I recently read through a thread on a writer's message board started by a woman (I'll call her Jane) who felt really discouraged by a rejection she had received from an agent. This particular rejection used the phrase "not loving it." She said she can usually brush off rejections and move on, but this one for some reason really hit her hard. Her husband told her, "I don't know why she'd have to love it. Isn't it whether she thinks the manuscript can be sold?"
I'm not an agent or an editor, so I'm not going to tackle the topic as if I am. That wouldn't be right. But I want to talk about this a little bit, because it wasn't that long ago that I was receiving those kinds of rejections. Now that I'm in a different place, and have been through submissions with an agent who usually does love my work, I know I wouldn't *want* anything less than love. And since I'm guessing many people who read this blog are on the agent search, I thought it'd make a good discussion.
First of all, an agent has many clients, and often shops multiple projects to multiple editors at the same time. So, imagine an agent who takes on a paranormal romance YA because she thinks she can probably sell it, even though paranormal romances aren't really her thing. She read the book, and she thinks it's an okay read, but she definitely doesn't love it.
Over on the other side of her desk, though, there's this contemporary story that grabbed her from page one and didn't let go until she closed the book. She couldn't wait to tell the author how much she enjoyed the book, and she has sent it to specific editors who she knows love this kind of book. On top of that, she's halfway through reading a dystopian novel that is unlike anything she's ever seen and is trying to read as fast as she can so she can offer representation.
Personally, I don't want to be the lukewarm book in the bunch! Just imagine the conversation:
Agent: "Hi, this is Annabelle with Just-In-It-For-The-Money Literary Agency, and I have this paranormal romance you might be interested in. It has a girl and two hot boys. Well, I don't find zombies particularly hot, but I'm thinking teen girls in this market might. They're ugly and disgusting and they smell bad, but they want this girl, and they will stop at nothing to get her. She's really torn between the two, because one is nice and the other is mean. You know how girls love that bad boy thing, even though I don't think that means a boy who is out to kill you. But what do I know? I think this kind of thing is selling."
Editor: "You're not really convincing me, sorry. You don't happen to have any good contemporary YA, do you? Or an out-of-this-world dystopian?"
Agent: "Oh, do I ever! I just sent a fantastic contemporary out to eight editors, but I'd be happy to send it to you too. And I may have a dystopian to send you too..."
And suddenly, yours is forgotten and instead, the one the agent really loves is going out to one more editor.
Wouldn't you rather be the one the agent LOVES? Of course you would! And what I think Jane has to remember is that when it comes to books, tastes are subjective! Personally, I'd take a rejection that says, "I just didn't love it" over one that says, "The writing is really weak and the characters fall flat" any day of the week! Because to me, the first one says, "this isn't my thing," while the second one says, "you have some work to do!"
We went on to get something like nine rejections on this story before it sold. Do you want another reason why an agent has to love your work? Well, here it is. Remember, agents get rejected too. They have to be able to pick themselves up and keep on sending that baby out. I'm guessing some days, it's not an easy thing to do.
Fortunately, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME found an editor who loved it, after many who didn't. By the time it finally sold, I couldn't believe it. I'd heard "No" so many times, it was hard to believe someone actually wanted to publish it.
In January, it will be three years since the book was released. It's still on the shelves, which is no small feat. It's sold well. BUT, does everyone love it? No! Some people hate it - it's just not their thing. We must *always* remember - tastes are subjective! I try not to focus on the people who don't love it, because I don't write for them. I write for all of the other people who DO love it. And yeah, it all started with an agent who loved it.
I say, don't settle for anything less than love. Keep looking. Keep trying. Keep writing!! And when you finally have the perfect match, between an agent and one of your manuscripts, you'll be glad you kept looking until true love found you.
I'm curious, though... do the rejections that speak of not quite loving it bug you more than the other ones? And if so, why do you think that is?