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.