It’s Just One Opinion
(I loved all your responses on the Friday Free-For-All, and will answer questions next week. I’m taking a blog hiatus and will re-post some oldies but goodies this week. Hopefully they’re just as good the second time around!)
Last week our book group had our monthly meeting. We were discussing The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. So I sat down and was all like, “Oh my gosh, I LOVED this book, it’s been such a treat to read, so well written, such a wonderful escape… blah, blah, blah.” But I sort of tapered off my rhapsodizing when I noticed less-than-enthusiastic looks on the faces of a couple of the people in my group.
“So, what, didn’t you like the book?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, of course, I mean… yeah, it was okay.”
Okay. OKAY?? Seriously, how could they not LOVE this book??
This is what it means to be in a business based on people’s totally subjective opinions. It’s not just your query or your proposal being scrutinized by people with vastly differing tastes. Eventually, it will be your book. People will discuss it, and some will love it. Others will wonder, “How did this tripe get published?”
So all up and down the line, we have to deal with the subjectivity. Of course, this is true of just about any business, right? Especially if you’re trying to sell something to consumers.
Just remember, every opinion you get from someone is just that: an opinion.
Come to think of it, this subjectivity is one of the reasons I don’t go to great lengths to describe why I’m passing on someone’s project. No matter what I say, I could be wrong. I don’t want to go around making pronouncements as if they’re meaningful. I’m just one person. It’s just my opinion. I don’t want to reject a future bestseller, only to be quoted later as saying in my letter, “Your writing sucks and this will never sell.”
Below, alleged quotes from rejection letters on famous books. I don’t want this to be me!
Lord of the Flies by William Golding: “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.”
The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”
Carrie by Stephen King: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Animal Farm by George Orwell: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
Regarding John le Carré, author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: “He hasn’t got any future.”
Of course, it always sounds stupid after they’ve gone on to win awards and sell millions. From where I sit, it’s easier just to say, “It’s not for me.”
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent