Thayer Literary Services ~ Book Editing

Why manuscripts are rejected

“Rejection is 100 percent guaranteed in the writing profession.”

— Gregg Levoy, This Business of Writing



John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was declined by fifteen publishers and some thirty agents. His novels have more than 60 million copies in print.


Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before he sold his first novel. During the last forty years, Bantam has shipped nearly 200 million of his 112 novels, making him their best-selling author.


British writer John Creasy received 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen names.


Agents reject submissions for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the quality of the work. Here are some of the reasons why your work might be rejected:


• The writing isn’t strong enough.

• There are too many typos or grammatical errors.

• The subject or kind of novel is too hard to sell.

• The book is not for the general public.

• Not enough houses publish that kind of book.

• The submission doesn’t look professional.

• The timing is wrong for the market.

• The subject has too much competition.

• Your work competes with that of one of the agent’s clients.

• The agent doesn’t handle the kind of work you have submitted.

• The agent is in a bad mood, ill, too busy, or too successful to be receptive to your work.

• The book is too depressing.

• It won’t help readers enough (nonfiction).

• The work doesn’t have enough subsidiary-rights potential.




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