My husband and I have written two novels together (one MG/YA and one Chapter Book). There are no human characters “featured” in either. We’ve gotten what appears to be interest in both (“excellent writing”, “well developed worlds”, etc.), but have not been able to entice an agent. Recently, one major house, after the editor (from a conference) requested a full and responded that he loved our MG/YA manuscript and went through the scenes he liked the best, said that his “boss” did not like the idea of animals having human characteristics. We’ve gotten that response from a number of professionals at SCBWI conferences we’ve attended. When they hear that there are no human characters in our completed manuscripts, they turn us down without looking at the work. So, my question is are we just looking in the wrong places or is this a market trend and both projects should just be shelved for the time being? Alternatively, should we take this as a “sign” that the projects just need more work?There do seem to be some people who have a bit of a prejudice against animals as main characters. This doesn't make much sense, because there are plenty of very popular books of this sort*. So you may not have found the right house yet.
But it could mean the manuscripts aren't quite ready yet, too. I think that because animals as main characters take a little extra suspension of disbelief, when it works, it works, and most people will recognize it. And when it doesn't work, when somehow it's not quite convincing enough, people fault the animals instead of the believability.
Have you ever asked someone for directions to a place, and their response was "Oh, you're lost." Yes, yes I know I'm lost. That's why I need directions.
The toughest thing about feedback is that it's subjective. The second toughest thing is that sometimes people can only tell you you're not there yet, and when they try to guide you in the right direction, they're pointing the wrong way.
The Highway Cats
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM
Guardians of Gahoole