Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Are My Queries Being Rejected?



It's something every writer must face, and frequently. Writers are hurt by it, obsess over it and continually cry out, WHY?  Why me?  Why did they reject that piece of writing; MY piece of writing when I know it's very good if not fantastic?

First question often is why are they (editors, agents, publishers) rejecting my writing when my friends and relatives love it so much.

Uh, well, first shot at this is objectivity.  The agent/editor/publisher has it.  Your friends and relatives don't. Editors are looking for something specific in the work they review - relatives and friends not so much.

So you're going to get rejections, probably lots of them, and you're going to have to learn to get over them and learn from them.

Sometimes a rejection is just an error in submission.  At times an error you couldn't even foresee.  For example:

*The publisher/agent you chose to submit to was not appropriate to what you're writing.  It happens. Maybe you didn't do your homework thoroughly enough or maybe they changed what they're looking for. Either way, result = rejection.

*With the economy as it is maybe your timing is just off.  Maybe where you sent it has cut back on their publications. Perhaps an editor who might have been interested left to go with another publication. Perhaps they perceive the market to have changed and your material no longer fits what they're looking for.

*Maybe what you've submitted is eerily similar to something they've already published or contracted for. That happens sometimes too. It's the universal consciousness thing - sometimes you tie into an idea someone else has had as well and that someone else has simply beaten you to it.

*Consider the materials you've submitted.  Are they as professional as possible? Did you address to a named person and not "Dear Sir or Madam"? Did you meet all the submission guidelines down to the last crossed t? Was your submission (if on paper) neat and fresh, not fingerprinted and dog-eared?

*Maybe the genre or area you've chosen is over published.  You might be able to sell it at a later date.

*If you're writing non-fiction - articles or proposing a book, are your credentials up to the job?  Have you  made your credentials clear in your query letter? Are you developing some sort of marketing platform such as a blog, Twitter, or some other avenue you can point to through which you can promote your books?

*If you're lucky enough to get a personal note are you taking it seriously, reading it, deciding if/what might be changed in you writing to make it stronger?

So you're getting rejection slips. How many should you collect before you decide it isn't worth it and give up on that piece of writing? That's something you'll have to figure out it your own gut. If it's something you've put years in on writing, a novel perhaps, giving up quickly would be tragic. Instead consider analyzing those rejection slips for a pattern for something you may need to change in that writing to make it more appealing.

The majority of writers don't sell t heir first novel.  Not a very up-lifiting thought, I know, but the truth.  You may have to give up on it.  But don't get rid of it. There may be parts of it that can be used in another novel or perhaps characters that work there.

Now, there's one last thing I'd like to say, no offense to editors, etc., but well, they're human just like we writers are. They can feel sick, have a bad day, or be served with divorce papers while holding your query on wedding planning in the other hand. What do you suppose would happen next?

There simply are times when it's just the luck of the draw.  Don't take it personally. See what you can learn from it and move on.

So consider all the angles, accept you're going to receive rejections and don't let it get you down. Writers aren't born published. Editors and Agents aren't born all-knowing.

You can feel free to rant and rave privately when you receive a rejection, then get back to work.


  1. Wow...breaking into the literary world is making me nervous!

  2. No, no, don't be nervous, be determined. Sort through what it means to you and work with it. good luck!

  3. Great post. Rejection letters are a badge of honor. Melville, Faulkner, all the greats received them, often stinging. Rudyard Kipling was told he didn't know how to use the English language!

    I will say this to prospective freelance writers/authors -- if you actually get a rejection addressed specifically to you with feedback on your work, do a dance. You're on to something if an agent or editor takes the time to craft a response; learn from their advice!

  4. Thanks Artistsroad. I've certainly gotten my share of them over the years and I've published 15 books - then had to take care of an ailing mother for several years and that made it feel like starting all over again....


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