I Really Wanted to Love This: Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript Gets Declined

Getting a rejection letter from an editor or agent is always a hard blow to take. This is your baby! Why doesn’t anyone else love your baby as much as you do?

First go eat some chocolate! Now follow it up with a good run on the treadmill. Get the negative energy out of your system! And once your ready…consider what Delcorte editor, Wendy Loggia, has to say about why she (and others) rejects manuscripts.

Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript gets Declined

Loggia pre-empts this list with the disclaimer that she is talking about the  books that get very very close to being acquired, these are well written books, yet they still don’t quite make it. This is not about books that are just poorly written.

1) Nice Writing But No Story.

In these books the writing is sufficient and good, but the story or narrative doesn’t seem to make sense, or the plot is too slow, or she did not buy into the plot elements because they were too outlandish. In this type of submission the book lacks accessibility for the reader. Sometimes nothing happens in the book, or nothing changes in the book for the main character. Even though the writing is good, these books get rejected because the editor does not know the author and has no instincts about them. The editor doesn’t know if this author can actually revise and make the project better. The remedy for this is to create a compelling concept and plot that will be the vehicle for your writing. Ask yourself why someone is going to read your book.

2) The Submission is Too Similar to Another Novel the Editor Has Worked On.

For example if the editor edited: The Sisterhood of the Travling Pants (which Loggia edited) don’t submit The Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarf (that is a real submission she received). Also, be careful of comparing your book to a great novel, as there is a good chance your work will pale in comparison and the editor will be disappointed. Be careful of following a trend and creating something that is too similar to all the other books in that trend. Another pit fall with comparing your work to another book is you don’t know how well that book is selling. If the book you compare yours too is not selling well it can really hurt your acquisition. The remedy to this is to make the book your own! Make your subject your own!

3) The Editor is Unclear Who the Reader (Audience) For the Book Is.

If the editor does not see potential for this book to be sold to libraries, teachers, national bookstore markets, etc. then that can be a real problem. You need to have a reader in mind. Also, beware of too “quiet” a book. This book may not be commercial enough. Remember you must sell books to be a success.

4) The Writer Seems Like a Difficult Person to Work With.

When Wendy is interested in a book, she will do some research on the author. She will go and read your blog, look you up on facebook or twitter, and see what you are putting out there about yourself. Be careful of critiquing books in a negative manner as you may be insulting a potential editor for you book. Particularly if you are an unpublished author. Beware of complaining about the process. If you’ve been rejected a lot and you are publicly complaining about how editors don’t understand you – this can be a red flag. It also will make Wendy second guess her interest. If all these other editors are passing on your book, maybe she should too. Don’t be unprofessional! Don’t trash agents or editors on blogs. Be sure what you put out there is positive. If she sees you trashing an agent she really respects this will influence her decision to work with you or not.

5) The Editor Cannot Connect to the Voice.

Sometimes the concept or plot is good, but Wendy can’t seem to connect to the voice of the character. Show not tell! You need to be able to envision who the reader is.

6) Submitting Too Early, Before a Project is Ready.

Fully develop your story and revise, revise, revise! Due to the marketplace an editor really can’t take a chance on something that is only partially written, or under developed.

7) The Book Simply Will Not Stand Out on Our List.

Wendy has found this to be the case with more and more submissions lately. The books are good, but they are not great. If she fears a book will get lost on the list then she will pass on it.

Wendy Loggia is executive editor at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Delacorte focuses almost exclusively on middle grade and YA novels. Loggia is the editor of many books including: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Going Bovine, and The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Loggia gave the above talk at the 2009 SCBWI Los Angeles Conference.

14 thoughts on “I Really Wanted to Love This: Seven Reasons Why Your Manuscript Gets Declined

  1. Ingrid, I thought I’d give you my take on the seemingly
    eternal rejection.

    Eleven Things An Unpublished Novelist Feels

    1.I am a genius unique in the annals of mankind. Most of the reading audience is not advanced enough to perceive the layered depth of my work
    2.If my books are published they will change lives.
    3. I’m a committed artist. My work transcends genre. This upsets agents, who are too conventional to see through the boundary-shattering nature of my work.
    4.My life experience has been so unusual and difficult that I have a special credibility in writing about the human condition.
    5.I’m getting older and all these rejection slips are coming from agents who are my kids’ age.
    6.Who do they think they ARE!?
    7.While I may not be published in my lifetime, my works will reach the world posthumously. This is a good thing for the world but doesn’t do shit for me.
    8.I frequently succumb to self-pity and apathy but I bounce back with increased defiance.
    9.I know the odds against writing a best seller are astronomical. A series of apparent coincidences will bring my writing before the world.
    10.The seven hundred agents who rejected me without reading a single page will write to apologize and ask to represent future projects.
    11. Ninety nine percent of the people in the world believe that they belong to the one percent that’s superior to the other ninety nine percent. I am in the REAL one percent.

  2. Pingback: The How and Why of Acquisitions at Delacorte Press « Ingrid's Notes

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