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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > February 2016 > Talk it over: Why no X?

Talk it over: Why no X?

What is that elusive quality that agents and publishers are looking for? Jane Wenham-Jones canvasses some big names to find out.

I have written three novels, all of which have done the rounds of publishers and agents and been nicely, politely, or even enthusiastically, rejected. The last one came back from the final agent I tried, saying, in so many words, that there was nothing wrong with my submission and she had enjoyed reading it. She praised my plotting and my writing style and picked out a couple of sub-plots she had particularly liked, but ended by saying she was reluctantly turning it down. This was because she feared she wouldn’t sell it as, in the final analysis, it lacked the ‘X factor’. This has left me at a loss. I know of the television programme obviously but how does this analogy translate when it comes to writing books? Is it to come up with something totally different that hasn’t been done before? And if so, how do some ‘top’ novelists (mentioning no names) manage to sell so well when their books are all the same? What is the definition of an X factor for a manuscript or novelist? And more importantly, how do I go about getting it?

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BUMPER ISSUE: Plan your writing year with our definitive guide to festivals, workshops, courses and events for writers in 2016 101 ways to inspire new ideas How to: Market your ebook Write the perfect submission letter Sell your article ideas 'Leave it out!": Create cliché-free crime dialogue Get active! Make the most of your writing retreat AND Get Booked at your local library Star interview with crime writer Louise Welsh, on tackling dark topics with a light touch

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