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Help for writers

Why has my manuscript been rejected?

It is demoralising to get your manuscript rejected by publishers or agents. To put it into perspective, you may find it helpful to go through some of the reasons why this happens and to see what we suggest you can do about it:

  1. Perhaps your manuscript simply disappeared into a giant slush pile and you got a standard, dream-shattering rejection letter like everyone else, without anybody even looking at your work. You are obviously wasting your time submitting your work to this publisher. So look at our agent listings, check agents' websites and try to find out if they welcome submissions first. Try to find a publisher which reads its slush pile and don't ever send it to an agent or publisher who says 'no unsolicited submissions'.

  2. Your manuscript does not fit with the publishing focus of the publishing house (e.g. if you write Fantasy, which they don’t publish). Research carefully and make sure you send your manuscript to a publisher which publishes in that area.

  3. Your manuscript may be in a terrible mess, which is initially very off-putting. You need to tidy it up and produce a clean copy to submit to publishers. You might want to consider our Copy-editing service, if you really can’t get it right on your own.

  4. Make sure that you have presented your work in the most professional way possible.  See our page on Making Submissions.

  5. Use our page on putting together Your submission package to make sure you are presenting your material correctly, to give yourself your best chance. Think about having a Submission Critique, which is a way of making sure that you are giving your book its best chance.

  6. You may be writing for a very limited audience, which means the publisher cannot forecast high enough sales to make your book commercially viable. Possibly you won’t find a publisher at all, if your project has a very small potential readership, and you should think of self-publishing. Alternatively, try a more specialist or local publisher.

  7. You’re an unknown author and the publisher is not sufficiently certain about how to promote you or your book to the right level. Unfortunately how promotable you are can be very important and it's a salutary fact that publishers favour authors who are young and good-looking. It is not politically correct to acknowledge this, but it is a fact of life. However, you may have hidden depths which would make you more promotable, or good contacts, or special knowledge. Make sure your submission letter mentions briefly every promotional angle you can think of.

  8. Your manuscript may be local in its interest, whereas the publisher is looking at a larger national or international market. Try sending it to a local publisher, which may be small, but will also be more focused on the area.

  9. Your work may not fall into a clear enough publishing category – publishers are not keen on books they cannot categorise. Unfortunately this is something you need to be aware of for the future, although you should think about whether this is just a matter of how you have presented your work.

  10. Your manuscript may need too much editorial work. Our experience is that this is becoming more and more of a problem. You may need to rework it before submitting it again.  If you don’t know where to start, perhaps our Services can help.

  11. Your work may be ‘old-fashioned’, which leads the publisher to conclude that it isn’t what readers are currently looking for. Again, it’s pretty difficult to counter this one, but some publishers are more affected by ‘fashion’ than others, so you could try elsewhere. Study publishers’ lists. You may need to investigate the market more carefully before you embark on further projects.

  12. Your manuscript may not be sufficiently well-written. You will need to work to improve your writing Our services can help and so can books about writing, see our reviews, and browse through our WritersBookstall. You could also look at Michael Legat's books or Factsheet.

  13. If it is non-fiction, the publisher may already have a book on the same subject. Try another publisher.

  14. If it is fiction, the publisher may already have a successful author writing for exactly the same market and fear that you might compete. This probably means that another publisher might well be interested.  Position your writing by a reference to the successful author in your submission letter (even if you think you’re much better!)

  15. If you are submitting your work to agents, check that you are sending it to the right one.  Finding an agent gives suggestions on this and our UK and US and International Agents' listings may help you to select the right agent. Always look at their website before sending anything and follow their submision guidelines to give yourself the best chance.

  16. Self-publishing is a very much more viable alternative than it used to be, don't dismiss this possibiity.
Don't give up! There are thousands of new writers published every year.