It’s time to say goodbye to the old year and contemplate your creative disappointments and shortcomings in the process. If, despite your best efforts, you didn’t snag that publisher you had your eyes on, you’re not alone: I didn’t either. So in the spirit of good-will and brotherhood (or do I mean sisterhood???) I’ve compiled a list of common reasons your book may have been rejected so aspiring writers can recognize their mistakes and be more successful next year.
And so, without further ado, here is my year-end contribution to the writing world:
(By Someone Whose Book Didn’t Get Published Either)
1. You didn’t send your best work. In other words, your book was full of typos, incomplete sentences, grammatical errors and other “fractured fairytales” that raised editorial eyebrows and made editors, agents and/or publishers wonder how (and why) you had the nerve to submit such drivel.
2. It didn’t fit the editor, agent or publisher’s list. In other words, you submitted to a person or place (or thing,) that doesn’t even publish the kind of story you wrote…and you didn’t bother to read the criteria and pay attention to detail, because if you had, you would have known better!
3. The characters are too cliché.’ You’ve got too many buff hunks, blonde bombshells, and/or bratty but precocious kids who remind editors, agents and/or publishers of all the other stories about buff hunks, blonde bombshells and/or bratty but precocious kids.
4. The market for your book is too narrow. In other words, your wonderful book targets only a miniscule portion of the population so editors, agents and/or publishers know it won’t earn enough money to make it feasible to publish.
5. The subject matter is overdone. Is your book about Vampire lovers, wizard boys in search of their real parents or highly intelligent but otherwise bratty boys who get lost in New York? If it is, then like an overdone turkey, it has left editors, agents and/or publishers dry-throated, unsatisfied, and anxious to push it aside so they can sample the next “meaty” meal on the menu.
6. You’re not an expert in your field. Remember the old saying, Write what you know? Well…do that. Because when you write about things you don’t know (and haven’t bothered to learn), it’s guaranteed to turn out like your Grandma’s slip: It’s gonna show, and you’re gonna be embarassed.
7. It’s not right for them. In other words, they (the editor, agent or/or publisher) JUST DON’T LIKE IT, and there’s nothing you can do to make them. Don’t grieve; just move on.
8. You bored them to tears. Let’s face it, some stories are boring. Period. To find where your story falls on the old Bore-dometer, try reading it out loud. If you plummet head-first into a yawning jag, or if you find yourself hurriedly flipping through three, four or five chapters to keep from nodding off and hitting your head, it’s a safe bet your story is fit only for a bonfire. Either fix the sucker or dump it, but don’t bore others with it. They may never forgive you.
9. The hero or heroine isn’t sympathetic. Who cheers for someone they can’t stand? Editors, agents and/or publishers (and readers) want to—have to—have a reason to care about your main character. So give them one…or kill the character off.
10. You keep slip-sliding away. You keep changing tenses and/or using too many POV’s. There’s nothing worse than writing in past-, present- and future-perfect tense, all in the same sentence!
11. You ignored the guidelines. The editor, agent and/or publisher specifically requested a clean, double-spaced manuscript with single-sided printing on standard typing paper. You sent a single-spaced manuscript with double-sided printing on glossy paper that repels ink and leaves permanent smudges on everything it touches. Oh, and your pages had footprints, mustard stains, baby drool and dried-up coffee spills on them. Sad face. Enough said.
12. You didn’t pay attention to details. You misspelled the editor, agent and/or publisher’s name. Or you stuffed your submission package with a cover letter addressed to someone else. Or you didn’t number your pages, and after you dropped the 300-page monstrosity (manuscript) on the floor, you put the crinkled pages back in order as best you could. Now you’re praying the recipient can figure out which end of your story is up…
Okay, I think I’ve made my point. I’m sorry your manuscript didn’t get published in 2010; mine didn’t either. But if you use these writing tips as a starting point to do things right next time, your efforts should bring you even closer to the coveted label of PUBLISHED WRITER.
Best wishes and happy writing,