Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
It never ceases to amaze me how the eight members of my book club can disagree so vehemently in our opinions of certain books. Recently we had a meeting to discuss one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I was so excited for the meeting. I sat down and started gushing, “Oh my gosh, I LOVED this book, it’s been such a treat to read, so beautifully written, such an incredible story… blah, blah, blah.” 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 subjectivity. Some will love what you’ve written, others won’t. 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.”
Here are some alleged quotes from rejection letters on famous books.
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.”
As for you—if you’re not getting the responses you want, keep trying. You probably haven’t found the right readers yet.
Are there any books that everyone else seems to LOVE, but you just can’t get into? Or the reverse—books you love that others don’t seem excited about? And what are some examples of subjectivity in people’s responses to YOUR writing?
Some will love what you’ve written, others won’t. It’s just an opinion. Click to Tweet.