Friday, July 1, 2011

Why the Rejection?

Most of us are either preparing to enter that query/submission stage, are in it right now, or have been recently. Agents and editors know what they're looking for, and when they don't feel a connection or they see something missing, the end result will probably be a rejection. And, while rejections are hard, most can ultimately help us to reach our goal of being agented and getting published.

So what are some reasons our manuscripts might be rejected?

Weak Queries

One of the prominent ways of submitting to agents or editors is through queries. Yes, some of us will get requests in other ways but for the most part, we will still, at some point, have to send out a query letter.

There are a number of things that weaken a query, including too much showing not telling, poor grammar or addressing the query incorrectly, sometimes even being too long-winded. And the list goes on.

So what can be done to help this?

* Study other query letters - there are a plethora of good ones on-line or at agent sites (including and endless list on QueryShark)
* Have a critique partner, other writers, or even some kind of query help service look over your letter for feedback
* Follow the rules agents and editors give you when submitting (plenty of times they'll tell you exactly what to put in the query letter or give you some examples)

The Agent/Editor

Sometimes it's not so much about what we're doing on our end, but what's going on at the other end.

Sometimes agents are inundated with clients right now or too busy to look at your work right away or even within a few months. Sometimes they don't have a connection with your work, or if they do, they aren't certain they can sell it in this market. While a rejection still feels personal and really hurts, we can still consider (especially if we're getting interest elsewhere) that there may be other reasons for the rejection.

So what can be done to help prevent rejections because of this?

* Research agents or publishers and make sure you know what they're looking for
* Attend conferences if possible and give an agent or editor more of a reason to take a look at your query or submission
* Research what's hot in the market, or at least genres that are more popular, to give agents and editors more of a reason to be interested
* Make sure your manuscript shines in every way possible

The Manuscript

There are times when an agent or editor will ask for pages of your manuscript either with the query or after reading through the query. At this point, they get a chance to see your writing, get a chance to be hooked, and have that opportunity to decide whether or not your work will go anywhere. Unfortunately, they might make their decision within the first page or two. And if they're not interested? One possibility is that your opening isn't strong enough or, there isn't a distinct voice, or overall, your writing is just not ready.

So what can we do to help this?

* Don't submit or query until the manuscript is as polished as it can be (as well as completed), also don't query too soon. If it's your first manuscript, of course there's a chance it will get snatched up, but usually there's more to learn and writing more than one manuscript is a great way to get that experience
* Utilize critique partners, beta readers, contests, or even an editing service if you can afford it to make sure you're going in the right direction and your writing is getting stronger
* Follow the rules. Not just the guidelines agents or editors lay down but basic rules we hear as new writers, such as not using too many passive verbs, showing not telling, etc. Yes, there is a time for breaking out of that comfort zone or wowing agents or editors with unique techniques but for the most part, especially if we're seeking an agent or editor for the first time, we need to try to follow the rules

There will always be other reasons for being rejected, but for the most part, the major ones are outlined above. Some of the best things we can do as writers looking to get published are research the industry, agents, and the craft, act professional, and get ourselves out there. Don't be afraid to learn from other writers or even agents. Whether it feels like it or not, many of them do notice if you're trying.

So where are you all at in the submission process or what have you learned from your own experiences?


Mary Vee Writer said...

One of the hardest components of having my manuscript rejected is feeling rejection. It's so important to realize that the manuscript is rejected for some reason, not me. With this empowerment, I can buck up, listen/or discover the real reason for the rejection (like what Cindy mentioned in this post), fix the problem then resubmit.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I do a ton of research when I submit. I pray. I keep honing my craft even while the MS is out and I then I simply let go.

So simple. HA!

Happy 4th Alley Cats.
~ Wendy

Joanne Sher said...

I'm submitting my NF to agents - have three rejections so far. I have a feeling it's my topic, which apparently isn't very sellable in this market, other than self-publishing, which I'm not ready for. Will likely submit a few more places, while still focusing on my NEXT WIP - which is coming along. GOD's timing!

Sarah Forgrave said...

FABULOUS post, Cindy! I'm plugging away on a new manuscript and hoping my writing will connect with the right person at the right time. :)

Faith said...

Great advice that I will definitely be using!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yes, Mary! One of the greatest things we can do with a rejection is learn from it. And if we can get over that initial sting then hopefully we'll be better off in the long run.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Wendy, that research is a great idea. Knowing where to submit is as much a big deal as submitting something that's polished and ready for industry eyes.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Joanne, I'm sorry to hear about the rejections. You make such a great point here, though! Working on something else as you're waiting is a great idea. It keeps your focus where it should be - on writing! And you're right, it's all about God's timing, and remembering he has a place for your work - all the best with your submissions!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sarah, I know what you mean. That connection is something I should remember to be praying for with every manuscript I send out.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Faye, I'm glad the post was useful. Hope you have a great weekend!

Pepper said...

Great post, Cindy.
I'm with Mary - most of the time when I get a rejection, I just feel rejected.
But... like you've written, Cindy - we have to evaluate what we're doing and find how we can improve.
So when I get a rejection, within a week I'm back in motion with what I can do next. It helps me fight against those feelings of rejction :-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Cindy. I once had a manuscript rejected by a New York editor who said repeatedly that she loved the book. She talked about passing the manuscript around to other people in the office, who loved it as well. About a year later, she contacted my agent and asked who had ultimately published the book, because she wanted to give copies to her friends as gifts. I'm not kidding. Is that crazy, or what?

NightlySun said...

Absolutely fantastic!