The day I understood subjectivity

With a few awesome contests coming up soon,* I want to take a minute to talk about subjectivity. It took me a while to really get it.

Everyone says that querying is subjective. That publishing itself is subjective, and that a rejection of the work is not a comment on the writer’s ability, the plot, the writer’s worth as a human being, etc.
Most writers I know either don’t really believe it or don’t find that information to be much consolation. If it’s subjective, subjectively, what don’t you like about it?

But, finally, over the summer, I really got it. I mentioned in my Getting the Call post that I submitted my manuscript in Query Kombat this year, hoping to get some feedback and make some friends. I did get some great feedback and made some awesome friends. But after the agent round, I found something more important for me in that contest: I finally understood subjectivity.

Some of my favorite entries were knocked out of the contest in the first round. That’s okay, it happens. I read the comments on many of the entries, and I was really surprised at the way judges voted – and the reasons they gave. Some voted the way they did because their personal experiences did not reflect the experiences of the character described in the query. Some voted for one entry over another because the basic topic didn’t appeal to them. Most weighted their vote toward the first 250, not the query (when I personally was picking favorites based on the queries – more information).

During the agent round, the entry I personally most wanted to read didn’t get requests. Other entries that aren’t a genre I enjoy got multiple requests. Because it’s subjective. Not everyone reads what I read. The agents aren’t looking for what I was looking for. Maybe they already have something just like the amazing entry I’m (still) desperate to read (months later). Maybe they’re not the best at selling thrillers or MG fantasy or whatever genre it is, and another agent would do better. Or maybe an agent randomly rejects all entries with a red-headed main character. There’s no way to know. And it doesn’t matter, because the point is – it’s subjective. And when you get to a point where the work is polished and ready to go, and all the feedback is based on personal preference, you’re ready. The work is ready. It just becomes about getting it in front of the right agent at the right time.

Whether you’re querying agents, on submission with an agent, or submitting to small presses, keep that in mind: All you can do is put your work out there. Keep going until you get it in front of the right person at the right time. Once you find that right side of eyes, it’s all worth it.
* Pitchslam is coming up soon, Nightmare on Query Street begins in October (I’m a mentor!!) and PitchWars is ongoing, although submissions are closed until next year. And there are always others.
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