I am C+

Back in high school, a C+ would've been swell. But when that grade comes from a literary agent, and it's regarding my first novel, that's different. Actually, it was only three sample chapters, but it still leaves a mark.

Lisa called me at work, tore open the letter and read,

While your project exhibits merit it does not quite meet or exceed the standards we are looking for at this time. If we were to grade your manuscript it would receive a C+. This is a fair grade but means that the ultimate execution of the story is not quite good enough to break in for a first time novelist.

In case anyone's keeping tabs (are you reading this, Ma?), I've scattered about a dozen agent queries. I believe the Lord's had His hand in this, and I wrote about it here. One agent -- someone new to CBA fiction -- has since offered me a contract. I wasn't much at peace, however; when a bigger name agent requested my entire manuscript (which they still have, going on eight weeks). During that time I've had another agent request the first several chapters. So here I am working on my second book, attempting to grow in the craft, and trying not to hold my breath for an enthusiastic agent to hurdle the hedges with a contract and pen in hand.

And then I get a C+.

Realistically, it's my first rejection letter with some bite. The tone was upbeat (after all, my "project exhibits merit"), and the individual pointed out several elements I shall definitely noodle over. It's got me second-guessing a bit, though. How can three agents look at the same chapters, one offer me a contract, one request the whole book and one pronounce it barely average?

Hey, I'm in this for the long haul, so I expect to see my share of unfavorable grades. Along the way, I'll continue to strive to improve, remain teachable and pretend to be professional. One day, I might even be published.

But until then I am C+.


Janet Rubin said...

Oh maaaaan. No fun. Let's see... C stands for COOL. I think your novel is very cool, and while I'm not and agent, my opinion counts. I'm the one who would pick it up at Borders, read the dust jacket and then take it up to the register and shell out $15.00, then lug it to the beach to read. Go to Novel Journey and check out Susan Davis interview. Skip to the end and read her parting words. Hang in there Mr. Mike.

Mike Duran said...

Thanks, Janet. After being a D student all my life, the C+ is actually an improvement. Plus, you know what they always say: A kick in the ass is a step forward.

Ame said...

Uhhhh . . . MIKE!!!!! I hope Lisa has already hit you upside the head for this! YOU are NOT a C+!!!!!

ONE person's SUBJECTIVE opinion of your WRITING is a C+. Yes, you put a LOT of your heart and soul and time into this novel, but you did not BECOME the novel! I seriously doubt Lisa would lie down next to a NOVEL every night!!!!!!!


michael snyder said...

This whole business of writing/publishing is nutty and subjective and unpredictable. You've got skills and it'll only be a matter of time (and continued hard work) till you find the right match.

Btw, where I'm from, a C+ is still a passing grade, meaning you passed, yo're in, right?...So where's the contract? Or at least a diploma?


Mike Duran said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words. Mike, one of the last novels I read, I graded with a C. It was a bestseller and the author signed a movie deal. So maybe I've got a slight lead, huh? And Ame, Lisa thwacks me on the head for other things (like peeing on the toilet seat), not for getting an average grade from an agent.

Will said...

Agents grading novels????? That's decidedly bizarre.
By the way, "smaller" agents should not be dismissed, and you might be able to develop a more fruitful creative relationship with somebody who is not such a big-shot... What's stopping you going with the agent who has made an offer?

But keep at it. My first novel is coming out next year after several attempts (other novels) which did not make it.


Ame said...

No, Mike - not for the grade - for thinking that you are the grade!

Mirtika said...

How can three agents act differentlY? Cause this is a very subjective game. And because not all agents are preferring to submit to the same houses. I think some agents have an idea of what the book they take on must be for X,Y, Z editors to like. And others have A,B,C editors. And some agents can be choosier than others, because they've got a name and can cull the submissions herd more thinly.

If you have peace and a good feeling about the agent who said yes, let them take you on. If you don't have peace and confidence...wait.

In any case, hugs to you, bro. Being graded C+ is always gonna hurt, even with other mitigating statements. We all wanna get tagged A or A+. :-/