Who hasn't read a book that didn't exactly knock your socks off? It's happened to me many times over the course of my reading journey. The thing is, it doesn't happen all that often with books in my genre of choice. I can think of about two times I either didn't finish a book or just plain didn't like it when I did make it through. Because let's face it, some books don't seem as great until you shut it and digest the story. Still, I have on the rare occasion stopped reading. Ouch, right?
A month ago I read the first book in a series (which I have chosen not to name) and liked it but didn't love it. Didn't even come close to loving, actually. For me it was just OK. Since this story is very popular I decided to give the next one a chance. Still just OK, and now I'm considering not finishing after only a few chapters because my time is so limited with trying to finish my own new story, and I have books like Catching Fire and Evermore waiting on my bookshelf. Books I know I will love.
Now, does any of this sound familiar my fellow writers? Because it really struck me that this is EXACTLY how it is for agents/editors. Aha, the light bulb moment! How often do we hear agents saying they just didn't connect with a story even though it's a genre they are currently looking for and the writing was strong? When it's our own story its pretty tough to hear that someone didn't connect with our work, but as a reader we should all remember how true this can be. I personally know people who love the book I am considering quitting reading. It's what you'd call a very successful series. Just not for me. And that's ok.
Not everyone is going to love every book and as reader that's a pretty disappointing fact when you pick a book and find you don't want to finish. Even the part about shelving one book to focus on the ones you are more drawn to is the same. Readers can only read a certain number of books so we want the best. Agents can only take on so many books, and they really have to go with the best because they not only have to love it and enjoy it, they have to sell it.
But, as a writer it's a good thing to remember. Even more important is recalling this simple fact of life during the query or submission process. One of the most frustrating things is to hear from an agent who says they didn't connect with your story without a shred of evidence of what you can improve upon. Up until my little epiphany with the book I'm referring to in this post I felt like the whole not connecting thing was an excuse. That surely there had to be something they could point out for me to consider changing. It took a good knock on the head to get it but now I hear it loud and clear. There honestly are times when a reader won't connect with your story and they may not have a single reason to explain why. And since agents and editors are readers it makes perfect sense. Duh. Why didn't I get this before?
In a couple months I'll be back in the query trenches and I truly feel that I'm armed with a whole new way of seeing things so even if those vague form rejections come rolling in I'll be able to shrug them off and keep smiling. Because what really matters is believing in that one person it takes to connect with your story so that it can end up in the hands of the other thousands of readers who will to.