Why Do Editors Reject Manuscripts, by Diana Flegal, Literary Agent

Below is an article written by Diana Flegal, from Hartline Literary Agency who happens to be my agent. She allowed me to share this post with you which was taken from her site and modified by me. Writers get rejected. Often. It helps to understand why. Above all, don’t quit writing. The only writers who never get published are those who quit writing.

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Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com

NEVER take rejection of your work personally unless it is accompanied by a punch in the nose! Paraphrased quote of Ron Goulart

Here are a few reasons your writing might get rejected:

A. Your work isn’t ready for submission. Are you presenting the best quality of your work? Every sentence in a manuscript must be clear and accurate. If you’re not sure, hire a professional. Having another set of eyes edit your work will give you confidence too.

B.  Fiction: no hook, slow pacing, under-developed characters, poorly written dialogue, lack of action

C.  Nonfiction: insufficient platform, disorderly composition, and a too-popular topic

Helpful Tip: Join a critique Group to find objective intelligent criticism

D.  Your Query was not properly submitted

Choose an appropriate publisher for your topic or genre.

Your book will not be right for all markets; editors vary widely in their tastes. If you write romance, don’t send your pitch to a fantasy press.

Many publishers will not accept an unsolicited manuscript, which means you’ll have to snag an agent before you can submit your proposal. Make sure the editor you’re submitting to accepts submissions. If not, your book will never be read.

Check for content appropriateness. Some editors specify that they don’t publish erotica or offensive language. Check the publishers specifications on what they accept and what they don’t.

And whatever you do, don’t tell the editor about your family problems, that you’ve never been published, know nothing about writing, or that you’re ugly.

E.  Your proposal was poorly prepared

Do you have all the necessary portions included in your proposal? (Check out RANDOM WRITING RANTS book proposal checklist HERE .)

F.  Uncontrollable factors

There are times when an editor believes your book is written well, but the timing is off. Maybe that press recently contracted another title similar to yours or they’ve decided to limit the books they publish that year. Occasionally, editors hold off on taking new proposals for a few months to get caught up too.     

G.  Response and Revisions

Outright rejection: When this happens do not respond

Conditional rejection: Do not procrastinate; prepare a point-by-point response

Following editor suggestions may make the difference between rejection, and acceptance by another publisher. However, the next editor may contradict earlier reviews, so use your own best judgment in making revisions.

Suggested Reading Material:

Honing your fiction writing skills:

The Art of War for Fiction Writers– James Scott Bell

Firsts in Fiction- Aaron D. Gansky

Plotting Simplified by Eddie Jones

General Writing Books:

Bird by Bird– Ann Lamont

On Writing Well– William Zinsser

The Artist’s Way– Julia Cameron

Building Your Platform for your nonfiction title:

Links to read on a regular basis:







Cecil Murphy’s Writer to Writer Blog



Hartline Literary Agency’s blog

Remember the three P’s—Patience, Perseverance and Persistence.

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  1. Excellent article. I was fortunate in that my publisher (Pants on Fire Press) was taking unagented manuscripts when I queried them, but I know that is rare. I especially encourage authors to hire a professional editor before sending out queries. Not only can a professional editor polish your work, but knowing that you have done your best is a great confidence booster.

    • Hi Judy.
      I totally agree about hiring an editor. I’m frustrated when I see an Indie author who’s excited to publish his/her book and doesn’t have it professionally edited. I understand that it’s expensive to hire an editor, but in the long run it’s short-sighted. Those authors will sell less books for the life of their career. Even if someone buys the unedited book, once they read it and realize it hasn’t been edited, they’ll probably never buy another book from that author. These authors give other Indie writers a bad name. Readers don’t want to read books that haven’t been edited.
      Have a great writing week!

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