Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Mood I'm In

In the comments of our pitch critiques a few wondered how much mood might have to do with an agent’s decision. The truth is that no matter what an agent tells you, a lot goes into an agent’s decision that you have no control of.

Mood might be one of those things. If I’ve just taken on two new clients and my other clients have also been keeping me busy reading material and working with their editors, I might be feeling overwhelmed and really overworked. In that case a proposal is going to have to be even more eye-catching than normal. If, however, things have been going smoothly and I’m actually feeling caught up with my work, I might be willing to give proposals a chance that I might not otherwise. In other words, I might think the writing seems off, but the proposal is intriguing enough that I’m curious. That’s something I wouldn’t do if I was feeling inundated.

I also might be in the mood for a certain type of book or sick of seeing a certain type of book. If I’ve been inundated with Star Trek rip-offs it’s very unlikely a Star Trek rip-off is going to grab my attention. If, however, I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers in my spare time then it’s likely I’m looking for a thriller that week or that month and any “thrilling” query will catch my attention. If I’ve just sold three vampire books it’s unlikely I’m going to be interested in another vampire book for a while, but instead I might want to see a quiet historical romance.

Mood affects all of us and all of our reading. Think about it. If you’re feeling down in the dumps and want to be cheered up you might pick up a romantic comedy or light cozy mystery rather than a dark thriller. I know that I’ve gone through periods in my life when I can’t read anything depressing and other times when all I want is a good cry.

The truth is that you never know the mood of the agent you’re pitching to or what is happening in her personal life that might affect the choices she’s making. In fact, in a lot of ways you don’t know what’s happening in her professional life that affects the choices she’s making. An example of that is when I said that I see a lot of insurance adjustor mysteries and many of you commented that you’ve never seen one. Because what we sometimes see a lot of are not things that ever get published—ask Kim about books on cloning Jesus. I know, I know, many of you will say that good agents aren’t affected by mood. I disagree. I think a good agent doesn’t let her mood get in the way of her job, but she does allow her mood to get involved. And in the end, good writing fits any mood. And even better, a good book can change every mood.



Anonymous said...

I can relate to this at the moment. I'm judging a comp for the first time and after the fifth 'woman must marry man she hates for a year (but secretly lusts after) because of a clause in a will and though he's a total pig to her falls in love with him' plot it makes me less inclined to be patient and kind with the sixth. Not even when they turn it around and make it the man who must marry a woman he thinks is a money hungry slut for a year (although he fancies her like mad) in order to fulfil a will clause/save the family fortune/keep custody of his nephew/stop her marrying his brother, then (oh shock) he realises she's actually a sweet girl and falls in love with her.

I had to step away to keep my objectivity. The entrants don't realise their homage to 1970s romance is marching arm in arm with fifty others, or how depressing the lack of originality is. I'm so glad to see it from this side. I'll never diss an editor or agent again.

Anonymous said...

I think mood also affects writers too. If I'm in a crappy mood I tend to write crappy. If I'm in a good mood, the characters, dialogue and plot all come together as they should.

CAL said...

a good book can change every mood
I am fully in agreement with this. Sometimes I can feel absolutely horrible, and curl up with a book to escape the world. When the book is worth it, I come out feeling so much better.

Aimlesswriter said...

"If, however, I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers in my spare time "
You have spare time? Wow! I don't know where you find it.

I believe everything is affected by mood. It's human.
What I'd like to see? Instead of agents posting what's on their ipod, post something like; Mood; romance (Or thriller or historical, etc) then we'd know when a good time to submit our genre.
One of the nice things about this blog is the honesty that shines through.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm glad you posted this.

When a person gets a rejection and the agent is kind enough to include something like, "I like the writing, but it just isn't for me right now," then we have hopes it really was just not right for them.

If authors labor under the fantasy every agent is completely objective, the rejections take a bigger toll.

Reading and writing is very subjective, but that agent's spidey sense and intuition will also work for a writer.

Thank heavens.

Now to get the timing down just right....

Christie Craig said...


I love your honesty.

Timmy Mac said...

Great. There goes my book about Clone Jesus the insurance adjustor (best gig he could get without his dad pulling strings; also he knows karate).

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that mood will affect whether an agent asks for mroe on a book. Why wouldn't it? You're human! My mood affects what I read; I don't see why it wouldn't be different for anyone else. But I would also imagine mood is only ONE of the factors and not THE only factor in making offers for representation. . .

Spy Scribbler said...

I, too, love that quote, "a good book can change every mood."

Some writers can just pull me away from anything. They can seduce and manipulate me, pull me into their story, take me into their world.

I'm totally fascinated by that. I love it especially when it feels like the writer knows exactly what she's doing to you. It's a power so cool, it gives me shivers.

Anonymous said...

correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't what's playing o the Ipod suggest the mood of the agent?

And I guess agents are bipolar just as writers are compulsive obsessive.
That give me hope that if you can synchronize your Mojo to the pendulum swing of your dream agent, maybe she'll see how talented you are. LOL.
Google Eistein's definition of insanity.
Thank God I have other ways to make my name and fortune!

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Dave Fragments said...

It's called being human, isn't it?
I've had those days when I HAD to be fair and objective and I felt like {sh*t} or been to busy, or had family troubles, chocolate cravings or the common cold/flu.
Ain't nothing much you can do but step back and find a way to be fair and objective. I do it with music.

Andrew said...

This is similar to a lesson I teach college writing students. Some writers want to assume a perfect reader, who's never in a bad mood, who is perfectly willing and accepting, and who has nothing better to do than to think through what the writer might mean. And those readers don't exist. If the end product of a lit-agent search is a book on the shelves, that book is going to be browsed by people in various moods, and that mood will affect sales. Sometimes the bad-mood reading is the one that best predicts success.

And Aimless, I like that blogging agents post bits like "what's on my iPod." It's a nice personal touch, and possibly more helpful in querying because maybe you can show you're interested in the agent's taste in other entertainment, rather than just what they can do for you.

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