To say that the plot had holes in it would be to imply that the work contained enough substance to contain such holes. It didn't.
Ouch. That's an excerpt from a rejection letter a friend of mine who is an aspiring screenwriter received a few years ago. It's certainly one of the most brutal rejection letters I've ever seen. I can only imagine that the guy who wrote it was having a terrible day.
Rejection. It's such a depressing concept. Nobody wants to be rejected, whether its coming from a friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or an employer. It can be especially heartbreaking for authors. For many authors, their book is like a child to them. They have poured their time, heart, and soul into the work. It's like a piece of themselves that they're putting out there, and having it rejected can feel like a personal rejection of the worst kind. The sad truth is, however, that many authors are going to have to get used to rejection, especially for a first book.
There are many reasons a book can be rejected, many of which can have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. In my first job as an in-house editor, one of my responsibilities was to wade through the slush pile and send out rejections. Here are a few reasons I had to reject manuscripts:
- The book was obviously crazy. These were pretty few and far between, but occasionally I'd get a letter from someone who claimed God had told him the world was going to end in a week (too bad our publishing schedule was a year out!) or something similar. My personal favorite was the lady who claimed she was Jesus reincarnated and her daughter was the virgin Mary. I'm not exactly sure how that was supposed to work.
- The book simply didn't fit in with what we published. The particular publisher I worked for had a very narrow focus, so 90 percent of the projects we received were things we'd never even consider publishing. This is part of the reason why it's important to do your homework before submitting your book. This applies to agents and publishers alike. You're just wasting everyone's time if you submit your mystery novel to a publisher who only does nonfiction.
- I was excited about the book, but we didn't have a market to sell it to. Publishing is a business. Like any business, publishers aren't willing to put thousands and thousands of dollars into marketing, editing, designing, and printing a book unless they're reasonably sure they're going to get their money back with (hopefully) a decent profit. If you send your book of poetry to a publishing house that specializes in literary fiction, even if it's great, it's not a market they're familiar with, and therefore, they won't have the contacts and platform they need to sell the book.
- The book was great and it fit our market well, but the author had no platform to promote it.The truth is that it's easier to get published if you're an author who is already doing speaking engagements, has a large base of followers who would read the book, or is an established expert in the field you're writing in. For a smaller publisher who might not have as much marketing clout, this is especially important. You can work on increasing your notoriety by writing a blog, going to writers' conferences, and booking speaking engagements.
- The book was good, but the publisher wasn't on board with it, for varied reasons. Publishing is often a collaborative process, which is usually great. However, it often means that several people have to be excited about your book for it to make it to the final stage of getting a signed contract.
- The book had strong points, but the writing just wasn't strong enough. This is, sadly, a problem many authors will encounter. If this is the case, don't give up hope. Keep writing. Get input from others. Rewrite your book or start a new book. As I talked about yesterday, the best way to become a good writer is to practice.
The key in writing is to keep trying. If the first agent or publishing house you submit to rejects you, keep trying. Submit to more people. If you've exhausted every avenue with your first book, keep writing. The more you practice, the better you'll get. Try not to take the rejection to heart. Although it might feel like it, especially if you've gotten a lot of rejections, it's not a personal attack. And keep in mind, most famous authors have been rejected many times, so you're in good company.