Friday, November 04, 2016

3 Reasons your Manuscript was Rejected

There is a myth that permeates the writing community. It's an unfortunate myth, and I truly wish it would die, because it is the cause of many a shattered dream in the publishing industry. The myth is this:

If I write a good book, it is sure to get published

If only, if only, dear writer. I have rejected many manuscripts, some quite good. I once nearly cried while writing a rejection letter because the work was SO GOOD. 

The truth is, in as much as writing is an art, publication is a business. A book can't be contracted that won't sell, and "what won't sell?" is a complicated question. If all it took was good writing, it would be a much easier business. 

Manuscripts get rejected for many reasons. Occasionally, the writing is just bad, or poorly edited. Sometimes, the publishing house already has too much of a certain type of work, or your work doesn't fit with their brand. These are the kinds of rejections for which I will take the time to write a rejection email, informing them of why I am not contracting their work. Usually however, rejections come from one of three places, all three of which will gain a swift delete when they arrive in my inbox. 

1. No social media presence

This is the most common offender. You must have a social media presence. YOU MUST HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE. When I receive a manuscript, before I read the synopsis, before I read a single line of the work itself, I google the author. If I don't see a website and at least an active Twitter account, the manuscript is rejected immediately. 
Even with a big publishing house, authors are expected to do at least some of their own marketing (more on that next week), and if it isn't evident that you have put in the work to build a platform prior to publication, it reads as though you are the kind of author who wants to hand their work off to a publisher, forget about it, and wait until the royalties start rolling in. Unfortunately for writers, the publishing world doesn't work that way anymore. At minimum, you need a website (not even a blog. Just a website) and a Twitter account that you are actively using. 

2. No attention to industry guidelines

Several weeks ago, I received a children's chapter book that was 80K words. For reference, the first Harry Potter book clocked in 76K, and I would be willing to wager that the reason she kept getting rejected in the beginning is because her book was too dang long. The children's book industry, especially, has strict guidelines about book length. There is a good reference here, but no category comes in at over 40K words. 
Adult books have a little more wiggle room, but it is still a good idea to google what industry guidelines are and try not to stray too far from them. If I receive a children's chapter book that is only 5K over industry standards, I can work with that. We can trim it in editing. But I can't turn an 80K book into a 10K book, and I can't sell an 80K children's book. 

3. Didn't follow submission guidelines

Every publishing house has its own set of submission guidelines. Some want the manuscript in the body of the email, some want it in an attachment. Some want partials, some want fulls. Sometimes different editors within a company will have different submission guidelines. Don't make the mistake of assuming that one size fits all. Read submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. If a company doesn't accept erotica, don't send them erotica. If they only want the first fifty pages, don't send the full. Taking the time to read guidelines and follow them shows attention to detail and that you are willing to do whatever you need to do to get your work published. 

I beg of you, dear writer, don't make these mistakes. Many an exemplary work has been sent to the Trash folder because of these blunders. Don't let yours be one of them.
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