Tip of the Week July 6

Tip of the Week: Do not take rejections personally.

I know I’ve hinted at this before, but it bears repeating. Rejections are not personal. The editor or agent is uninterested in something you wrote, not in you personally. There are lots of reasons to reject a manuscript. They can be boring mundane things beyond both the author and editor’s control. Market conditions, number of places left on the list, budget constraints, even staff turnover can result in a dreaded rejection letter.

Other things are more within the editor but not the author’s control. The editor may recognize good writing and style, but the submission is in a genre the editor doesn’t publish or like. The editor may not like books written in second person. These are subjective reasons that an editor may use to reject a work, but again these are not personal slights and do not comment on the quality of the author’s writing.

And then there are things author’s do to earn rejection letters. They send manuscripts to a house that doesn’t publish their genre. For example they send a non-fiction autobiography to a fiction house. They send unpolished stories with stagnant characters, little or no action, or a PB manuscript with only enough text for a 5 page book. But even then, these rejections are not personal. Many times you might still get a note from the editor complementing your tone but highlighting your lack of plot. There’s no reason to give up hope or abandon the manuscript. It’s still fixable.

But the worst rejection is an impersonal form letter. By its very definition, this is not a personal slight against you or your work. It means that your work has suffered from one of the three conditions listed above. However, you know your manuscript is experiencing some sort of problem when you’ve sent it to appropriate houses and all it gets is a form letter. That is when it is time to take a more proactive approach. It’s time to get feedback. Join a critique group or register for a critique slot at a conference. If you become really desperate, hire a book doctor type or freelance editor that specializes in your book’s field. However, I think paying for professionals should be a last resort. Always try the free peer critique services first. And then, maybe those rejection letters will start being replaced with acquisition emails and phone calls.


Anonymous said...

Hi Buried Editor,

I heard a statistic somewhere that of all submissions, at least 95% violate some very basic rule such as incorrect formatting (like not double spaced), wrong genre, or some other really basic thing. And by really basic, I'm not talking about dry characters and boring plot. It this statistic really true? I find it hard to believe.


The Buried Editor said...

Well, I don't know if it's 95%, but a staggerinly large number of submissions have so many problems that just reading the text is down right impossible. People send random chapters instead of the first three. Stuff is handwritten. It's single spaced with three inch margins and a 24 point cursive font. My favorites are the ones that send pictures of their grandchildren regardless of whether or not the child fits into the story. And even with my harping, and my having a site like this, and reitterating these things at every conference or meeting I attend, I still find that over half my slush is unsuitable in some fundamental way before I've read a single word of the manuscript.