You know all those form rejections that talk about how subjective the publishing business can be?
You know the ones: They’re the short-but-sweet notes that remind querying authors to query widely because what’s not a specific agent’s cup of tea may well be another agent’s dream come true. Now, I don’t know about other folks, but my mind tends to just skim through all those semi-encouraging words and fixate on what my stupidly fragile artistic ego considers the bottom line (never mind what my rational self tells me about subjectivity and personal taste and blah blah blah…) Point being: When I see those rejections, all I read is, “We don’t want you. This is a form rejection and it could well mean we think you suck. In fact, yes, you probably do suck. Please go away now.”
Well, today I had a lesson on how stupid that frame of mind truly is. First thing in the morning, I got a personalized rejection on a requested partial. While I really appreciated the brief, but thoughtful personalization, and could even kinda tell where the agent was coming from, it still stung a little, because of all the work that’s already been poured into my little book. She did add that her take on it was probably just her own opinion/taste (I’m paraphrasing), but in usual Gloria-fashion, I barely paid attention to that disclaimer.
I went off about my day, thinking I could definitely work a little more on the book to address Ms. Agent’s concerns, even though I had already done JUST THAT two weeks ago (I did offer Ms. Agent an updated manuscript, since she had a slightly older version, but she didn’t seem interested). Still, I thought even the updated version could use more work, right? After all, this is “only” Draft Eight we’re talking about here (Ms. Agent’s opinion referred to Draft Six, in case anyone’s wondering). My thought was (is) no manuscript is ever truly, truly in final form, is it? I bet even after some books hit the shelves, their authors are still stuck in the “I should’ve done/not done that there!” once in a while. But I digress…
My point is, I went about my morning thinking I could either address the shortcomings according to Ms. Agent… Or I could just throw in the towel, declare The Experiment a soul-sucking failure of epic proportions, and resign myself to a life of frustrated dreams because–you know, I suck and all that. Right?
So, while those thoughts wrestled in my mind, I took The Lab for her morning walk, then drove her to the vet for her annual check-up, had lunch, got another form rejection on query only (no pages)…
And then, lo and behold… What should arrive in my inbox as I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and pondered the future (or lack thereof) of my writing career? TWO full requests. TWO. Both based on submitted partials–one on the older (Draft Six) version Ms. Agent had just rejected; one on the stronger, better (IMHO), Draft Eight version. Both spoke about intriguing beginnings and cool language and imagery–the very things Ms. Agent flagged as unappealing to her.
Conclusion: Yes, subjectivity is not just lip service. It happens. Some people like flowery language. Some people like short, snappy sentences. Some people love descriptions. Some want to jump straight into the action. Some need a bit more setting right off, or an immediate emotional connection with a character. Others love words and imagery and poetry.
Someone once said that becoming a traditionally published author is 1/3 talent, 1/3 hard work and 1/3 luck. And the longer I’m immersed in this process, the truer that rings.
Now I just hope my luck is finally starting to pick up. It does only take one ‘yes.’