Tag s | The Publishing Life

Real Reasons Some Books are Rejected

Most authors and aspiring authors are open to direction and crave constructive comments to help them advance their craft and career. Hopefully, you have had a chance to be part of a good critique group which provided assistance in a manner you found energizing and helpful.

When a book is rejected by a publisher or agent, sometimes the reasons behind the rejection are not what you might classify as energizing and helpful.

We’ve addressed poor proposal development in this agency blog before and hopefully regular readers will follow the guidelines for any agency to make sure they have all the necessary information to make a decision.

Still, the person doing the rejecting might just be busy and rejects whatever is in front of them at the moment, so they have a reasonable chance of catching up on all the backlog of proposals sometime in this millennium.

You took rejection personally and it was anything but personal.

Let’s face it, every person alive has been in situations where the input exceeds capacity to effectively respond and we find ways to cut corners. People in publishing are finite and human, like everyone else.

It brings to mind a scene from the film Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey, where he thought he could do a better job at being God, than God. He received prayers from people all over the world via email. Overwhelmed, he handled the millions and billions of prayers with a copy/paste “yes.”

Chaos ensued.

There are some less-than-inspiring reasons books have been rejected.

–They don’t particularly like your theological perspective.

–The comparable titles you chose did not work for them.

–They disagree with the premise of the book.

–They have a similar book from someone else.

Some (thankfully, not most) publishing rejection-decisions are made without thoroughly considering all factors in a proposal. The editor or agent has such a backlog of proposals to consider, they simply reject because something didn’t catch their attention within seconds.

If you want someone to “Just read my manuscript and I am sure you will like it,” you are asking someone to invest hours into something when they only have minutes, or seconds to spare.

As an agent, I’ve had a proposal rejected by a publisher because:

–The publisher already had a similar themed book, published twenty years ago. (If applied to every proposal, no new book would ever be published)

–The publisher already had several books with a certain word in their title, also found in the title of the proposed book. (Maybe change the title?)

–A publisher didn’t connect with the twenty-word short description provided in the proposal.

–A publisher didn’t connect with my short email cover note to the proposal. (I guess I shouldn’t have used the phrase, “I hope your weather is nice.”)

Consider this as a possibility:

The answer to every proposal is “no thank you” until the agent or publisher sees something requiring they respond positively. If you start slowly or badly, you will need to get to the good stuff quickly or else.

This is the result of an over-heated “audition” process which requires every decision-maker trust their first impression, jump to conclusions, and make quick decisions.

This is part of the reason just about every best-selling book or author has been rejected by multiple agents or publishers before finding a literary home.

It also reveals the effect of what happens when an agent representing a few dozen clients at a time, gets a few thousand proposals every year, or a publisher looking for 25 new books, but has 2,000 great proposals from agents to consider.

If you insist on getting to the bottom of every rejection, be ready to hear reasons which are neither helpful or inspiring.

More proof publishing is not a scientific venture. It’s a lot more like being a parent than anything else. You can do everything right, teaching right and wrong and encouraging proper behavior, but your little one still flushes your smartphone down the toilet for no good reason.


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As changes in the marketplace require publishers, authors, and agents adapt continually, a number of entirely new initiatives and companies are springing into action to serve various parts of an ever-evolving industry. Here are some of the most interesting new things to keep on your radar: Elf-Publishing – as books …

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Writers as Students of History

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Penalty Flag: Illegal Use of an Exception

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Losing Track of Time

When I first started sending books and articles to editors in hopes of being selected for publication, the passage of time possessed few markers. For example, the mail arrived once a day. There was no trail like this on the touchtone wall phone: Wednesday, 10 AM: Your Amazon order was …

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Marketing to Younger Readers

A challenge for book promoters is trying to market to a narrow group of people and discovering they are not easily distinguished one from another.  People are born every day and there is no definable space between demographic markets. Generational identifiers are not scientific, but arbitrary for marketing convenience sake. …

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Our Rapidly Changing Culture

Every year Beloit College creates a “Mindset List” which reflects the culture that the incoming Freshman class have grown up experiencing. It helps their faculty know how to relate to these incoming students. Click here for this year’s Mindset List.

I download this list every year and read it with increasing wonder at the speed of our cultural changes.

The college graduating class of 2014 was born in 1992. Think about that for a second. If you are a writer, you can no longer assume that your audience will understand your cultural references. In a mere six years, today’s 18-year-olds will be adults…possibly with families and jobs and children…they will be reading your books and articles.

And you will only be six years older than you are now.

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Deadlines Born – Deadlines Made

Deadlines. The bane of every writer’s existence. “A necessary evil.” “My nemesis.” I talked to an author who changed the internal time clock on his computer just so he could have three extra hours, claiming he was writing on the West coast (USA) instead of where his office was (East …

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Someone Stole My Book Idea!

Years ago, a successful author friend of mine contacted a group of us, horrified at the discovery that another author’s most recent release centered on the very same little-known historical event as her just-turned-in book. What should she do? What if that author—or readers!–thought she’d stolen the other author’s story …

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