“SUBJECTIVE” is the word I hear most when discussing the publishing business, and writing in general. At first I really didn’t get what that meant. I figured if I wrote a great book, everyone would like it. (Stop laughing!) Agents always say, “Write the best book you can. If it’s good, it will find a home.” (What they don’t tell you is that home is usually your own. Which is where it stays. Forever.)

Here are some excerpts from various agent form rejection letters we all know and love:

“In my search for clients I wish to represent only the manuscripts with which I feel a real connection. Ultimately—and for purely SUBJECTIVE reasons—this query did not spark that kind of enthusiasm.” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

“We mold our client list from the many submissions we receive every month, and the process is both SUBJECTIVE and based on the direction of this agency.” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

“Please keep in mind that mine is a SUBJECTIVE business, and an idea or story one agent does not respond to may well be met with great enthusiasm by another…” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

Book reviews are also SUBJECTIVE. The most obvious example being the thousands of reviews for Fifty Shades of Grey. The reviews range from “If Heaven exists, it would surely be wallpapered with the pages of this trilogy, so we can all read this masterpiece for eternity,” to “I wouldn’t wipe my dog’s ass with the pages of this crap.”


What the hell does this word even mean?

Based on (or related to) attitudes, beliefs, or opinions, instead of on verifiable evidence or phenomenon. Contrasts with objective.—

Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.–

Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions.—

Do you see a pattern here? It means what floats one’s boat may not float another’s. What may be one person’s cocaine may be someone else’s bad LSD trip. One person’s kink may be another person’s therapy session.

Personally, I’ve found some of my female friends’ partners revolting. I pretty much think all of my ex-boyfriends’ wives are like, “Ugh.” To each his own, and even more so when it comes to writing.

I bought a book in Target a few months ago by a contemporary romance author I’ve wanted to check out for awhile. She’s been around a long time, has written a gazillion books, has beaucoup fan followers, and is a NYT bestselling author. And yet…

I picked up and put down this book so many times it took me forever to finish it. It wasn’t that this woman wasn’t a good writer; she was. But the heroine bothered me, because she was too adoring of the hero, so she came across (to me) as a sloppy puppy dog. There was too much conversation about feelings and too many internal monologues about feelings, which tend to bore me. I prefer more zingy dialogue. And there just wasn’t enough of a plotline to hold my interest.

But that’s simply my opinion. It wasn’t my cuppa. Hundreds upon hundreds of fans love her books, and loved this one, in particular. Does that mean it sucked because I wasn’t crazy about it? Of course not. It just means it wasn’t my cocaine.

If you were an agent, you’d want to sign someone who wrote a book that was your cocaine. Just like the person you marry should be your cocaine. And your passion should be your cocaine.

The next time you receive a rejection letter or a bad review, or get dumped by your lover, remember that damn word…no, not cocaine…SUBJECTIVE.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cie
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 06:12:43

    I know my opinion is subjective, but that ending was downright funny


  2. Menopausal Mother
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 18:43:12

    This is awesome on so many levels. I remember back in the day when I was POSITIVE that I was going to be the next, great American novelist. What a shocker to receive all these rejection letters from agencies. Now when I look back on those old manuscripts, I scratch my head and say, “What the HELL was I thinking???” Yes, it was all SUBJECTIVE. But now I’m kinda understanding what they DID’NT see in my work. Today I have found my cocaine. It’s called blogging. I can’t please everyone with what I write, because it is SUBJECTIVE. And that’s okay with me.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 21:22:11

      I don’t think any writer knows what they’re in for when they’re first starting out. All the rejection letters are quite the kick in the ass. It IS hard not to take them personally, but it’s kinda like dating a bunch of losers before you find “the One.” “The One” of course being that one agent or editor who likes your manuscript.

      You have found your cocaine! Really, you’re so amazing you make my head spin. I don’t know how you do it all, but maybe you can offer workshops in The Art of Blogging. Seriously. I’m not kidding.


  3. Damien
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 06:45:51

    Reading those snippets from rejections you have received, it’s as though you went through my email and plucked them from there. Hilarious. I have heard the ‘Your work just isn’t for me’ aka: ‘I would rather hump a fiery porcupine that represent this work.’

    I think the phrase ‘this is subjective’ in the agenting world’s is the equivalent of ‘let’s just be friends’ in the dating world. Both phrases I have sadly heard dozens and dozens of times. Often over linguine.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Apr 19, 2013 @ 15:29:25

      Yes! That is a brilliant analogy. I wish I would have thought of it. In the dating world I’ve gotten the “I don’t know why…”(fill in the blank). “I don’t know why I’m breaking up with you 2 days before Valentine’s Day, but I feel I must.” OR “I don’t know why I slept with her when we were supposed to move in together, but it happened.”

      Rejection is a bitch any way you sugarcoat it.


  4. Jen Anderson
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 07:44:45

    Ah, the literary equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me.” I guess submitting my terrible poetry to Seventeen magazine when I was a teen helped me develop a tolerance for rejection. Get rejected early and often, and eventually you’ll break in somewhere.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Apr 21, 2013 @ 20:54:23

      I shudder to think of the crap I submitted to lit mags and contests when I was younger. And I’d be so surprised at the rejections. “Not even an honorable mention? Humph!” “Story Magazine doesn’t want me? F-em!”

      Now I’m surprised when anyone appreciates my work. “Are you sure you like this? I think you got me confused with someone else.”


  5. acne cyst
    May 01, 2013 @ 21:42:16

    I can’t thank you sufficient for the weblog.Thanks Again. Will read on…


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