Dear Crabbit,I'm really sorry but my answer is going to be short and not what you want to hear. The most likely reason for the differing reasons for rejection is simple: there are probably many or several reasons for rejection and each agent has picked one to mention. If they mention any more than one, a) it will take them too long, b) you are more likely to come back to them with a response (which they don't want) and c) if they are the only ones who give you detailed feedback the risk is that you then go and re-write to their specifications but other agents still don't take it.
I read your post last week, (DEAR CRABBIT: encouragement from this rejection?) with interest. I am also in the process of submitting my first book, targeted to 7-9 year olds, to agents. So far, I've sent it to 4 agents and for a writing competition. All have been rejections. Two were standard 'form' rejections, but 3 of the rejections (two of which were from agents who had asked to look at the full manuscript) contained some feedback on the work.
I've had some really positive feedback; Agent 1 said: 'Your tone is very sparky and enjoyable, and it's very fun'. Agent 2 said: 'It’s fun and charming'. The Competition Judges said: 'this was a very enjoyable piece... funny, with great warmth'. So there seems to be general agreement about what is good about my book...
...but there's absolutely no consensus about what's wrong with it. The reasons why my work was rejected were all different. The problems cited are:
- Theme: Agent 1 said that they already had a picturebook on a similar theme and they 'would struggle to give the book the 'push' it needs'.
- Plot: Agent 2 said: 'I couldn’t get to grips with the story here. It feels like it pulls in quite a few directions and I found myself not really knowing where it was going'.
As there's no consistency in the feedback, I'm struggling to work out what I need to do to make my manuscript better. If the Competition Judges are right and it's pitched too high, why didn't the agents mention it? Agent 1 liked the plot, but Agent 2 couldn't get to grips with it. The 'subjectivity' of these readings of my work means I'm unclear as to what my next steps should be.
- Language/Style: The Competition Judges said they thought that the vocabulary and sentence structure used was too advanced for the target age group.
Is your advice to me the same as the previous writer? Should I submit to a few more agents and see if the same concerns crop up? Or should I try and address the criticisms before I submit the manuscript to others?
- They are right but the agents chose not to mention it, because it wasn't the one crit they happened to pick as the easiest one to offer or the one that first came to mind.
- They are right but the agents chose not to mention it because if it's only the language (rather than content) then you would simply need to say it was pitched at 8-10 instead of 7-9. Problem solved.
- They are wrong. Competition judges a) often know less about the markets and possibilities than agents and b) are usually appallingly over-worked and underpaid for the task. (I will never do comp judging again - recently I did this, spent a vast number of hours giving detailed written feedback on every entry, was paid a tiny fee, had to travel and stay overnight to deliver the adjudication and got not one single word of thanks from any of the writers.)