Being a member of Romance Writers of America provides awesome opportunities to: sit in workshops hosted by favorite authors, chair competitions, and listen to industry experts. One such experience was with author and agent Lois Winston. When she gave 10 reasons why a manuscript gets rejected, I had to take note.
I do have to admit her list is so blunt it is almost funny. In fact if she were giving an author one of these reasons face-to face, I could just imagine the author looking behind them, thinking, ‘I know she is not talking to me.’
Still, I loved hearing this list. Not only did it inspire me to go home and perfect my craft, but it gave me some insight into the mind of an agent.
Please note. These are Mrs. Winston’s words almost exactly (I made minor changes due to the inaccuracies that come with note taking). All credit be to her.
Manuscripts get rejected for 10 reasons.
- You haven’t done your homework. You did not research the editors and agents who handle what you have written. You do not really understand what you write or genre. There are only three genres – romance, mystery, and speculative fiction. Know what sub-genres follow under each genre. Research editors on the genre and the books they buy.
- You’re sloppy. You sabotaged yourself because you failed to proof read your work and erase typos. Know the grammar rules that should never be broken. Don’t use grammar checks. A manuscript has to be 99 percent ready because an editor is doing the job of 5 or 6 people. Understand there is a disconnect.
- Your query letter sucks. Write a dynamic query letter about your book. Include only the necessary highlights, genre, and the word count. Don’t fill the letter with biographical information about yourself unless it is key to your platform. Maybe you are a blog star, an athlete, or a super mom who’s had 27 kids. Finally sum up your business letter with, “my book will appeal to readers of these authors.”
- Your synopsis sucks. Your synopsis is used to pitch your book to editors which will then be used to pitch to the editorial board and then to the marketing team. Understand the synopsis as a marketing tool. Try your best to instill the voice of your book into the synopsis.
- You haven’t opened your book with a hook. The voice, style, and story must hook the agent by the second page. Understand an agent reads differently from a reader. Must peak their curiosity. Avoid head to toe descriptions and descriptions of the setting unless it is a tease to indicate what’s to come. Don’t open the book with a cliché. Don’t make a hook to obvious.
- Your technical skills suck. Here are two of the biggest reasons that cause most rejections: 1. lack of understanding of POV, and 2. Showing vs. telling. Try to avoid omniscient POV for your first novel. Also gain a strong understanding of POV switches. The same can be said for showing vs. telling. Telling leaves the reader on the outside looking in. Showing pulls her through the window. Use dialogue. Use sensory language to put them in the character’s shoes. Let characters see, hear, and taste what’s around them. News flash. People do not notice aspects of their environment they have grown used to. Example: A New Yorker standing in the subway is not going to notice the smell or overflowing trash.
- You don’t know how to tell a story. You have failed to fully develop your characters and your voice. You have failed to grasp plot is story. Every scene in the book must advance this story. Research Debra Dixon’s GMC. Agents and readers want to know the Who? What? and why the characters want what they want. Not only this, they want to know what is keeping them from what they want?
- I’m just not that into you. The agent does not like your voice or style. She finds it does not match up very much with the books that are in certain genres. That is why it is pertinent you read what you write. Genre often dictates style and writing.
- You have the worst timing in the world. It is something you have no control over. The trends have died, I am already working with a writer on a book similar to yours, or it has become so popular the market is oversaturated.
- It is just the political correct way to say author is clueless. The novel is not complete. If I take the time to write a two page rejection letter, I might just be leaving the door open.About the Author:Law Reigns has an odd obsession with romance. At the advice of her friends, she gave up the plight of playing cupid in their lives. Developing her own characters to manipulate proved to be more rewarding. After having studied creative writing at the University of Florida, she decided to write Superheroes Wear Faded Denim. A proud Gator alumni, she based her novel where blood runs orange and blue. She personally invites all adventure druggies and love fanatics to dive into the pages of Faded Denim, a story that transforms a swampy, southern town into a battlefield for life and love.Connect with Law ReignsWebsite: www.lawreigns.comFacebook: www.facebook.com/lawreignsupremeGoodreads: www.goodreads.com/lawreignsupremePinterest: http://pinterest.com/lawreignsupreme/