You said you liked my manuscript, so why did you decline to represent it?
I read a lot of projects that I enjoy the read but just don’t have any place I can go with it. Has nothing to do with how good a story is or the quality of the writing, it has to do with being fair with the author.
All agents have different sets of contacts. Sure, we overlap a great deal, work with the same houses, but there are editors that are good friends of mine but they seldom acquire anything from me. Why? Because our tastes are very dissimilar and they tend to not like projects that I am drawn to. Other editors have much more similar tastes and as a result are much more favorable to the things that I’ve chosen to represent.
I work for my clients, but in initial contacts it is much more like I am working for the editors. I’m trying to establish those relationships, trying to understand what they are looking for, and work at helping them find it. But once I establish interest in a project then I am strictly representing my client. This task is much easier if we tend to like the same type of project.
I come from the writing side of the industry rather than the publishing side. I’m very sensitive to tying a project up and then finding I have no place to go with it. If that happens I have it tied up with little chance of success so for all practical purposes it is off the market. I wouldn’t want anybody doing that to me and I don’t want to do it to anybody else.
For that reason part of my process in evaluating a submission is to not only decide if I like the book and like the writing, but do I see a clear path for it? Not that I guarantee to sell one, just do I see some people in my contact list that I’m sure are a possibility for it. If I don’t then another agent with a different set of contacts might be a much better match for it.
It’s all about being positioned to effectively represent it.