Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Your Book Was Rejected by Phyllis Humphrey


Recently The Writer Magazine listed reasons for a book being turned down by a publisher. Here’s their rejection statement and my interpretation:

1. "Too much competition." Other books, magazine stories or the Internet.

2. "Too similar to a book already on our list." Someone else got to the publisher first.

3. "Too small in sales potential." Small market for your plot, characters, time period or setting.

4. "Too narrow in scope." This is more applicable to non-fiction, but it could also mean you didn’t take advantage of the Civil War drama possibilities in your 1860s werewolf novel.

5. "Not enough author recognition." Sorry but you’re not Grisham.

6. "Beyond the author’s credentials." This might also apply more to non-fiction, but could also mean you didn’t tell the editor you were a vampire in a previous life.

7. "Poorly written."

8. "Too expensive to produce or promote." If it’s your first novel, they don’t want to take a chance on a 200,000 word book.

9. "Outside our purview." Wrong publisher for your baby.

10. "Not remarkable, surprising or different enough."

Most of these reasons, except number seven, have nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Okay, you could have avoided number nine if you’d done more research, but it’s not your fault a bunch of other people wrote about cloning Jesus the same time you did, or that the publisher already bought a Jesus-cloning novel, or your name isn’t John Grisham. (By the way, his first book was turned down too.)

The rest of the reasons are based solely on an editor’s
opinion. He thinks you should have added more backstory, or that it won’t sell because of the time period, or the length of the book or his particular dislikes. He could be wrong.

Another article (By Ruth Harris on Anne R. Allen’s Blog) was similar but added a few other things that are not your fault:

2. Wildlife Infestation. A cockroach jumped out of the box with your manuscript.

5. PMS Low testosterone. The boss is in a lousy mood today and would turn down GONE WITH THE WIND. (Oh, wait, someone did turn that down.)

7. Someone you never heard of hates it. The boss, or his girlfriend hates romance, westerns, horror (insert genre).

8. Cash Crunch. They won’t admit it, but sometimes editors are told to buy nothing that year because the company’s in financial doo-doo.

9. Corporate Canoodling. A reorganization caused half the staff to be fired.

10. They hate your agent. He once did something the editor didn’t like, so those submissions are always rejected. That’ll show ‘em.

11. Oops. Sometimes the editors are wrong. They reject books that turn out to be mega-hits. Harry Potter, anyone?

So that’s why, through no fault of your own, your book was rejected. Don’t let it get you down. Just keep submitting your book until someone reads it who can actually buy it. Even if it takes 19 tries (like my novel SOUTHERN STAR).

Phyllis Humphrey has had eleven romance novels published (Kensington, Avalon, Barbour Books, etc.) plus short stories and articles in magazines. She was an RWA Golden Heart finalist, won the San Diego Book Award in 2002 and was a finalist in the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic mystery contest in 2012.

Phyllis recently released Free Fall
Learn more about this book here.


Laurie Buchanan said...

Amen! I believe that each and every "no" I receive puts me just that much closer to my "Yes!"

Leanne Dyck said...

I find Phyllis' article very helpful and uplifting.
I like viewing this process as a journey--where will the submission process take me today, what new lands will I discover? : )

Leanne Dyck said...

Oops, were are my manners. Sorry about that, Laurie. I like what you added about every 'no' bringing you closer to a 'yes'. It an excellent philosophy.

(My computer gave me the blue screen of death this morning. That created a mood I'm attempting to shake. And also reminded me that I hadn't backed up my latest revisions.)

Carole DiCamillo said...


Great insite into the publishing world! Everything in life is subjective, so why not expect it from editors.We soldier on in spite of a rejection. Always something positive on the horizon.

Write, write, write!

Carolann Camillo

Phyllis Humphrey said...

Leanne, Laurie and Carole:

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad my article inspired, rather than discouraged, you. That was my goal. Remember Col. Sanders' chicken recipe was rejected 1000 times.