Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Subjectivity

Let me tell you some things about myself as a reader:

I love romance, and when a good one comes along, I can get really, really invested in it. But in general, I prefer romance as a great spice, not the main dish. Also, I tend to like my male love interests sweet and dorky, but I can be persuaded to the tall, dark and sexy side of the force. Especially if they are secret dorks.

I love creepy stories, but I'm not big on reading about the zombie apocalypse. I think it plays into my general nervousness about pandemics, and it stresses me out to imagine myself in the characters' position. I do, however, like more lighthearted takes on it.

I'm not big on dystopian stories about the all-powerful government. I like a messier take on the post-apocalyptic landscape. Actually, my ideal dystopian story is a mixture of both: a society that's only organized on the surface.

I prefer my mysteries in creepy small towns. Shiny crime thrillers don't grab me as much... except when they do.

I'm not a huge fan of gritty revenge stories, except when they are emotionally driven, have sympathetic protagonists, and explore the characters' morality without getting preachy. Then I love them. (If they're done well.)

There are lots of things I don't like. Except when I do like them.

I can work a bookstore like a pro. I scan the shelves, pick up what looks interesting, and read the summary and first page. If it grabs me, I pick it up. If not, I put it down. I put a ton of books down, even books that people have raved to me about. But depending on what's going on in my head that day, the criteria changes. Random little things can turn me off. Any number of factors go into that split-second choice, and I leave without all kinds of great books.

And these are all published books!

This particular ramble was triggered by reading several posts on various forums along these lines: "X agent said they wanted urban fantasy, but they still rejected me!" I know how frustrating it is to be rejected by an agent you think is perfect for you, but this is what they mean by 'this business is subjective.' Maybe your dystopia went organized when they wanted disorganized. Maybe your MC reminds them of someone they really don't want to be reminded of. Maybe you're writing a genre they love, but not the tropes that made them love it.

So to those of you on those forums: next time you get a rejection from someone who seemed so perfect for you, think about how many books you don't buy when you go to the store. It doesn't mean those are bad books. It just means, for whatever reason, they're not for you.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for the thoughts, Becky! Very positive and uplifting! Personally, I love revenge stories (except when I don't ;p). If it gets too violent, I have a problem with it, but I love when the MC psychologically messes with his enemies. Hence THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO on my favorite books/movies list :D

    And romance can easily be overdone, but I love it in general :)

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  2. Oh man, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Be still my heart! That is easily the best revenge story of all time. In fact, I'd say it's due for a reread...

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  3. An agent has be invested in a ms to represent it. It would be hard to cheer for something you only sort of like. And I'm with you on the romance. Love may make the world go 'round but it can't be the only reason for a book to exist - for me anyway.

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  4. Oh, it really is so subjective and the bookstore is a great example! Not to mention with the twists the industry is taking, agents are taking less and less risks on potential clients. It's a shame.

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  5. what a good analogy. when we put effort out, we want to have some reciprocation, but that's not the reality of the publishing world. i never thought to equate the finicky selection process of a reader in a bookstore to an agent looking over manuscripts.

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  6. Hey there! I popped over from Katie's blog. I agree with so much of what you said. I prefer my romance as a side, too, though I have a weakness for bad boys. Definitely no super hot macho studs unless somebody is putting them in ladies underwear. (I can be twisted that way). I feel the same on mysteries, too--definitely prefer an amateur sleuth (though I've enjoyed a few female detectives). But yeah... on my whole list of annoyances, I can think of an exception or two. It's a subjective business. great to meet you!

    HA! my captcha is derobe--perfect!

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  7. I love THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO--awesome. I also don't like things unless I do... For instance, I'm not into zombies. And yet, I read all three FORREST OF HANDS AND TEETH books in one weekend. I love things with a twitch of fantasy or sci fi, and yet most of my crit partners write contemporary. I love any genre as long as it is written well. Great post. :)

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  8. Wow, thanks for your comments, everyone! And Hart, your comment made me grin. I can be twisted that way, too!

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