It's Not You, It's Me
I will admit that lately I've been struggling with something: rejections. And I don't mean mine; I mean yours.
Of course, I don't mean yours in particular; I mean yours in general.
I think a lot of writers like to imagine agents and editors sitting in their ivory towers denying or rejecting prospective projects with fiendish glee. If only it were so. If I could reject with fiendish glee, I would, it would make my job so much easier. Instead, I tend to reject with reluctant trepidation.
I hate rejecting things. (Except perhaps unwanted romantic overtures.) I hate feeling like I've brutally ripped out the hearts of people striving to have their voices heard and published. I hate saying no because I genuinely want to say yes. But if we're going to take this whole rejection thing to the Romantic Metaphor place, trying to find a book you love is a lot like dating.
Now, despite my disavowal of FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS, I truly am a romantic at heart. I want to believe! I want to fall in love, and when I mean "in love", I mean an earth-shattering, soul-shaking, star-moving sort of love. I don't believe in settling and I'm perfectly willing to wait if I don't feel like something is "just right". Yet somehow, I find it is easier to reject people than it is to reject books. (I don't know what this says about me. Scratch that, I do know what it says about me, but prefer not to overthink it. :))
And just like dating, sometimes books are fantastic for you on paper. It contains all the things you like: good writing, similar interests (no vampires for me, thanks), intelligent characters, but sometimes, you just don't feel that spark. That special something. That divine thunderclap and Frank Sinatra's "It Had To Be You" playing inexplicably somewhere in the background. And these are the worst sort of rejections to write because I, in effect, have to write the dreaded "It's Not You; It's Me" letter.
Elie Wiesel once said "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." When it comes books, this aphorism couldn't be any truer. It's easier to hate books than to feel indifferent about them; at least when you dislike something, there's usually a concrete reason why. And then you feel justified in rejecting said book. "Ugh, he talks with his mouth full" or "She just won't stop talking about herself." It's even easier to reject books in which you can see a lot of potential, but know that the timing isn't quite right. "You're a wonderful person, but I'm not sure we're ready to be in a relationship right now."
But the absolute worst is when you have to turn down a perfectly nice project because you just don't love it. "I like you, but I'm afraid I can't give you anything more than that. No I promise there's nothing wrong with you! It's not you; it's me." I'm looking to bring a project home to meet my parents (i.e. editorial board), and if I can't muster anything more than lukewarm enthusiasm for it, it's unlikely my publishing parents will see their future book-in-law in the project either.
I know no one likes getting the "It's not for me" rejection. I also hate giving it, mostly because I generally want to be as helpful and as specific as possible when it comes to rejections. But sometimes, the chemistry just isn't there and it isn't the book's problem; it's the editor's.
What about the rest of you? Do you hate the "It's not for me" rejection as much as I do?