Hello gentle reader,
I’ve blogged before about the Querying Process and the 4 Stages of Rejections. In my previous post, I explained Stage 4 as the moment when you’re getting requests left and right, which all turn into “I like it but I’ll pass” rejections.
Today I’d like to expand a little bit on this type of rejection.
If you’re in the querying trenches and getting a lot of form rejections, you might think that receiving personalized feedback from agents is great: at last, agents take time out of their busy schedule to let you know WHY they’re rejecting your manuscript and what you can do about it! When I was querying for the first time, I thought so too.
Except that sometimes, the agent’s feedback isn’t as helpful as we hope.
When I queried the manuscript that led me to signing with my agent, I had 19 requests. I received personalized feedback from 16 agents (which, incidentally, means that two agents form-rejected my full manuscript – that can happen too).
Now, if half these agents had given me the same reason for rejecting my work, I would have gone back to the drawing board and revised. But it’s not what happened.
Instead, I received a lot of “I’m not the right agent for this” replies. Fair enough. I understand an agent has to believe in a project with a fiery passion to sell it to editors.
But then I also received the oh-so-confusing Contradictory Feedback (NB: my main character is named Lily):
Agent 1: “I had some trouble with Lily’s voice.”
Agent 2: “I just didn’t find myself to be as hooked by Lily and her narrative voice as I had hoped to be.”
Agent 3: “I thought the voice was great.”
Agent 4: “I’m afraid I wasn’t able to connect to Lily’s voice.”
Agent 5: “I just LOVE Lily’s voice.”
These quotes are not made up. They are straight from my inbox.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Yes. It’s the Pattern of The Contradictory Feedback From Agents.
Now, what does this tell us? It tells us that when you reach Stage 4 of the Querying Process, it’s likely your manuscript is polished and good enough to find representation. And when agents reject it, it reminds us that the publishing business is subjective.
And it’s an important lesson, because the rest of our publishing journey will also be affected by subjectivity. From editors to readers, we’ll have people who won’t like out story, hopefully not because it’s bad, but because it just isn’t their cup of tea. And it shouldn’t get us down: we can’t please everyone. We just have to be grateful for the people who do enjoy our stories.
And don’t forget…
What about you? Have you been confronted with subjectivity in your publishing journey? How do you deal with contradictory feedback? Make sure to leave me a comment below!