A Subjective Business
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 01 2007
I was talking to an editor this morning, pitching a new book that I’m very excited about, when the editor said to me that she wasn’t interested in the project since it went against her political leanings. And this really got me thinking. How much can you learn about an agent or editor by taking a look at the books she works on. Can you tell what year she got married or when she started to have kids? Can you tell what her political leanings are?
We say it all the time, book publishing is a completely subjective business and it goes well beyond whether or not you like a book, sometimes decisions are made based on whether or not you morally or politically agree with the author. For example, a junk food junkie is unlikely to buy an organic living title and someone who hates children is probably not interested in “mom lit.”
Another reason why agents can be so important to your career. I do know which editors will openly claim to hate children and which ones are afraid of overtly sexual love scenes. I also know which editors can’t read about child abductions and which ones love gore.
Now I need to go evaluate my bookshelves and ask myself what they say about me…
This was very interesting. I always think of editors and agents as being subjective in relation to a genre they like or don’t like, or whether a writing style hits them or not. But I never considered someone might turn down a (possibly) marketable book because of political leanings. I guess I supposed they put aside those kinds of personal opinions and looked at the merits of the work. Your post was an eye-opener.
It’s disconcerting to know that editors can be just as selective as agents, with personal preferences affecting their choices. It makes breaking in that much more difficult.
But it’s probably a good thing. If an editor is enthusiastic about the project, he or she will put more effort behind its promotion.
Apparently that’s not limitd to editors. I got a bad review based on the reviewer disagreeing with something one of my characters did. She even said she loved the character up until that point. The lesson learned for me was to not include a controversial issue if I can avoid it.
Controversy can inspire sales. Remember DaVinci Code? Just don’t take it personally, Dara. It’s just a review.
At our local conference, I had an agent tell me, “If you’re writing doesn’t tick somebody off then you’re probably not writing strong enough to really reach anybody.”
Can’t recall which agent said this, but the quote stuck in my mind. It may have been Jessica since she has twive attended the conference I’m referring to. But then again it may have been someone else so don’t attribute the comment to her on my account.