It might be pointed and concise, florid and lengthy, or a deduction drawn from long silence. But regardless of form, all writers experience, at some point, the pain of rejection.
After submitting a finished manuscript, a lengthy proposal, a thorough accounting of marketability, and an engaging query, authors who receive rejections are unsurprisingly disappointed, confused, and irritated.
But traditional publishers reject manuscripts for a variety of reasons. Publishing is a numbers game, and as such, submission takes on the chanciness of a gamble. Standard metrics are hard to come by, but anecdotal reports from acquisitions editors and agents suggest that traditional publishers accept less than two percent of manuscripts received.
Although publishing insiders and consultants agree that authors with strong, complete manuscripts move to the top of the slush pile, even strong, complete manuscripts are rejected.
Why? Typically because of timing or fit.
Timing, broadly conceived, might refer to the time of year a publisher receives a query, the current titles a publisher has planned for the upcoming year, the previous titles a publisher has already published, the timeliness of the subject under discussion, and more.
For example, a publisher might reject a manuscript because its topics are covered in a book already in production or because its topics were treated in an already published book that failed to meet publisher expectations.
Fit functions similarly. A publisher might reject a manuscript because it doesn’t fit the publisher’s production schedule, because it doesn’t fit the publisher’s profile (often represented through a backlist), or because it doesn’t fit the moment.
Rejection is common, but it’s (obviously, and appropriately), not easy to accept. After the wrenching work of producing a manuscript, rejection sometimes feels like obliteration.
Hedge your bets by producing a strong, complete, and relevant manuscript; researching your publisher’s backlist to determine fit; and articulating your manuscript’s relevance nine to 12 months into the future.
Rejection may require suffering, but suffering can foster endurance: Sometimes, the pain of rejection produces the conditions for acceptance.