Regrets? I’ve had a few.

I did an #askagent session on Twitter the other day and someone asked the agents participating if we ever regretted passing on a project.

I think I said that the short answer was “sort of,” and that it was complicated and I should probably blog about it, so here I am.

This is a tough one. I can’t speak for other agents but I know personally that this is a hard question to answer honestly. Put it this way: intellectually speaking, do I ever regret passing on a book? No. I do not. Rationally, I know that if I didn’t see the book’s potential then I wouldn’t have been a good advocate for it. Or if it wasn’t a good fit for my list then I wouldn’t have known how to sell it–what the competition was or which editors to send it to.

But emotionally? In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep? Do I regret passing on a book that someone else sold for a lot of money or that is now on the bestseller list? Well, what do you think? OF COURSE I REGRET IT.

Let’s go back to the rational Jenny who is now soundly kicking the ass of emotional dark-night-of-the-soul Jenny. “Listen to me, and suck it up you sniveling pansy,” she says.
For there is not one agent on the planet that likes every single book on the NYT bestseller list. For every book on that list there are agents who passed on it and editors who passed on it and it’s just part of the business. There’s even a “fun” game we agents and editors like to play called “Well, I passed on X.” The bigger and more successful X is, the more you up the ante. It’s not a game you really like to win of course, but it sure makes you feel better to play.

So do I regret it? Sort of. Not really. Kind of. Mostly no.

And why am I sharing this, you ask? I guess it’s all part of my continuing efforts to show you that agents are people too.

Happy Wednesday!

Jenny's posts

10 Responses to Regrets? I’ve had a few.

  1. J.M.Cornwell says:

    What was your biggest middle of the night book/author you passed on?

  2. jennybent says:

    Not telling. My honesty only goes so far!

  3. Marisa Birns says:

    Sort of, not really, kind of, mostly no regrets are all part of it…

    In middle of night, just think about books you didn't pass on, which helped you win that round of the game.

  4. That was very interesting. I'd love to be able to be in on one of those I passed on X convos.

  5. Thanks for the honesty. It's a good reminder to authors as well that its better to have an agent who is into your book then one who isn't.

  6. Rachelle says:

    I couldn't have said this better myself!

  7. Thanks for the post. Gives me the view from your side. "Rationally, I know that if I didn't see the book's potential then I wouldn't have been a good advocate for it. Or if it wasn't a good fit for my list then I wouldn't have known how to sell it…" Good things for a writer to keep in mind when she's been turned down by you.

  8. I think we all have regrets about one thing or another. It's admitting them that's the hard part. Bottom line – if you don't feel the passion for the book then you can't sell it.

    Thanks for the honesty 😉

  9. Peter Dudley says:

    I have a new goal: I now aspire to be the author of somebody's "X" some day.

  10. tamarapaulin says:

    That sounds like an awesome commiseration game!

    I work in a games store in Canada, and I've had a number of people in their 60s tell me they passed on becoming an initial investor in the game Trivial Pursuit, and then tell me about how much money each of the investors went on to make.

    Ah, the road not taken!

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