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Ask Daphne! About codewords

Really eye-catching shoes, but how do you walk in them? for Pablo, who wants to know:

What does it mean when an agent rejects a manuscript and says, “I didn’t make a strong enough connection with the manuscript to offer representation.” I’ve had three agents say that to me after reading my manuscript, all complimented my writing and none pointed out specific flaws that were deal breakers. Two asked to see future work. I sent one agent my second novel. Again he complimented the writing but said that he did not make a strong enough connection with the manuscript to offer representation. What does this phrase mean in terms of the quality of writing? I’m torn between pulling back and revising or continuing to query with my two completed novels. Right now I have eight partials and one full out with agents. I’m at work on a third novel so it’s not like I’m just sitting around waiting but I don’t want to burn bridges with writing that isn’t ready.

I can’t tell you exactly what another agent means, but when I use those words, it’s a polite code for “Yeah, it’s good, but I don’t care enough to want to sign it.”
Which is kinda rude, sure, but that’s why we USE polite codewords, and other trite phrases.
The fact is this — if I sign an author, I have to LOVE their book. Not just like it, not just think it has potential, not just feel like it’s good for an afternoon’s read when I have nothing else to do. I need to live with it for years, from original submission through sending it out to editors, through contract negotiations, publication schedule, bad reviews, an reprintings. It’s not a short process.
So if I don’t love a book from the get-go, trust me, it’s better for all of us if I decline.
It sounds to me like you’ve got a good story, and you’re clearly doing a great job with queries, or you wouldn’t have so many requests for the full. Now all you have to do is connect that initial interest with the RIGHT agent, and you’re golden.

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