You may think you have the next best seller sitting on your laptop. However, if your behavior gets in the way, your book may never get published, regardless of the quality of your writing.
Here are 10 secret reasons why a publisher might reject your manuscript:
1. So many errors that your book will require a re-write
This is, of course, the most obvious reason. Never assume that the stellar information in your non-fiction book, or your awesome fiction writing, is an excuse for lazy (or complete lack of) editing. Unless you’re already a celebrity author, the story or information in your manuscript alone won’t be enough to make a publisher want to correct multi-thousands of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors. The publisher might mention typos but what he isn’t going telling you is that your story, regardless of how intriguing, just isn’t worth the effort for them to perform what will essentially be a re-write.
2. Poor use of English
If English is not your primary language, and if your English-language manuscript contains errors to that effect, it will be rejected. The publisher may pretend it was just “a bad fit” for the publishing house because he may not want to offend the foreign-language writer. But, the fact is, like #1 above, no publisher wants to perform a complete re-write. And, when English is not used properly, that’s what’s needed to fix the manuscript.
3. Topic of the book was not to her liking
If you don’t research the publisher’s needs and her firm’s catalog, you may be wasting your and her time by submitting something that is on a topic she would never publish, no matter how good the writing is.
4. “My book is going to be a best seller!”
Far too many new authors claim this when approaching publishers. Publishers know better. It’s one of the most common book proposal mistakes made, and screams “amateur” to the publisher. Also, authors who state this up-front often become disappointed when their book does not become a best seller…and they then blame the publisher.
5. You’re a narcissist
There’s a not-so-fine line between high self-esteem and narcissism. If you come across as haughty or, worse, narcissistic, you will probably receive a rejection letter. Only international best selling authors can get away with that behavior.
6. You’re too needy
If your communications indicate that you are extremely needy, that will be a turn-off for publishers. At BookLocker, we have published books for authors where only around 20 or 30 messages were required, back and forth, during the process. And, we have published books for authors who have sent us literally hundreds of messages during the process. Some authors type one sentence, send it, type another one, send that, etc. One guy wrote to us in the middle of the night, and was furious when we didn’t instantly answer him.
These types of authors are not profitable for the publishers. We all know they will continue to hound us daily (or numerous times a day) even after the book is published, and about topics completely unrelated to the publishing industry or their book. A common personality trait these authors seem to have is that they need someone to constantly pump up their ego. Believe it or not, needy authors are very easy to detect right off the bat.
7. He/she just doesn’t like you
You can’t please everybody all of the time and you can’t be friends with everyone. Some people simply don’t like certain other people. One woman sent me an email before she even submitted her manuscript. It contained numerous paragraphs and dozens of bullet points about how wonderful she is, how many awesome things she’s done, how many famous people she’s met, how much money she’s made, and how much better she is (at literally everything, apparently) than anybody else she ever known. It was REALLY over the top and I know from experience that people like that are NOT the people I want to work with. They are so high on themselves that they treat other people like garbage. Would you want to have dinner with someone like that, much less work on a project with them? Me, neither! I happily referred her to our competitors. She can be someone else’s problem.
I have rejected authors who incessantly trash-talk others (even past publishers), who come right out of the gate acting like they own me and my time, who are in prison for horrible offenses, and more. If an author rubs me wrong for a variety of reasons (not all of which are listed above), I simply won’t work with him or her. Period.
8. Offensive content
While it may seem that “everybody” is on board with the latest social (or social-media-promoted) trends, the fact is many people are not. Imagine any hot-button topic people are vigorously debating right now. If your book is on one of those topics, and if you are blindly submitting to publishers, estimate that around 50% will reject your manuscript just based on the topic alone.
9. Wanker stuff
Most publishers are not interested in manuscripts that are, chapter after chapter, about sex acts. We call that garbage “porn without a plot.”
10. You’re a jerk, plain and simple
I have a blacklist. Yes, I do. Right now, it contains the names of just 18 authors out of the multi-thousands we have worked with in the past 20+ years. Yes, only 18. Why only 18? Because we carefully consider what we will publish, and who we want to work with. With those 18, I clearly made a mistake accepting them into the BookLocker fold.
We will not publish more books by those 18 authors in the future, of course. Our website states “we don’t work with jerks” and every author on that list is a complete jerk.
One author’s book was terminated because she didn’t pay money she owed to us for several months. She then repeatedly threatened to sue us for terminating her book. Of course, she never did. I had to eventually block her from her author account (after warning her first) because she was harassing my employees.
Another author used extreme profanity over and over again – all of the time. It seemed like he wanted to shock people. My employees simply found it ridiculous and offensive. We published his book but we won’t be publishing his next one.
And, yet another kept uploading the wrong file to us, and then repeatedly blamed us for his incorrect upload. He got more and more belligerent as time went on when the problem, as we explained repeatedly, was that he simply couldn’t find the right file on HIS computer.
And, then there was the passive-aggressive chick who would rant about something (that was her fault), apologize, rant again (her fault…again), apologize again, etc., etc. Rather than investigate her own typos, and on which files they originated, she assumed she could do no wrong. Yet, she continued the pattern, thinking her apologies were enough to dismiss her unprofessional behavior. Falsely accuse me once, shame on you. Falsely accused me twice, and I won’t work with you anymore.
I am a pretty laid-back chick and I very much enjoy working with NICE people. Politeness, productive and fun teamwork, a sense of humor, and a positive attitude are very important to me. Anyone with good manners and an upbeat attitude is someone I LOVE working with. How hard can it be to simply be kind?
Life’s too short to work with unprofessional and/or downright abusive people. Most contracts allow the publisher to terminate at any time, and for any reason. Remember that when approaching or working with a publisher.
Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
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My Meemaw would say that these folks are, “… so full of themselves there ain’t room for the Holy Ghost…”
Most of us love you and love working with you. I can’t imagine anyone being so pompous as to act in those ways. Strange but I find that pomposity pops up on some writer sites yet never on my art sites. They are all so intimidated by the greatness (choke cough) of the rest of us that it takes some pep talks. Fortunately those are in great abundance.
I found out too that art and writing inform each other. Likely the left-right brain balance. Or something.