Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Trouble with Llamas by Andy Scheer

Anybody want a llama? Specifically, a llama book?

Back on February 23, Hartline agent Terry Burns wrote a great blog article, “I'm Looking for a Llama.” A good manuscript is not good enough, Terry wrote. “Agents and editors are all looking for exceptional books, books that stand out from the crowd and are unique and compelling”—much as a llama stands out in a pasture full of sheep. Sheep look much the same and follow the crowd. Llamas stand tall and distinctive, presenting a unique story in a compelling way.

I have a llama, I thought as I read Terry's observations. Not only is this client's story compelling, it's far from the same old same-old. So I had great hopes as I sent out the proposal.

But I'm starting to discover the trouble with llamas.

After three earlier, generic rejections, I got this email Friday, from a fiction editor at a major house. (A few details have been changed to preserve anonymity.)

Thank you for the opportunity to review [Author’s] manuscript. Unfortunately, it is not a good fit for our program at this time. I don’t see a huge market for Christian historical fiction from the days of the [Llamas]. Best wishes on finding the right publisher for this project.

Maybe contemporary llamas would be okay. Romantic llamas. Or llamas in bonnets. Or teen vampire llamas.

Maybe not. I still like this story about historical llamas. And I trust the right publisher will too—and then scads of readers.

If you're looking to catch the start of the next trend, here's an insider tip: historical llamas.


Charmaine Clancy said...

I think historical llamas sounds great as long as it has great llama characters and plenty of llama action (that's dramatic llama action, not suggesting naughty llama on llama action).

Wagging Tales

Yvonne Blake said...

I'm not a follower of trends (in any aspect of my life) and it shows in my writing, too.

How do we sell a book that is not following the crowd?

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Love this well-written post! The dreamer-writers are the ones who set the trends, instead of following them. Hoping the publishers recognize and publish the stories the people really WANT to read. And it's good to know there are agents who recognize llamas when they see them!

by Pegg Thomas said...

I got the nicest rejection letter from an editor. She said she enjoyed reading my story but since it's an "issues" story, her publishing house won't take it. It's a contemporary fiction novel about a family and the family is dealing with Alzheimer's. It's about the family - not about the Alzheimer's - but apparently the fact that the disease is in there makes it an "issues" story. *sigh* What can you do with a llama with Alzheimer's?

Andy Scheer said...

I can't see Alzheimer llamas as a problem, unless the treatment comes across as too bleak. Just this past month a publisher hired me to edit a llama novel that included autism. I was asked to work with the author to reinforce that aspect--to strengthen what the publisher saw as a marketing hook.

jude urbanski said...

Very interesting post with a twist. Sometimes though, Andy, llamas are without honor in their own country and just need a location change (i.e. different agent, different publisher). Huh?

Rick Barry said...

I'm close to finishing my revision of a suspense llama with a historical tie-in. I hope it will catch an editor's eye.

If not, maybe I'll concoct a story about a Dali LLama. ;)

Andy Scheer said...

Llama-ness is often in the eye of the beholder. One person's llama may be another's alpaca or vicuna or guanaco.

Amy Sullivan said...

Thanks for the post and your fun take!

by Pegg Thomas said...

As a handspinner, I'm tickled that you know about the vicuna, and guanaco relatives! Alpaca have become popular, but the other two are rarely mentioned. :)