reviews, referrals, and publicity to give us that next high. So when I hear my friends’ optimistic musings, I just smile, thank them for their positive attitude, and go back to working on my promotions platform and continuing to build awareness one reader at a time. That’s the journey facing every writer or entrepreneur starting a business. We just want to get noticed.

But there is a powerful force that drowns out our voices. It’s insatiable. It’s unstoppable. And it’s intensifying every day. What is it?

It’s the proliferation of silliness, stupidity, scandalous behavior, and “rachetness” (or whatever you want to call it) in traditional and social media. People are now famous just for being famous or stupid. Broken English, talking ‘country’, or crazy slang has become the default way of speaking for people who should know better. Outrageous behavior is glorified. And when everyone is inundated with things screaming for attention, absurdity is what gets noticed.

We writers and entrepreneurs know it can take years of constant work to gain traction for our publicity efforts. We know this is a marathon, not a sprint. But when a silly video or Facebook meme goes viral in 15 minutes, I start wondering how we can make this unstoppable force work for us.

How about I post a video of someone in a thong, twerking with my book and reading my blog at the same time? That will get some publicity! Or what if a business owner creates a Facebook meme that shows someone screaming obscenities while using his product? Better yet, if he takes a screen shot of a real celebrity or a child actor and attributes some silly and obviously untrue quote to the person, people will toss and share that baby around like a Frisbee! Instant viral publicity!  

Luckily, I have a friend who is also trying to drum up awareness for her business. She is a voice of reason and talked me off the ledge. That’s why she’s good at what she does. I had to remind myself that we can’t forget our niche audience for the sake of getting fast eyeballs on our books or products. Good things are built over the long haul, not in 15 minutes. So I commit to building my platform the legitimate way, one reader at a time. No twerking, obscenities, or silly stuff for me.

I just tell myself to be patient and keep the faith over time.

Even if Oprah doesn’t call me in the next 10 minutes…