Manuscripts are rejected for a variety of reasons–only one of which is the quality of the writing. Although grammar mistakes, tired, confusing and/or unbelieveable plots, stale dialogue, flat characters, and plain old boring are the more common reasons manuscripts are rejected, there are plenty of other reasons you might be rejected that have nothing to do with your skill as a wordsmith. I’ve listed a few of them here (in no specific order).
- It’s not in our niche. We just don’t publish [insert your genre here].
- We’ve filled our schedule. Believe it or not, publishers do not have money trees out behind the warehouse. If we can only fit 5 or 50 or 500 books in our budget, and your manuscript is number 6 or 51 or 501, we have to reject.
- We don’t think we can sell it. You may have written a masterpiece, but if there’s a glut in the market for that topic or that genre just isn’t selling well at the moment, we will probably reject.
- Your treatment doesn’t fit the market. This is an LDS market and some treatments will not fly here. If your murder mystery is too bloody, your romance too explicit, your fictionalized history takes too many liberties with the accepted version of the story (example: biblical stories or events from early Church history), then we won’t publish it.
- Your topic is contrary to LDS doctrine. I shouldn’t have to explain this one, but based upon some submissions I’ve received, apparently it’s not as obvious as I think it is. When you submit to an LDS pubisher, your manuscript must support LDS beliefs. You wouldn’t expect a Catholic publisher to accept a manuscript proclaiming the pope to be a polygamist or a Christian publisher to accept a manuscript proclaiming Christ to be a myth, would you?
- We have recently accepted/published another book with a similar plot or theme.
Regardless of the reason, rejection can be disheartening, but don’t let it stop you. There is hope behind every rejection.
If you’re rejected due to writing quality, keep writing. Writing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you will get. I believe that there is no manuscript that is so bad it can’t be fixed with enough time, patience and rewrites. I also believe there is no such thing as a wasted effort. Even if you choose to scrap your original manuscript (or your first dozen manuscripts) and start on something entirely different, the process of writing those first unpublishable works is invaluable.
If you’re rejected due to one of the reasons listed above, keep submitting. Submit that manuscript to other publishers, as many as you can. Submit new manuscripts to publishers who’ve rejected you before. Eventually, you will find that serendipitous moment when the manuscript you’ve submitted fits the needs of the publisher you’ve submitted it to. And that makes it all worth the effort.