Manuscripts Are Rejected
Submitting manuscripts to publishers is a
courageous act. It can also be a frustrating and
perplexing one. When you've spent months or years of your
life writing a book that you take great pride in, it's
hard to understand why editors don't see the value in it
that you, your colleagues, and friends do.
Let me share then some of
the insights I've gained as a publisher-editor, so you
might take your rejections a little less personally and
target your submissions more successfully.
subject matter for that publisher
If a publisher does not publish in your genre, you're
barking up the wrong tree. Don't submit your romance
novel to a publisher of nonfiction, or your self-help
book to a publisher of textbooks. It's a waste of the
editor's time ... and yours.
Carefully read the
listings in Writer's Market. Browse the bookstore
for books similar to yours and the publishers that
produce them. Then call and get the name of the editor
most appropriate for your book.
sent without a query or agent
Editors are busy people who work in crowded offices. Be
respectful of their time and courteous enough to send a
query or proposal first (after verifying that they handle
your subject), rather than forcing them to wade through
stacks of paper.
Further, many editors,
particularly those in larger publishing houses, rely on
agents to screen material for them and make appropriate
submissions. Submissions that arrive "unagented"
are almost always returned unread. Others usually end up
at the bottom of the "slush pile" and wait
several months to be readif they're read at all.
Writing a proposal can be as hard as writing the book
itself. You must make a good case for why your book
should be published. Don't take it for granted that the
editor already knows the market and competition for your
book. Do the research. Consult one or more of the
available books that provide guidance and models for
writing proposals. Here are two in particular that are
topic, poor writing
Even if you've chosen a marketable topic, if your
proposal or manuscript needs to be substantially
rewritten, it's generally not worth an editor's time and
effort. Work on your writing skills or hire a ghostwriter.
Get feedback and work with a freelance editor to whip
your manuscript in shape before you submit it. A poorly
written piece rarely gets a second chance.
While it's true that a hot topic will spawn a deluge of
books, many publishers, particularly small ones, are
looking for books that are unique and will have staying
power. If you have an idea for a book in a popular
category, be sure your book offers a fresh approach.
While it's good to target a specific niche, if the niche
is too small, it's not worth a major publisher's time or
money. The chances of making a profit are too slim. If
you can't broaden the scope of your book, seek out a
small press that caters to that niche or a regional
audience, or consider self-publishing.
or approach too personal
I can't tell you how many times I've been approached by
someone who knows someone with a "really interesting
life." While that may be true, interesting lives don't
sell books unless they have a hook on which to hang the
publisher's marketing and publicity efforts.
not to an editor's taste
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this,
but that doesn't mean your book is undeserving of
publication. If you feel it is well-written and
marketable, keep sending it out until you find the right
match. Literary history is full of stories of authors who
submitted their proposals and manuscripts dozens of times
before they hit.
much advertising and marketing required
In the past, large publishers produced numerous titles,
depending on their bestsellers to"carry" their
other, more "moderate" sellers. While that's
still true to some degree, large publishers today are
cutting their lists down while looking for books with a
strong market and promotable authors. (Ditto for many of
the small presses.) What does that mean for you? That you
should expect to contribute to the marketing effort.
Further, you should make your willingness to helpand
your promotional ideasknown in your proposal.
I hope you'll use these
observations to your advantage and find yourself signing
a publishing contract in the near future!
Copyright 2001 by Sharon Good
All rights reserved in all media.
member Sharon Good is a writer-editor and co-owner of
Excalibur Publishing Inc., a small press in New York City,
as well as a publishing consultant and personal coach for
writers. She can be contacted at ExcaliburPublishing@compuserve.com.