The following quote is from agent Nathan Bransford:
"I will say that when authors have a really good idea but the manuscript is in rough shape, I'm much more likely to try and work with the author on a revision than when the idea is so-so or not great and the writing is good. It's harder to find good ideas than good writing."
I've been screaming this for the past two years. I'll stand by this as THE MOST IMPORTANT ingredient to getting published in today's market place. Great, even exemplary writing isn't cutting it any more. I've been praised up one side and down the element tree for the past two years for great writing--action, conflict, dialogue, plot, pace, characterization. All the bases are covered. What's left? If your premise is even the least bit used, well, you'd better be prepared to be told so.
There has been a saying in fiction that has stood the test of time--there's nothing new under the sun--if you can put a different, imaginative twist on an old subject, sooner or later that book will find a great home. This ain't happenin', folks. I'm not seeing this.
What's devastating about this type of rejection is, that it's final. There is no way to fix it, since it is the backbone of the story--or more precisely, the heart.
Just out of curiosity, I'm going to be watching my rejections very carefully from the large N.Y. houses. If I continually see these "premise" rejections, I'll at least know (or suspect) that the true reason for the rejection is something else entirely.
A little bit bummed today. Rant over.
Causes Chris Stevenson Supports
Ophra's Literacy Program. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Absolutewrite.com.