What Does It Mean When a Publisher Rejects Our Book?

No one likes to hear “no” but it’s part of writing, and we need to understand it

What Does It Mean When a Publisher Rejects Our Book?We work hard to write a book. We edit, seek feedback, and hire professional help. It’s our baby, and we love it. We cherish each word. We send it into the world with high expectations, but someone shoots it down by rejecting it. We must learn how to deal with rejection and we must learn what rejection means:

The Book Isn’t Ready: Sometimes our book isn’t as mature as we thought. It may require more work, or we may need more time to improve as a writer. If we push our book into the world before it is ready, we’re bound to hear “no.” Yep. I’ve done that.

The Concept Isn’t Good: Other times our writing is great, but the concept behind it isn’t strong. Excellent writing seldom salvages a weak idea. I’ve had my share of bad ideas.

The Execution Falters: Another possibility, despite good writing in support of a great concept, occurs when the implementation falls short of expectations. I’ve had great ideas I wasn’t ready to pull off.

The Platform Isn’t Big Enough: The sad reality of writing is that writing a great book isn’t enough. We also need a means to promote our books. That means we need a following. The publishing industry calls this a platform. Though our book can contain great writing around a unique premise with superb execution, we might still hear a “no” if our platform is deemed inadequate. Yep, I’ve heard that, too.

The Timing is Wrong: Publishers strive to publish books that people will buy. Sometimes readers grow tired of a certain genre or want to move to a different experience. That’s when publishers will stop producing one type of book in favor of another. The book we just finished may be a victim of a changing market. Perhaps in a few years the pendulum will swing back.

They Don’t Know How to Market It: Even when we hit all of the preceding items, the publisher may not know how to market the book. They reject our submission, not because it’s bad, but because they don’t know what to do with it.

It’s a Great Book That Doesn’t Fit Their Vision: Last, everything with our book could align, but it’s not what the publisher wants at this time. There could be a number of reasons for this, and each one falls outside of our control. Just because a publisher won’t publish a book, doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality work. Their rejection doesn’t automatically mean our book is no good. It could suggest something else.

As writers we need to understand the various causes for rejection. Although I don’t know for sure, I suspect all of these have happened to me.

Though we have no influence over some of these reasons for rejection, we need to do all we can to avoid the ones we can control. This starts by submitting our best work and continues as we seek to improve our writing. These are the two keys for success.

7 Tips to Successfully Deal With Rejection

Being a writer means developing a thick skin, which is easy to say and hard to do

7 Tips to Successfully Deal With RejectionPart of being an author is putting our work out there for other people to see. Sometimes this means sharing our writing with other writers, passing it out to family and friends, or posting it on a blog. Other times we self-publish (more on that later). But eventually most of us get to the point where we submit our work for publication.

When we click “send” to deliver that email or “submit” to complete an online form, we do so with trepidation. We hope to hear “yes” but we fear a response of “no.”

I’ve heard both. Acceptance sends our spirits soaring, filled with excitement and packed with affirmation. Rejection spirals us downward, filled with deep despair and packed with self-doubt.

I’ve been there. Every writer has.

When someone rejects our work and tells us “no,” here’s what we need to remind ourselves:

It’s Not Personal: The rejection isn’t rejecting us; it’s rejecting one piece of our work, nothing more. Though it rarely happens, if they attack us personally or make broad statements about all of our work, then we need to reject them because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s One Person’s Opinion: We all have opinions and sometimes we can be wrong. The same applies to those who evaluate our work. They just might be in error. (Though hearing the same thing repeatedly may signal an opinion to consider.)

It Doesn’t Define Us: Hearing “no” to one piece of our work doesn’t apply to us as a person or as a writer. The rejection of one piece is nothing more. Our body of work is more than one item of writing, and we are more than our body of work.

It Brings Us Closer to Publication: Salespeople know that “each ‘no’ gets them one step closer to ‘yes.’” They know selling is a numbers game, so they push forward until someone says “yes.” Guess what? Submitting our writing is sales.

If it Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It: Writing is hard work. Most people want to write a book or wish they had, but few actually do. We are the few who have written. This automatically makes us part of an elite group. The fact that writing is hard actually serves to reduce the competition. That’s a good thing.

It’s Like Life: Life has its ups and downs. We need the bad times to appreciate the good. Writing is the same way. If we heard “yes” on every submission, we would fail to appreciate it. Plus when we hear “no…”

It Makes Us Strive to Do Better: While we could let rejection break us, we’re better off using it to make us stronger. We work harder to write better. We should use the noes of writing to motivate us to improve.

Rejection sucks. It truly does. When it happens we need to mourn the loss for a time and then move on. When we do this we move toward publication.

Don’t let the noes of writing stop you from hearing the yeses.

3 Reasons Why Writers Need Deadlines

Having a firm due date provides authors with three essential benefits

3 Reasons Why Writers Need DeadlinesFew people enjoy being confronted by a deadline. And due dates apply to writers perhaps more than most others. Deadlines harass us; they make us write when we’d rather do something else, something fun, important, or beneficial. Due dates force us to make sacrifices, too. But deadlines are not our enemy. They are our friend because the offer us three key benefits.

1) Avoid Procrastination: Most people put off doing things, even important, essential tasks, such as a writer putting off writing. We call this procrastination. The reasons for this are many, and those who struggle with procrastination should explore the reasons behind it. Regardless, having a firm due date provides the motivation to avoid the ugly threat of procrastination. For example, I post on this blog each Saturday. This is my deadline – no excuses.

2) Avert Perfection: Another characteristic of many writers is an inner drive to make every word, phrase, and scene be exactly correct, to be perfect. Without deadlines writers will continue to edit and tweak without end, day after day. A friend recently completed writing her novel. I asked how long she would spend editing it. Her simple answer spoke volumes: “Every day until it’s due.” Without a firm due date, she would have continued an endless pursuit of perfection.

3) Advance Production: When we hit deadlines we produce content, one piece at a time. Our writing production grows. Sometimes we see our submitted work published; other times, not. Regardless, these annoying, inconvenient deadlines cause our writing output to soar. Deadlines serve to expand our portfolio.

To realize these three advantages assumes that writers take deadlines seriously and don’t miss them. Otherwise a due date becomes nothing more than a nagging distraction. We need to embrace deadlines for the benefits they produce and thank them for pushing us forward.

How have deadlines helped you? What sacrifices have you had to make to hit a due date?

Sometimes Rewriting Our Old Work Isn’t Worthwhile

The amount of time required to rework a piece is often too great, and it’s best to let it go.

Sometimes Rewriting Our Old Work Isn’t WorthwhileI once read the debut novel by a YA author. I was quite taken by it. I loved her humor and writing style. I wanted more, but since it was her first published novel I would need to wait.

I later learned something surprising: she had written five other novels, all unpublished. True, few novelists land a publishing deal on their first novel. Or their second or their third. I understand it typically takes four or five before they find their voice and hone their craft. I heard of another author who wrote nine novels before he sold one.

Since I don’t write novels (yet), I wondered why authors give up on their initial attempts. Just fix the flaws in their back material, and it’s good to go. However, this may be naive thinking.

I recently pulled out a short story I wrote several decades ago. It is the oldest one that I still have. I read it. The premise was good. I grabbed readers with the opening, surprised them at the end, and had an interesting arc in the between part. All it needed was a simple edit to incorporate what I now know.

It wasn’t that simple.

First, I had written it in third-person omniscient. This was fine in 1977 but not acceptable for today’s market. Publishing’s gatekeepers now deem head hopping verboten. I picked a point-of-view (POV) character, the mom, which required I rewrite all the scenes that included the dad’s, daughter’s, and boyfriend’s thoughts; this accounted for most of the story. Plus it took too many false starts to home in on the right POV character.

Next, my narrator’s voice was a juvenile’s, which makes sense because I was a teenager when I wrote it. I needed to update that as well. Last was the pleasant reality that I’m a much better writer now and had scores of novice errors to fix.

After several rewrites and the investment of too much time, my once unacceptable short story was now acceptable: good but not great. An editor told me as much in his rejection email when I submitted it for publication.

I suspect I spent four times the work trying to fix this old short story as I would have spent writing and polishing a new one. I should have thrown it away and focused on new material.

Now I understand why some first novels aren’t worth the effort to fix.

What is your experience trying to breathe new life in to old work? Do you have a first novel that isn’t worth fixing?

How to Submit an Article for Publication

Common sense tips, that most people skip, to increase the chances of having your writing submission accepted in magazines and websites

How to Submit an Article for PublicationAs a magazine, newsletter, and website publisher, I’ve received thousands of article submissions over the years. Some of the writers are easy to work with and others are more of a chore. If you hope to see your work published, don’t be a pain when you submit content.

While I’m willing to work with a writer who tries hard, I’m much less willing to work with a writer who hardly tries. Follow these tips for your best chance of success.

  • Know the Publication or Website: Read their past content. As you do, envision if your idea is a good fit. If not, don’t force it. Seek another topic or a different outlet.
  • Look for Submission Guidelines: Find their submission criteria on their website. If they don’t have anything posted, they aren’t likely open to receive unsolicited submissions. If you can’t find their instructions, even after double-checking, look for articles from non-staff writers or guest posts. Contact those writers to see how they did it. Maybe they’ll make an introduction for you. As a last option, email the publication and ask if they’re open to receive submissions.
  • Do What They Ask: If they ask you to pitch your idea (sometimes called a query or an abstract for more academic outlets), then do that. Others (like me) ask for finished pieces only. Never ever send a draft and ask for feedback.
  • Write the Best Possible Article: You know the drill: write, re-write, edit, spellcheck, and proofread. You only get one chance with this article at this publication, so give it your best effort.
  • Follow their Requirements Carefully: Reread their submission guidelines and meet every requirement. Though most editors won’t disqualify you for making a tiny blunder, it could count against you, and too many will result in a rejection.
  • Be Patient: Most publications will acknowledge they received your submission. If you haven’t heard back in a week or so, ask – politely. If your piece is accepted, be patient. It can be a while for them to post it online and several months for print.
  • Promote It: Most print publications post their content online. When they do, promote your piece. Post the news and a link on social media, your blog, and in your newsletter. If you can drive enough traffic to the publication’s website for them to notice, they will be eager to consider more of your content.
  • Thank Them: Most writers skip this step; don’t be one of them. Once your piece has run, thank them – even if some aspect of it wasn’t to your satisfaction. It you have an idea for another piece or are open to receive an assignment, this is the ideal time to mention it.

Following these steps will not guarantee the publication of your work, but they will move you ahead of most writers. I wish you the best in your writing.

What are your experiences in submitting content for publication? What tips do you have to add? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.