Monday, December 9, 2013

Agency Lessons: Internet Advice

You know that old saying about opinions, and everyone having one...yeah that.

Tis the season for writing contests. They are everywhere right now. My favorite are the ones that let contestants get feedback, because we all know how valuable unbiased feedback is. But there is a dark side to all this internet free love. Not all opinions are equal.

Just because one person thinks your MC is vapid doesn't mean he/she is. I have a beta reader who absolutely hates the ending to one of my manuscripts. But everyone else loves it. So while her opinion is valid, I'm not going to change it. You have to decide which comments work for you.

But I'm seeing a new trend this contest season that sits very uneasy in my agent belly. Folks are broadening their comments outside of ways to improve the manuscript and are commenting on areas such as marketability, what's selling, and copyright. What?

Now, I'm not saying that agents are the only ones who know this information. Anyone can take a look at the deals on Publisher's Marketplace and get a general idea of what editors are buying right now. But unless they are also in regular communication with editors about sub-genres and wish lists, it's unlikely they're really qualified to give advice.

And some comments are just plain wrong. One poster tried to tell a contestant they'd have to change their title because it's similar to a term used in a "popular show". Gah!

Here's my advice to survive this contest season with your sanity intact (or at least not completely destroyed). If you are giving feedback, please stick to what you know. So, if you aren't a copyright lawyer, don't comment on copyright. If you're a contestant, remember that anyone can give feedback. Some will be great, some will be bad and some could be downright wrong. If in doubt, ask around.

And remember that agents don't expect you to know all the current market trends and behind the scenes business of making a book. You're job is to write the best book you can. Don't sweat the rest of it.

Are you entering any contests this year? Share your advice for surviving the contest trenches.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, contests. I have a love/hate relationship with them. Remember, most contests are for your first 250-500 words. I'm not sure how much one can tell about marketability/copyright/etc from such a tiny passage. That said, I wouldn't take advice in that area from random readers in a contest. I haven't had any such comments on my work in the contests I've entered this year.

    Even though I've had incredible luck with contests, I'm not anxious to enter them anymore. My first contest led to 2 types of comments: sycophantic or negative. None were very constructive or helpful. On the positive side I had three requests from agents from that contest.

    Remember, if one person comments that something should change, you can take it with a grain of salt. If several people make the same comment, then it's time to consider a change. If you're in a contest, try to be concise and constructive in your comments. 'I love it', is great, but if you're taking the time to comment, why not expand on why you love it.

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