Tag Archives: book quality

7 Reasons Why Books Are Rejected

Having our book rejected stings. Here are seven common reasons why this happens.

1) The Writing Isn’t Ready: Everyone is a new writer at some point. It takes time for our writing to mature, our voice to emerge, and our style to become consistent. Some say this takes 10,000 hours or requires 1,000,000 words before we hit our writing stride. Yes, there are exceptions, but there is truth to these guidelines. Aside from still honing our craft, sometimes our work just isn’t as good as it could be. I suspect every writer encounters this at some point.

2) The Content Needs Improvement: Sometimes the idea or concept (for nonfiction) or the plot or story arc (for fiction) needs more work. It must be expanded, enhanced, or otherwise improved. Sometimes we try to stretch a great article or short story into a book, but there’s just not enough there for it to work.

3) The Work Was Pitched to the Wrong Place: When we pitch our work or idea to an agent or publisher, we need to make sure they are interested in the type of book we have written. A romance publisher will not consider a thriller; a publisher of practical how-to guides will not consider an academic treatise. Agents also specialize in certain genres or types of books. Pitching to the wrong place will insure a quick rejection.

4) The Pitch Fell Short: There are various means to entice an agent or publisher. It may be an elevator pitch, a one-sheet, a query letter, a proposal, or maybe all four. Each one is an opportunity to garner further consideration or a chance to be rejected. Make each pitch be the best it can be. In most instances, we will never get a second chance.

5) The Agent Doesn’t Think He or She Can Sell It: Even when everything aligns, if an agent doesn’t think he or she can sell our book, the agent will not take on the project. Remember, agents only make money when they sell our book to a publisher.

6) The Publisher Already Has a Book Like It: A publisher will not take on a book that is too similar to one they have recently published or an older one that continues to sell.

7) The Author Doesn’t Have a Big Enough Platform: Publishers expect authors to help promote and sell their books. This requires they have a platform or network of sufficient size to do this. A small or nonexistent platform means the author will not be able to move books.

I’ve suffered rejection for six of these seven reasons. Understanding why this might have happened helps us to do better next time and move towards acceptance.

Which one do you struggle with?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Your Nonfiction Book is the Ultimate Business Card

If you are a consultant, service provider, or business professional, having a book can become your best form of promotion. A book provides instant credibility, elevating you above the competition who has no book. It becomes a calling card, opening doors and providing opportunities you would otherwise miss.

Your book is the ultimate business card. Learn more from the article “Your Book as Your Business Card: Indie Book Publishing Provides Professionals the Edge.”

Of course, to realize the most from your book as a business card, it must be professional. Business cards run the gambit from homemade cards using your PC printer and perforated stock to four-color glossy works of art with professional graphics and quality printing. The difference is apparent, separating card-carrying market leaders from under-resourced wannabes. Though the homemade version is better than no card, it’s only a marginal improvement.

So, too, published books run the gambit, from homemade cover and self-edited to professionally designed graphics, quality editing, and elegant interior design that ooze competence. While the homegrown book is better than no book, it is only marginally so.

Whether it is a book or a business card, when someone sees it, do you want them to think “Oh no!” or “Oh wow?”

Is your nonfiction book your ultimate business card? Why or why not?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

What Can We Learn From the Used Textbook Market?

The August issue of Book Business had an interesting piece about the textbook industry. The article, “Combating the Higher-Ed Used Book Market,” said that of the $8 billion higher-ed textbook industry, roughly two-thirds of the dollars spent is for used books. That’s bad news for the publishers and authors, as neither makes any money when students resell their textbooks.

There are many possible reasons for this, including high cost, books students don’t want in the first place or will never use again, required classes students don’t want to take, required books instructors don’t use, and so on. Another reason is some students must sell their books to help finance the next semester.

However, the bottom line is these students don’t value their textbooks.

The few dollars they will receive by selling the book means more to them than the content in the book. In economic terms, the book lacks “utility”; it does not possess usefulness. When a book lacks utility, only those who have to buy it, will. And as soon as the owner is no longer required to have the book, he or she will sell it (or throw it away).

The lesson for the textbook industry is clear: produce books that have value beyond the length of one semester.

By extension, there are also lessons for the greater book publishing industry:

  • Write the best possible book.
  • Ensure every chapter is relevant, every paragraph adds worth, and every word is needed. Remove redundancy, cut filler, tighten sentences, write concisely, and explain clearly.
  • Edit the book meticulously.
  • Present a compelling interior design and worthy cover.
  • Title it wisely.
  • Make quality paramount.
  • Give readers a reason to keep the book. For fiction, this means a story they will read again; for nonfiction, this means the book will become a useful reference.
  • Add helpful resources. Include additional content that will enhance the book, such as an index, glossary, graphics, color, related resources, study guide or discussion questions, and so forth.
  • Price it right.

While we can’t stop book buyers from reselling books, we can give them reasons not to.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

What’s More Important, Your Book or Your Platform?

Most writers, myself included, would prefer just to write. We don’t want to pitch, sell, or market our book or ourselves. Some may not even want to blog, develop a social media following, or build a platform. Yet, the reality is writers need a platform, a vantage from which to gain a following and move books.

Sadly, in most cases, the platform is more important than writing. Really.

A person with a great platform and a not so great book is in a better position than a person with an excellent book and a small platform. Really.

If a writer’s best work still needs more work before publication, help is available. Editors, collaborators, and even ghostwriters can come in and rescue a needy manuscript. If that author has the means to promote and move books, a publisher will go to the trouble and expense to shore up their weak writing.

However, a well-written book by an author with no platform will seldom receive much attention from a publisher. Even if the writing is great, they will still be reluctant to publish it; the risk of losing money is too high if the author doesn’t have the means to move books.

Though it pains me to say it, if you want a book deal from a traditional publisher, focus on the platform first, and then worry about writing. Really.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Does the Type of Publisher Skew Our Perception of Book Quality?

When I read a book and catch an error or spot something questionable in the layout, I generally overlook it – the first time. When I catch a second oops, I turn to the front matter and see who published the book.

If produced by a traditional publisher, my tendency is to overlook the errors. After all, I doubt any book is ever completely error-free. I assume I’ve found a couple of anomalies and happily return to my reading.

However, if it’s self-published, I groan and subconsciously begin looking for more mistakes. In fact, I expect to find them. Then each time I do, I moan over the lack of quality. My esteem of the book and its author diminishes a bit more each time I spot something amiss.

This is unfair. How the book was published shouldn’t skew my perception of quality. This is not how it should be, but I can’t help it. As a publisher, this might be an occupational hazard, just as I find myself mentally editing books as I read them. I can’t help that either.

Ideally, we need to judge each book on its own merits and not be influenced by who published it or how it was produced. I’m not there yet but hope to be one day.

Regardless, we need to do all we can to ensure our books are as error-free as possible and conform to the highest standards of quality. Then, how it was published won’t matter.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Watch Your English: Mastering English is Essential

In my work, I sometimes receive emails from people for whom English is a secondary language. Although they write using words I know, they often string them together in confusing ways.

Sometimes I end up on their website, trying to gain perspective. Confusing emails are bad enough, but I’m decidedly less tolerant of websites spouting nonsensical English; I expect businesses to have a professional and comprehensible online presence.

This actual example still confuses me:

“(Company name) is a baby of consultants from all over the world from various fields to add value to any business from their hands-on experience under the leadership of (CEO name), who is a project consultant for over 2 decades across many business verticals. A lot of thought process is planned to be shared across many headings in the coming days, each one is a huge opportunity to create a great business, it could be (long list of technical jargon and industries) so on so forth.

“The whole thought process is thought out keeping the world as one piece of opportunity. Let’s see how we can make use of it and create better opportunities for the globally employable ones and enterprising ones without disturbing the right political and natural environments.”

Say what?

What’s the lesson for writers seeking publication and publishers desiring to produce a quality product?

Quite simply, we often tap others to help with a project—proofreading, copyediting, transcription, reformatting, fact-checking, and so forth. Although it’s tempting to select these folks based on price, it’s more important to make sure they truly have a firm mastery of English. Though low rates may be appealing, we get what we pay for—and sometimes much less.

Have you ever tried to save money on a project only to be disappointed with the results?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Why Accuracy in Writing is Important

Last week I experienced the importance of accuracy.

With anticipation I opened an article submission. The topic was relevant and novel.

My excitement, however, waned as I read his opening sentence. The author stated the earth’s population was 6.2 million. I thought there are over seven billion people on our planet, so I sought confirmation. Indeed we surpassed the seven billion mark a couple years ago. His number was wrong, out dated. That’s when I realized his second error, a typo: million instead of billion.

Spotting two factual errors in the first dozen words caused me to question the accuracy of the entire piece. I almost rejected the submission at that point, but I continued reading.

Then the author wrote that Mandarin is a lesser-known language. I questioned that as well. An online search confirmed my suspicion. Around a billion people speak Mandarin, more than English and Spanish combined.

I became angry over the article and mad at the author. Surely the writer had accuracy issues or just threw something together without much thought. I knew if I wanted to run this piece, I’d need to carefully scrutinize every sentence and check each assertion. I didn’t have time for that.

Had I not caught his errors, running the article as submitted, the author would have lost credibility and my magazine would look sloppy. This would turn off readers and damage our reputations.

But what if this wasn’t an article and instead related to a book?

  • If egregious errors exist in a query letter, an agent or publisher will not ask for the proposal.
  • If mistakes pop up in a proposal, the full manuscript will never be requested.
  • And if the book opens with the blunders I encountered in this article, the work would risk dismissal before the reader reached page two.

When you invest time and energy in writing a book, don’t let sloppy errors torpedo your efforts. Although I persisted with this article despite glaring mistakes, had they occurred in a book query, proposal, or manuscript I’d have summarily dismissed the entire project.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!