So, our next office book club book is a bestselling first novel that a publisher paid a lot of money for and that has gotten the kind of publicity most authors can only dream about (and wake up weeping once reality sets in). I’m not going to mention what it is because (a) we haven’t discussed it yet, and (b) I don’t want to prejudice you if you’re currently reading or about to read it (I know, I know, that’s never stopped me before, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf).
Anyway, the issue I have with this book is that it’s…fine. It’s okay. It’s readable. It’s pleasant. It’s 20 pages of interesting and I can stop and not pick it up again for days. What it isn’t is unforgettable and unputdownable. There’s nothing objectionable about this novel—the writing is nice, descriptive, clean, the characters are fleshed out, believable, the premise is a good one….Zzzzzz. I just don’t find myself thinking about any of it five minutes after I’ve put it down. And, honestly, I routinely forget to pick it back up.
When this kind of thing happens with a book as massively hyped as this one, I always wonder what’s wrong with me as a reader and then, because I’m judgy and have the power of my convictions, what’s wrong with all the other readers. And therein lies the biggest issue we have as agents—we’re first and foremost readers. And, as anyone who considers him/herself a reader knows, you can objectively see the good in a published work, but you can’t make yourself love it or even care about it if you just don’t.
Which accounts for how a DGLM agent (whose identity I will not reveal so as not to expose him to public shaming—we’ve all already shamed him in-house) passed on a first novel that went on to sell for a cool half million dollars with movie rights following for seven figures. Turns out, he didn’t think it was all that. And we’ve all been there.
All of this is by way of saying, yet again, that when you get a rejection letter from an agent or publisher with the cliched “I didn’t fall in love,” trust that they’re actually telling you the truth. You should not take that as a sign that you must give up your dreams of literary success. It just means that you need to find that one person who does fall in love or at least in enough like to get you a big honking advance and a Netflix series deal.
What are you reading and feeling “meh” about?