If you are thin-skinned or lack tenacity, book writing isn’t for you. Rejection is a part of becoming a paid writer and a true test of your commitment to make writing a career. It’s nearly impossible not to receive a rejection. In fact, if you haven’t received a rejection, you’re not submitting enough.
While rejection sucks, there are things you can do to improve your odds of getting your book accepted. Here are some reasons agents reject submissions:
1) You’ve submitted a poor quality query/proposal.
This includes everything from typos and grammar errors to weak writing (i.e. passive voice), wordiness, and disorganization. Don’t submit anything without revising to fix errors, remove weak words, and check for clarity and flow.
This also includes problems with the premise of your story and/or poor execution of your premise. I can’t tell you how many queries I’ve received in which the premise has intrigued me, only to be disappointed at the quality of the writing.
2) You’ve queried the wrong Agent/Editor.
One of the biggest mistakes writers make is sending their book query to an agent that doesn’t represent the book’s topic or genre. It’s an automatic rejection if the agent doesn’t work with the topic or genre you’re pitching.
Do your research. Visit the agent online and read the submission guidelines. If you’ve written a women’s fiction novel but the agent doesn’t do women’s fiction, it’s a waste of your time to submit it. Don’t think you can squeeze your genre into another genre either. Just because your book includes a love story doesn’t make it a romance.
The same is true in nonfiction. If you have a book on leadership, submitting to an agent that does small business and marketing might not work.
If you’re uncertain about expectations of genre fiction or nonfiction topics, do research on that. Join writers’ groups to get help in understanding the various genres.
3) Your manuscript is a poor fit for the agent/editor.
Sometimes the agent covers the topic you’ve written about, but your work still isn’t a good fit. I regularly get queries that are good and are in a genre I represent, but the premise or something else about the story doesn’t resonate with me. I usually reject them because writers deserve an agent who is excited about their work. It’s always best to have an agent that enjoys your story and is eager to sell it.
4) You didn’t follow directions
This is similar to pitching the wrong agent. But even if you find the right place/person, you still have to send what the submission guidelines ask for. Failure to do what the submission guidelines tell you to do only shows you don’t know how to read or follow directions. If you can’t do what’s needed on the submission, what does that say about your ability to work with the agent and eventually a publisher?
Read the guidelines carefully as some are very specific, such as what needs to go in the subject line of your email submission, what information you put in the headers of the document, and the type of document file (.doc, .pdf, etc).
5) You act cocky.
You may be a fantastic writer, but selling yourself through boasting is a sure way to get a rejection. First, the odds that you’ve written the greatest piece ever written are low. Second, even if it is the greatest piece of writing ever, people still won’t want to work with you if you come off cocky. If your work is so great, let it speak for itself (show, don’t tell)!
Getting a piece from submission to print is a long process that requires working together in peace and harmony with your agent and editor. Arrogance will lead them to think you’ll be difficult to work with, and therefore, they won’t work with you.
Let me add, if you get a rejection, don’t respond with anger or snark. The editor or agent won’t care that you think they’re passing up on the next Harry Potter. You will not change their minds, so you’re better off finding a new place to pitch.
You can’t always avoid rejection, but you can work to insure you’re not annoying agents with the above pet peeves. Give your writing a fighting chance by submitting quality work to the right publications in a professional manner.