Recently, I’ve had a couple of authors express the following sentiment to me: ‘I wish publishers would say why they’re rejecting a manuscript. It’s so disheartening to either hear nothing, or just have your manuscript returned with a bland, “You’ve been unsuccessful” note.’
So I thought I should perhaps address this in a column!
Firstly, it’s important to realise that publishers (the big ones in particular) simply don’t have time to write a personal note to accompany every rejected manuscript, as they receive thousands of manuscripts to assess. Small publishers, who receive correspondingly fewer manuscripts, may sometimes reply with a word or two of guidance, but that’s very rare and can’t be relied on.
Secondly, the reason a manuscript is rejected may not always be dependent on the quality of the manuscript itself. The aspiring author may have submitted a well-written, beautifully crafted manuscript that is for the relevant age group, meets the submission guidelines, and which several in the acquisition team actually enjoyed reading — and it may still be rejected because:
· The publisher already has several books very like it — kids playing in mud; fairies getting up to mischief; babies annoying their siblings — on their publishing program.
· The last two books on that subject matter/in that genre/with mutant zombies as the main characters crashed and burned, so Sales and Marketing don’t want to take a chance on another.
· The Associate Publisher responsible for the list has a personal dislike of books dealing with red balloons or death or trips to Paris. (Never forget that just as you may love a book that someone else simply doesn’t get, publishers have these very human responses too!)
Yes, my examples above might be slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I hope they illustrate that publishing is — and will always be — a subjective ‘business’. Books transport the reader to another world; they invite the reader to wrap themselves in a blanket of words created by someone else’s imagination. Sometimes those words will resonate and sometimes they won’t.
So please don’t take rejection personally. Don’t let it ruin your dream to be published. Don’t let it take away the pride and happiness you should feel at having created a manuscript in the first place. All it means is that your story hasn’t found the right home … yet.
Anouska Jones is our KBR Editor. Mum to a gorgeous little girl, she has nearly twenty years' experience in the book publishing industry. A publishing consultant and editor, Anouska is obsessed by all things to do with words, writing and books.