Every writer who’s ever submitted a manuscript—of any kind—hopes that the receiving agent or editor will instantly fall in love the work. And it happens. It must, we pre-published writers insist, because we know that the books we read were chosen. It just happens rarely.
A recent rejection letter I received—which BTW was kind, professional, and supportive, even without anything specific to my submission—claimed that the agent was very picky about the work he chooses to represent and will only select manuscripts he can support 100%. Sounds fair. Shoot, sounds like what I would want—either as a writer or an agent. He went on to say that the business is subjective, and that he hoped my project would find an agent who would love it 100%. Not only fair, it also implied that an agent might currently exist who will love my manuscript, even as it had been rejected thus far.
This got me to thinking about subjectivity. And realizing that I am being unfair in directing my frustration at agents. Come on, I think. Won’t one of you just love my story already? This kind of thinking is unfair because as I reader I can be just as picky.
On my Goodreads account, I rate the novels I’ve read, though I rarely give a review (just not enough time right now). I went back and checked the novels I’d given 5 stars to. 12 out of 165. That’s just 7%. Not very many.
Ratings are a funny thing. For example, I enjoy Cassandra Clare’s books—they often get 4 stars—but find her overuse of semicolons can be tedious at times. Still, she’s got enigmatic characters and great plot twists. I also lovelovelove John Green’s books, all of which have also gotten at least 4 stars (The only one to get 5 was his latest, and a must read, The Fault in Our Stars). Green’s books are intelligent, provocative, and hilarious. Very different from Clare’s (who writes fantasy). How do they both get the same rating? I guess I’m reading them for different reasons, and enjoying them for an even different set reasons. So I’m not sure I can compare them on the same plane. Or at the very least, it is a hard thing to do.
Recently, Katie recommended a book to me. I read it, and found it hard to get into. I ended up skimmed a lot towards the end. Just a week ago, I returned The Book Thief, by Markus Zuzak to the library. Unread. Just couldn’t finish it. Yes, it seemed original and the subject matter interesting. But I just didn’t like it. <Shrug.> I’m just as picky as the agents are.
Now I want to get published like the rest of you (so agents, pick me!), but I now have a deeper appreciation for what agents are facing when the onslaught of manuscripts downloads into their email system.
Art is a personal, subjective thing. This quality can make it emotional, vulnerable and terrifying. But the same quality is what makes it beautiful. And that’s why I’m still writing.