Is my book ‘too quiet’?

Some of you might be getting feedback that your book is ‘too quiet’. I know I’ve used this term before. So what does it mean and how does it affect you?

What ‘too quiet’ means to me:

  • It can be very well written but it might fall into the ‘forgettable’ category
  • It’s a ‘good’ book, but it’s not ‘great’
  • The plot does not have high enough stakes
  • Agents and editors don’t think it will make a big enough splash in the marketplace in such a competitive environment
  • In a marketplace that is looking for big books with flashy hooks, quiet books won’t stand out on editors’ own lists
  • This can be the case of novels that aren’t bringing anything new to the table in terms of premise, plot, or characters and their relationships
  • ‘Too quiet’ books are often low concept, contemporary or literary novels that aren’t holding the interest of readers, which could be for many reasons

Agents and editors might use this phrase as an empty catch phrase in rejections, and it’s hard to know exactly how they each personally describe ‘too quiet’, but you don’t want an agent or editor that doesn’t think your book can stand out. Overall, it means the agent or editor isn’t connecting with your novel.

How can you avoid the ‘too quiet’ trap?

  • Even literary fiction need a strong and compelling plot
  • You need to be able to pitch your book with a hook that entices readers. If you don’t have a hook, you don’t have a marketable project.
  • Ask yourself if you are crafting some creative writing or a novel to be published and read by the masses
  • Are your stakes high enough?

Q: What does ‘too quiet’ mean to you?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

12 thoughts on “Is my book ‘too quiet’?

      1. It is funny . . . I know my book inside and out. I can recite full passages. But ask me what my book is about? I freeze. Why is that? The story is strong, well received, but I get tongue-tied when I need to sum it up in one or two sentences. A common complaint amongst we writers.


  1. This is good food for thought for me–thanks! I’ve received a decent amount of feedback on my latest ms, and the common thread emerging is (sadly) that it won’t “make a big enough splash”. I hereby swear not to start another ms until I have a ginormous hook! ;)


  2. I think books that are “too quiet” don’t create an emotional response in the reader. I’m a writer of women’s midlife crisis humor (a new genre I’m introducing to the world!), and I know if I can’t make myself laugh out loud with what I write then the reader won’t enjoy it either. Great post!


  3. Interesting point of view. I don’t know about this though. I often enjoy reading quiet books. Where the story may not be huge but the characters resonate in a personal way. Still, good information to have and helpful in understanding the secret language of agents. Thanks!


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