As you and your fellow editors look to acquire books, is there one element that grabs you each time, that one essential element?
I say this in my rejections letter, if I don’t emotionally connect with something I’m not going to respond to it. There’s something about the story that has to pull on my emotions in some way. It has to make me laugh. It has to be very dramatic. It has to surprise me. Something has to happen for me to respond to a story. Even it’s something I’ve heard a lot , even if it’s yet another vampire story, if there’s something in it that feels fresh or emerges in some surprising way I’ll will respond and go after it. There has to be something emotionally alive in it for me.
I think this is the hardest part of querying. You can have a fantastic pitch and a wonderful book, but if it doesn’t connect with that particular agent/editor it’s not going to work. And that’s good, in a way. You want your agent or editor to be passionate about your book. If they’re not, they won’t really want to put in the time and effort required to make it a wonderful, successful work of art that readers will love. And it’s so hard to tell what exactly will strike an agent/editor. As Feiwel says, it can be an old story (back again, vampires?) but something about it has to stand out. While you can revise a novel to tighten the plot or enhance the character development, it’s really hard to pinpoint what that “something” that will catch an editor’s attention.
Jean Feiwel will be part of the “Children’s Books, Today and Tomorrow: Four Expert Impressions” panel at the 2012 SCBWI conference in January. So excited to hear more of her thoughts on the industry, and for the conference in general! (For more conference news and previews, check out the SCBWI conference blog)