Friday, May 13, 2011

It's Not for Me

Have you ever been told, "It's not for me"? If you've ever queried, you have. And most of the time you just don't understand how the agent could possibly say that, right? You did your homework. You followed all the rules and certainly you made sure you chose the agent that is looking for your genre, your type of story. Yet, you get that ambiguous rejection that just doesn't seem to make sense.

At first. But stop and think about it for a second.

Think about books in the genre you love to read. Think about one you DIDN'T love when you thought you would. The jacket copy sounded like other books you love, but not too similar. You'd heard how great it was from people with similar tastes as yours, but this one just didn't strike you. It wasn't bad, but you didn't fall in love with it. Now imagine trying to get someone to invest tens of thousands of dollars into it.

Now think of your favorite book in your favorite genre. The one you absolutely love, have read a million times and wish there were more stories for the characters. And imagine trying to convince someone to invest that same money in it.

Which one would be easier for you to get behind? Wouldn't you be more persuasive about something you love than one you didn't?

Writers - at least the smart ones - carefully research and make informed decisions on who they're going to query. They choose agents who specifically state they're looking for their genre and who rep books and authors similar to them. They do their homework. And they still get rejections that say, "Great writing and strong characters. I like the story, but it's just not for me." HUH?

I had a few of these when I was querying and, at first, I didn't get it. I, like most of you, thought, "But this is what you say you want! It's right on your website! You tweeted that you're looking for this exact book!"

Since my books have been out a while and have received plenty of reviews, I've been paying more attention to how people think about books, including myself. And I get it now. If you think about those first two examples above, you'll get it, too. Just because a book is in your favorite genre and the story is good and the characters interesting, doesn't mean that you, specifically, will fall in love with that book. Your friend might - maybe already has - but not you.

The funny thing is, if you read that same book while in a different mood or at a different time in your life or just under different circumstances, you may love it. Have you ever read something once and loved it and read it again a few months or a year or so later and wonder why you thought it was so great?

Agents and acquiring editors are no different. If a book is in their genre and their interest is piqued with the query letter and sample chapters or a partial, they'll read the book. They might like it. They may praise the writing and the plot twists and the character development. But that doesn't mean that they love it. At least, not enough to convince someone to invest tens of thousands of dollars into it. Which is what they're doing when they try to sell the title.

That's what they're saying when they say, "It's not for me." It's frustrating, but everyone has specific tastes and things they're looking for. And for agents and acquiring editors, it's not $9.99 or even $20 on the line if they don't love it, as it is with readers. It's their careers. It's lost time with another project that they do love. It's missed opportunity because they couldn't take on any new clients. They have a reason for rejecting something they like but don't love.

We don't always get it, but "It's not for me" is just how that agent feels at the particular time they are reading it. Don't take it personally. Don't get discouraged. They may have been interested in it at a different time, under different circumstances. "It's not for me" does not automatically mean "It sucks." So dust yourself off. Move on. One of these days you will find someone who says, "Yes! I love it! It's for me!"

And if you get too discouraged, you do have choices now. Taking the chance that your MS will never fall on the right person's desk at the right time is not your only option. Talk to me if you want to know more about your choices.

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