Yay! Today we have a guest post from my fabulous agent, Elisabeth Weed, who will be chiming in here every month or so, whenever it strikes her fancy. For more info on Elisabeth and her agency, check out Weed Literary. And please feel free to reply in the comment section, so that she knows how much she's loved here. :)
We've all been there. We meet a guy who looks great on paper. He's got a great smile, a cool job and a full head of hair. But we just aren't feeling it. We don't want to go home with him and make out all night. We aren't imagining what our kids will look like. We don't want to call our best friend and our mother the next day and tell them just how fabulous he is. Nope. We are going to smile politely and decline the dinner. Drinks were great. We're glad we met, but we're pretty sure there's someone out there who's a much better fit for us...and him. There's nothing wrong with him, per se, but he's just not right for us.
The same can be said about agents and authors in this similar dance of trying to find the perfect match. I can't tell you how many times I've read something and thought, this is really good, but I am just not super excited about it. In lieu of the make out, I don't want to stay up all night reading it and I don't want to call my favorite editors and tell them that I have found the one that is going to change my life. And theirs.
So, for any of you out there who are going through the agent search, looking for the perfect match, please take heart when you get the rejection that "fiction is so subjective, I'm sure another agent will feel differently." We agents use that line. A lot. But it's really not just a line. Fiction IS so subjective. And, to prove my point, I wanted to share a little publishing anecdote with you.
Recently, a fabulous agent and dear friend, who I will refer to here as Super Agent, called me close to tears. A novel she'd rejected about year ago had just sold for a big sum to a very tony house and to a very respected editor. "What's wrong with me?" Super Agent lamented. " I feel like such a loser, but I really didn't like the book at all. Did I just miss an amazing opportunity? Do I suck? I suck, don't I? " Okay, maybe those weren't her words exactly, but having been in her shoes myself, I knew how she felt. In fact, I am not sure there's an agent out there who hasn't been in this situation, scrolling through Publishers Marketplace, only to see a deal announced about something they rejected.
But what I told Super Agent, after reminding her of her super-ness, is that fiction is subjective and if she didn't love it, she was very wise not to take it on because she wouldn't have sold it the way the other agent did. In dating terms, she would have strung the guy along, not really feeling passionate about him, and wasted both of their time. And, okay, I am stretching my metaphor here, but if the dating goal is to find the chapel/temple and priest/rabbi (Publisher! Editor!) It never would have happened because she just didn't like him enough. Thank goodness for the author that she did reject it.
So, in all seriousness, when you do get those responses, try to remember that it's not just a form rejection. There is hope that someone else really will see your work differently. And comfort yourself knowing that you are lucky that the agent who passed, did pass, because would you want that agent be telling her editors that you are great and all but you're just not in love?
One more anecdote that always makes me laugh. My first boss, an older gentleman who has great taste, actually likes to brag that he turned down The Perfect Storm, because, "Why the hell would anyone want to read about a storm that kills everyone on a fishing boat?" Perhaps it's his age, or more likely his Y chromosome that gives him the confidence, but it all comes back to the fact that while we are all looking for that next great book, that next great book is different for everyone. So, take heart. It's Not you. It's Us.