Yesterday I had the interesting and depressing experience of having two rejections land in my inbox on the same day. The second, naturally, appearing having gotten up from the brief nap I’d taken having been down about the first. Both were typical form letter rejections, the kind that give no insight whatsoever into why the agent passed up your work. What was especially depressing was that I’d mentally tagged one of those agents as a particularly good fit for Shades, given their online description for the sort of story they are looking for.
It’s so easy to take it personally. It’s easy to start thinking things like, “Man, my work must really suck if an agent who wants that exact kind of story doesn’t even want it.”
But I know that’s not true.
One’s taste in books is a highly subjective matter. I know this, because I know how picky I am about what I like to read. For example, I just finished the last book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series…and I found myself mildly disappointed.
Because it had a happy ending.
Really, Nightphoenix? You didn’t like it because it was happy? Well, aren’t you just a ray of sunshine. 😛
But see, what I really liked about the series was the tension in the relationships…the idea that some relationships are impossible because of other responsibilities, and the fact that choosing between love and one’s responsibilities can be absolute hell. It sucked that these characters couldn’t be together, and it was great! But then in the last book, everything works out. Everyone pairs off and everyone gets their happy ending. And it wasn’t bad writing or anything; the characters’ decisions never felt contrived or forced. Now, I imagine that to most, this was an extremely satisfying ending. Anything else would have annoyed, angered and disappointed a vast majority of readers. But as for me? I didn’t like it. That sort of neat wrapping everything up at the end…just doesn’t work for me. I enjoy getting my heart ripped out at the end of a story. Not everyone does. Not everyone should.
Ergo, the kinds of stories people fall in love with is highly, highly subjective.
The truth is, I don’t know why those particular agents yesterday rejected Hands, Like Secrets. Maybe they were having a crappy day. Maybe they’ve gotten way too many fantasy or YA stories this month. Maybe it was too similar to something they just acquired. Maybe they didn’t like Saeli. Maybe they’re sick of Harry Potter knockoffs and thus automatically reject everything that has any sort of school of magic in it. Or…and this is probably the most likely…they thought it was okay, but it just didn’t have that *spark* for them. I read books like that all the time. Books I think are “not bad”, “okay”, “ho-hum”, “meh”, or even “how the hell did this crap get published?”
Of course, I want everyone to love my stories. I love them, how can you not?? But it doesn’t work like that. There isn’t a book, movie, TV show, play, or painting out there that everyone likes. Taste is simply too subjective.
What I do know, and have to keep in mind, is this: My work does not suck. I am not a bad writer. Those agents yesterday, the ones previous, and all those in the future are not rejecting and will not reject Hands because they think it’s crap. (Well, some might…but that’s not my fault). It is not personal. My work will not captivate everyone who reads it. Not because it isn’t good enough, but because creating something that will appeal to everyone is impossible.
It is not personal.