It's Not You, It's Me: 7 Reasons Your Manuscript was Rejected (That Have Nothing To Do with How Good it Was)
Rejections can feel very personal. You’ve spent months—maybe years—writing this story, and in one word, your hopes are dashed. Writers always look to the manuscript for reasons why. Was it too long? Did she find your heroine annoying? What if she didn’t even get past the first page? Why are you even bothering to write at all?
But getting a book contract isn’t as simple as an editor liking your book. Here are 7 reasons why your manuscript might get rejected, even if it’s good.
1. They’ve got something similar in the queue
There’s a fine line between a book being similar enough to fit an editor’s tastes and so similar that she already has several just like it on her list. Writing a series about hot California firefighters, for example? She might already have one under contract.
2. They don’t have any spots for your genre
Maybe she likes your book. Maybe it’s original enough to fit on her list. Except . . . she doesn’t have room for another contemporary author. Lists aren’t unlimited—there are a certain number of spots each month, and they can also be broken down by genre. When they’re filled, that’s it.
3. They don’t see a clear way to market it
Publishing is, after all, a business. If an editor doesn’t think she knows how to sell your book, she can’t contract it, no matter how much she loves it. This happens more often with cross-genre books.
4. The editor is having a bad day
Yes, editors are people too. Sometimes we need to read submissions, even though we really aren’t in the mood to read. So a book that might catch our eye on a good day may slip through because we are tired or cranky. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
5. Your book just doesn’t match the editor
Sometimes editors come across books that we know will sell, and will get offers from other publishers, but for some reason or another, it just doesn’t tickle our fancy. Maybe it’s a trope that just tends to annoy that editor. Sometimes, the editor might pass the manuscript to another editor at her house, but sometimes she’ll reject it, knowing she’s not a good fit.
6. You are nagging for an answer
I don’t say this to scare you. You are allowed to follow up with a manuscript after a reasonable amount of time has passed. But if you are being unnecessarily pushy and breathing down an editor’s neck, her standards for accepting that manuscript are going to be REALLY high. Saying “yes” takes time and effort. Saying “no” is quick and easy.
7. The book might be decent but we’ve heard through the grapevine that you are difficult to work with
Sometimes a book comes across an editor’s desk, and she recognizes the author’s name for all the wrong reasons. Maybe an editor friend told her the author was months late on her last couple of books (for no real reason). Or perhaps an agent friend told her the author is on her 6th agent this year (which could mean the author is a bit flaky). The offense has to be pretty egregious to stop an editor from making an offer, but it does happen occasionally.
So before you go deleting half your book after a rejection, remember that it’s not all about the manuscript. Take a deep breath, and then Google “famous rejection stories” for inspiration to keep going.
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Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash