Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me

In any aspect of life, rejection is hard. But writers? We get all bent out of shape about it. We cry. We flounce about and declare that we will never write again. Why should we? We're talentless losers. We have a letter right here in our hand that tells us so.

Agents will tell you that it's nothing personal. It's not that they don't like us, they just didn't like our query/book.

Well, why don't you just stab us in the heart? End it now. Please. Say what you want about us, but please don't insult our words.

Most writers are sensitive. And not in the way you might expect. We talk a good game about growing thick skin, but when it comes right down to it our work is our soft spot. Our Achilles' heel. The chink in our armor. (Enter more clich├ęs here).

We'd rather you told us we were ugly. That our nose is too large or crooked. That you don't like our hair or that our breath stinks. It's a million times better than hearing that our work is derivative, insipid, or cliched.

Not that a rejection letter will necessarily say these things, but to writers, it's there. Encrypted in the words of a standard form rejection is the message that we suck. Our book sucks. And that we should quit wasting everyone's time.

Now for saying this I may end up in that special section of Writers Hell that's reserved for uber successful commercial writers like Nicholas Sparks or Dan Brown, but I get it. I totally understand the agent selection process. I do the same thing every time I go to my local bookstore, the library, or browse my Nook book store.

I swim in a sea of books, overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. Some are pretty and catch my eye. Others -- ugly. These are discarded immediately. Others take me a while to reject. I have to read the first few pages and get a feel for the narrator's voice and the main characters.

Now imagine that you can only buy 8-10 new books per year. Are you hyperventilating yet? Yeah, me too.

They have no choice but to be selective. They can't represent every book that comes across their desk. Just as we can't buy every book we see (even though I want to). So they read our query letters like we would read the blurb on the back cover and they decide if the book in their hands is something they could fall in love with. If not, a rejection will follow.

It's nothing personal. It's not like I've ever returned a book to the shelf because I hated the author. Well maybe sometimes, but that's not usually the case.

Okay, so now that I have you thinking like an agent, I have a question for you. If you could only have read 3 of the books you've read this year, which 3 would it be and why?

Can't wait to hear your answers!!!



Ryan Anderson said...

My books for this year are The Black Magician Trilogy Namely, The Magician's Guild, The Novice and The High Lord. I LOVED!!!! these books.

Angel C @ Mermaid Vision Books said...

My three would be: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, DELIRIUM and THE LOVER'S DICTIONARY. All of them have lots of romance, but I loved the depth and control that each author exerted over their writing. THE LOVER'S DICTIONARY was a particularly wrenching book to read.

Patricia Lynne said...

Had to think about this a second. I'd say WILLOW, ANOMALY,and SLAYER CHRONICLES (pretending they are all released and bound in one big volume! So not cheating. =P)

Dave Klimek said...

In the words of George Costanza, "you can’t use it's not you it’s me, I invented the it's not you it’s me". So if your question is what 3 book in my lifetime that I read would I choose or which 3 books I read this year would I rank top 3? I'll go with the "this year" since its easier. I read a ton (due to travel) and this year has been mainly disappointed. However, Hunger Games 1 & 2 would be my top 2 (yes I was late to the game in reading them - and notice I omitted Mocking jay). In all honesty after those 2, all the other books I have read this year have either been just OK or downright disappointing (The Passage - Justin Cronin fits this bill because I had such high expectations).

Jenny Krueger said...

Rejection letters are the worst. You spent all you're time and energy into a book just to have it insulted which is a total ego buster.

You're book is pretty much you're baby, you created it and watched it grow so of course it's going to sting really bad when someone says they don't like it.

For me, my 3 favorite books have to be CHRISTINE by Stephen King and HARRY POTTER 4 & 6 by J.K. Rowling.

Gina said...

I've queried and been rejected before, but for some reason, it's SO much harder this time around. I feel like every "no" brings me one step closer to NEVER getting published... which scares the crap out of me. *Sigh*

My three would be UNEARTHLY, WOLFSBANE, and DIVERGENT. Great post.

Mandie Baxter said...

Great post, well put, and great analogy!

Oh my word...3?! Yikes! Um, Divergent (Four...le sigh). Possession (Jag...sigh). Wow, why is # 3 so hard.....Will stick with dystops & say Enclave. Man....SO HARD TO PICK!

Melanie_McCullough said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Your answers are awesome! I had to add some of these to my TBR list.

Suzie Carr said...

My top would have to be: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and The Help by Katheryn Stockett