You Can Only Buy One Book Today

I think this topic has been done to death, but just in case some of you were wondering why I wouldn’t want to represent a book that was certainly of publishable quality, or by most standards a “good” or “very good” book, here is a very short analogy.

You are at a bookstore. You pick up a book. You like it. It seems like a good book. It seems like a book that deserved to be published, at least in your opinion.

But today, you are only buying one book. You have a great many books at home already and you love them all. You have very limited shelf space and you don’t want to get rid of the books that you do love to make room for a book that you might not love as much. And so today, you will only bring home one, because that is what you have room for. Tomorrow, you might have more room. Perhaps you will have a new bookcase even. But today, there will only be one.

So you put back the book you really like, a little wistfully, because you know someone else will probably take it home, and you pick up the next book on the shelf. And you keep going, until you find the one that you love.

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22 Responses to You Can Only Buy One Book Today

  1. Jillian says:

    Very nice analogy.

  2. beckylevine says:

    Thanks, Jenny. That's actually a lovely way to look at it. 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    This blog kinda makes me sad, because it reflects my own perception of books. ☹

    I remember a time when I went into Book People (Austin) and dropped three digits on books every time. Then the recession happened, and my spending habits changed. Now I can only afford “The Book.” Problem is, Ms. Bent, I can no longer find “The Book.” As I commented on another blog, everything seems mainstreamed to appeal to the tastes of the masses. Those are not my tastes. The same thing happened with music. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD.

    I’ve found some beautifully-written self-published books, on the other hand. I never thought I’d see the day. A lot of these went to agents and publishing houses that ultimately turned them down. And I can see why: they’re far too niche. But hey – I like them! ☺

  4. jennybent says:

    It's really not meant to be sad; although some people are reading it that way, so I guess I wasn't clear. It's more that as an agent, you have a full list. You can't represent every book, even if you think it's good. You only have room for the books you really love.

  5. Melissa says:

    Thx, Ms. Bent. I sort of knew that, but it's hard not to draw comparisons. Please sign someone who has written "The Book." Please, please, please. It's getting discouraging here in the book aisles! 😀

  6. rkollman says:

    Two questions from the other side of the keyboard of "the book you really like." If not you, who? If not now, when?

  7. jennybent says:

    I don't really understand this question, I guess. The point is, that just as you don't love every book you pick up at a book store; I don't love every submission I get in. The writer of a published book doesn't expect to be purchased by every book buyer; just as a querying writer can't expect to be offered representation by every agent. Or am I misunderstanding?

  8. So, I don't understand about not having enough room for books… Is it because my house looks like an episode of hoarders? Is it because I live in a station wagon? Is it because I sold my bookshelves to buy more books? 😉 (KIDDING! In case you were wondering…)

  9. Anita says:

    Wonderful post! Proof that there's an agent out there for every book, just like there's a book out there for every reader. It's all a matter of not giving up the search on either end so paths can cross and "love" can blossom.

    Thanks for the inspiring analogy!

  10. I totally understand, but it's still a hard reality to face as an unpublished writer. :shrug: Now, as a reader, the idea of only buying one book nearly gave me a seizure. I can't walk into a bookstore and come out with just one. LOL, they're like potato chips or pistachios. ;o)

  11. Em-Musing says:

    Aww…I just wish there were as many agents to submit to as there are buyers of books. Yes, great analogy.

  12. jennybent says:

    I'm thinking this may not be my most successful post ever, as I really didn't mean to depress people, LOL! The point is, first, it's not personal, I can't love every book. Second, if I don't represent the book, and it's a good book, chances are very good that another agent will. And third, tomorrow is another day and I'll be able to sign another author then.

  13. says:

    I think finding an agent is a lot like getting married. I had boyfriends I probably could have lived an entire life with, in companionable happiness. That wasn't what I wanted in a marriage though, and that isn't what I want with an agent. If an agent isn't absolutely in love with my characters, my plot, my voice- why would I want them to represent me? My bookshelves are filled with recommendations and books that I love. I wouldn't expect anything less from an agent. I wouldn't want any less.

  14. I completely agree with what you're saying. And I think the fact that agents have these criteria not only mean they love the books they put their names on, but that better books end up on the shelf (at least in theory, though I agree with the commenter that loathes the mainstreaming). Keep up the good work!


  15. D.L. Orton says:

    Buy a kindle. 😉

  16. Jenny Phresh says:

    Not depressing a'tall…encouraging! Were I an agent, there are probably very few books on my own overstuffed shelves that I would have chosen to represent, to hone, to fight for. And I am very fond indeed of my books.

  17. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Just an FYI – your content/spam filter on your email is rejecting queries as it considers them unsolicited bulk email. I'm assuming you want to know about this and have it fixed…..

    Thank you for your interesting blog posts!

  18. Robin says:

    I don't think it's depressing. It's simply the truth. I have a list of books a mile long that I want to read, some that I'll probably love. I can't afford to buy them all today. But eventually I will probably buy all of them.

    Just like the majority of great books will eventually find an avenue for publication. This reminds me of your blog post about there being enough good for everyone.

  19. Lori says:

    That's actually a beautiful way to put this and one that makes sense to the reader-who-loves-stories so that the rejection doesn't sting nearly so much. Thank you!

  20. Beautiful post…but I continue to buy books I like and love and continue to buy more bookshelves to house them. 🙂 One day I hope one of my books will be on my shelf with my collection of signed books.

  21. Thanks for the analogy. It's nice to know how agents think about these things.

    I'd also like to remind those people who can't afford to buy a lot of books….Don't forget about the public library! Think of your librarian as the agent who can accept every and all submitted manuscripts…