Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Subject of Subjectivity

We've all heard the publishing biz referred to as "subjective." But I've been realizing lately just how much is subject to subjectivity. Two people can read the exact same book, or look at the exact same thing, and walk away with two completely different opinions of it.

As a fun example, everyone supposedly has a celebrity doppleganger. Any time someone looks at me with wide eyes and says, "Omigod! Do you know who you look like?" the answer is almost always one of three people.

One of three people who, in my opinion, LOOK ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE ME (thought I'd kill to look like any one of them). But you tell me.

The one I get most often is Angie Harmon:

Hi! We're an unbelievably hot Hollywood couple!

What a coincidence! So are we! (Seeing it yet? Me neither.)
The next one is Penelope Cruz:

There you are Gina! My long lost twin.

It is I, Penelope! Look how we both nail the over-the-shoulder
pose! (Um... not even close.)

Next we have Melina Kanakaredes:

Maybe it's the hair?

See what I mean? These three women don't even look like each other, so how could all three look like me? It all depends on who you're asking.

Publishing works the same way. Recently, a published author took pity on my constant Twitter laments over the loser that is my query letter, and offered to look at it for me. Do you know what her assessment was?

That it was great. Great! Just like that, with an exclamation point!

Yet, the agents I've queried thus far obviously don't agree. While my lovely author friend saw the Penelope Cruz of queries, agents see it a little more like this:

Chuuuuunk! Or should I say, Sluuuuushhhh!
In this case, subjectivity is clearly not on my side.

Hope your luck is a little better than mine today, peeps. Oh, and who's your celebrity doppleganger?


  1. Your luck will turn. I can feel it. And I have the Force. (What? You didn't know that?)

    I hope my luck is good today, too, of course. 4 queries floating around out there in the ether, but so far I'm 0 for 1.

    Oh. And no one has ever said I look like any pretty celebrity. (I'dratherbesmartthanpretty, I'dratherbesmartthanpretty.) Obviously you have the best features of each of those ladies.

  2. Hang in there! Rejection is all a part of the process. Yeah--hearing that doesn't make me feel better either.

    And don't kill me--I see the Angie Harmon. Like totally.


    anyway. ha, i love the analogy. go subjectivity! (it's kind of what i'm hoping will help me outta the query trenches, see :D)

  4. heh heh--well thanks for the laugh today!!!! Yeah, sigh....I her ya about the query letter. Been there, done that three times over now (with query and first page). *psst* I'd take a look at either any time too, when you need a fresh set of eyes!

  5. Haha, Gina, I loved the pictures on this post. Especially the last one. It made me laugh. And naw, the agents don't see your query like that. (They would if your query broke every single rule in the publishing universe and came in neon pink font.) I'm sure that the agents who don't see your work as a right fit for them just see it as a...plain Jane. And just like many plain janes are able to find someone who sees them as unique and lovely, I'm sure that you'll find an agent that is perfect for your project someday. Just keep on going! You can do it!

  6. Oh, Gina! You crack me up! But you know what? I think you want someone to LOVE your book, not like it, but LOVE it. And if an agent feels only lukewarm they're doing you a favor. Wait for the right one. It's sort of like waiting for the right guy to come along. Other guys are cute, funny, and sweet, but you just don't have any chemistry with them. Then all of a sudden you meet THE ONE and you're head over heels in love. That's what you deserve! Someday an agent will feel that way about your book. At least this is what I keep telling myself while I'm querying. LOL!

  7. There is probably nothing wrong with your query letter. It might just be that the premise or 'that kind of' book isn't what the agents are looking to add to their lists right now. I got that a lot with my last MS- an urban fantasy. Guess agenst were oozing with urban fantasy and didn't need anymore for their lists. Just keep at it- I say you shouldn't give up on a project until you've querried at least 150 agents. Yes I am dead serious. And no, I've never actually querried that many. I gave up after 80 requests, 30 no responces, 8 requests for partials or full MS's that lead nowhere, and fill the rest of the numbers in with flat out query rejections. But I never gave up until I had started a new project that brought me hope. I'm crossing my fingers and praying you find your agent love match before arriving at stats anywhere near as dour as mine. LOL

  8. Oh, and I've been told I look like heather graham, reese witherspoon, teresa palmer and alice eve. The only thing they have in common is they're all blonde with teeth too big for their heads, which just about sums up my physical appearance.

  9. The nice thing about subjectivity is that it give me a good reason to dismiss negative comments :) Some people tell me I look like Delta Burke. Then I wonder the thin Delta Burke or the fat Delta Burke? Oh, who am I kidding--the fat Delta Burke.

  10. If you got one it's great then you are bound to get another from an agent. You are right, it is subjective so you just have to decide not to give up! Come to your blogging/writer buddies when you're down and out but don't give up:)
    I happen to think you look way more like all three of the ladies as opposed to meat head by the way:)
    As for a doppleganger, I get the gorgeous Cameron Diaz...HAHAHAHAHA. Not hardly. I am always embarrassed when people say that because I am so far from it. Oh well.

  11. I guess you just need to keep searching for the agent that will see Angie or Penelope or Melina. One of them will. :)

  12. Loved your interview over at E.R. King's blog. After reading this post, I can see why you were selected to be a mentor. Following now so I look forward to more posts.

  13. Oh my God, I laughed so hard when I saw Sloth. And I know exactly what you mean. One agent told me I had an amazing query letter, and another said something along the lines of "this is stupid. I don't get it."

  14. This is a great post. It's true, some of us write books that agents will fight tooth and nail over (I just read Jennifer Albin's success story today, which included not only 7 agents going to the mat over her ms, but one agent TAKING A PLANE to meet Albin for lunch after reading her query.) Sigh. And some of us write books that it takes a special kind of mind to fall in love with. And I don't mean because the book is bad, or the idea is dumb--it might be because, instead, it clicks with something deep in said agent/editor/reader (and I don't mean the deep desire to find the next Harry Potter). That's a long way of saying yes, responses can be subjective. Oh, and here's Albin's query, in case anybody is interested: