Tag: Writing (Page 1 of 16)

Read This First (77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected)

It Takes Less Than A Minute To Reject Your Work.

I make it my goal to reject every book proposal you send me in 60 seconds or less. 

This includes book ideas that come in my email box. Book that are hand-delivered to me at a writer’s conference. Manuscripts recommended by a friend of a friend who knew somebody who told them I was in the publishing business. If you’ve got a book you want to publish, and you send it to me, well … Chances are very good that I will reject your proposal in under a minute.

That sad part about this goal of mine is that it’s remarkably easy to accomplish. Too easy, in fact.

Over the last few decades I’ve worked as an acquisitions editor for four publishing houses. I’m also the founder and Chief Literary Agent of Nappaland Literary Agency. I regretfully admit to you now that in that time I’ve issued thousands and thousands of those hated rejection letters. In all shapes and forms. To well-meaning and talented writers just like you.

I’ve looked an eager author in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in publishing your book.” I’ve sent countless rejection emails. My agency’s used several variations on form letters. I’ve even experimented with that stupid “checklist” rejection where a dozen reasons for declining are listed on the page; then all I have to do is put an “X” next to the right insult for you. (“Your book doesn’t meet our quality standards.” “We are not able to project a significant interest for your book.” And so on.)

Now, before you label me as some sort of sadist toward the struggling masses of writers out there…

…you should also know that I’m an author myself. In fact, I’ve published (as author or co-author) over 60 books. My books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. They’ve won awards, been translated into various foreign languages, and all kinds of good stuff like that. 

What that really means is this: 

• In my career, I’ve happily received 60+ acceptance letters or phone calls about my book ideas. (Yay me!)

• At the same time, by my best estimates, I’ve also personally received over 3,000 rejections for my book ideas. (Ouch!)

And yes, I’ve had to sit stone-faced while some arrogant jerk of an editor looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in publishing your book.” I’ve received countless emails. Several variations on form letters. Even some of those stupid “checklist” rejections where a dozen reasons for declining are listed on the page. (All the contemptuous editor had to do was put an “X” next to some random insult for me!)

So, you could say that for the past few decades I’ve been a successful author, editor, and literary agent. And you could also say during that time I’ve successfully failed at being an author, editor, and literary agent.

And that’s what 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected is about. Learning why we fail—and then turning that knowledge into success the next time around. 

I think Craig Ferguson, former host of the Late Late Show on CBS, sums it up best. “We prepare for glory,” he says, “by failing until we don’t.” That rings true in the life of a professional writer. Still, failure by itself is of no benefit. It’s just another disappointing circumstance in life. However, failure with knowledge gained … well, that’s something completely different.

So, with that (and you) in mind, I’ve culled over 20 years of my experience as a publishing industry professional and compiled it for you here. I’ve boiled it all down to 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected (and how to be sure it won’t happen again.) It’s my hope that you’ll find this little tome insightful and helpful. And most of all, maybe it’ll be something that’ll give you what you need to get past your last rejection and move on to your rightful place of book publishing glory.

How to Use 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected

Just so you know, I’ll be wearing both my “acquisitions editor” and “literary agent” caps while we chat in the pages here. So if I say something like “when you send me your proposal…” you can assume that “me” in that sentence refers to both “me-the-generic-acquisitions-editor” and “me-the-generic-literary-agent.” I’m making myself your stand-in for those roles. If something is editor-specific or agent-specific, I’ll let you know. Otherwise assume everything applies to both of those people.

Also, as you read 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected, you can start at the beginning and work your way to the end. (It makes the most sense that way). Or you can feel free to skip around to check out the sections that catch your interest first. (It works just fine that way too.)

The point is not necessarily the order in which you read it, but the relevant information you gather as you read. So relax, knock yourself out, and jump in. Just imagine that you and I are sitting around having coffee and a conversation, talking over the finer points of your last book proposal. (And hopefully you’re buying the coffee!)

Now, Before We Begin…

Of course, there are just a few things you do need to know before we get started with the 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected

First, foremost, and always, there is actually only one overarching reason why any book is published—or rejected: 


That’s it, really. 

Remember, publishing is an industry—a business that has at its core the innate desire for economic survival. And, as for any business, survival means profit. A publishing house that doesn’t actively pursue profitability—no matter how noble or sublime its content goals—simply won’t be publishing books for very long. Those are just the facts of this capitalist system we’ve embraced. (And which gives us all the opportunity to succeed beyond our wildest dreams!).

So, no matter what book you’re currently pitching, you must always keep the idea of profit front and center: 

  • Remove your “fuzzy focus” lenses. 
  • Coldly determine what factors influence your publisher’s profit potential. 
  • Position your book’s content and market features to highlight profit potential. 
  • Propagandize your book’s proposal to hammer home that profit potential for the publisher. (More on this later.)

The Publish/Reject Decision

Next, you need to be aware of how the “Publish/Reject” decision is made in a publishing board meeting. 

Yes, many people weigh in on that decision. That includes the acquisitions editor (your first gatekeeper), and an editorial director. A marketing manager or two, and a salesperson or two. A print buyer. Sometimes a reader or team of readers, and maybe even an employee’s nephew or girlfriend or husband or whatever. But in the end, when it’s time for the publishing board to decide whether or not to invest in your book, only three voices count:

  • the Publisher,
  • the VP of Marketing, and
  • the VP of Sales. 

Oh I know. You’re already arguing with me. “What about the acquisitions editor?” you say. “What about the VP of Editorial? Certainly those people have a say in the publishing decision, right?”

The honest answer (and I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you…I know this is going to piss off many editorial folks out there): Not so much. 

You see, the acquisitions editor makes the initial rejection based on what that person thinks his or her Publisher, Sales VP, and Marketing VP will approve later in publishing board. If the acquisitions editor doesn’t see your book getting a nod from those three executives, the book gets rejected up front.

If an editor does take your book proposal into the Publishing Board meeting, he or she gets no vote on whether it gets published.

That’s because the primary purpose of any editorial presence at publishing board (acquisitions or executive) is simply as an advocate for whatever book is being presented. The editor and/or VP of Editorial have to literally sell their colleagues on your book. 

Sometimes this almost feels like used-car hucksterism, with trinkets or gimmicks to capture everyone’s attention. (I once knew of an editorial team that dressed up as pirates to pitch a book for their publishing board!). Your editors have to pitch your book to their customers (Publisher, Marketing, Sales). They must deftly disarm or deflect any objections, and then ask for the sale—for the company to open its checkbook and buy your book. 

Fact is, despite his or her ardent efforts on your behalf, the acquisitions editor doesn’t even get to vote in publishing board. He or she is only there as a guest, given a three- or four-minute window to advocate your book. (No wonder editors are often such irritable people!)

And yes, the VP of Editorial is usually given a vote, but that vote is also—almost always—simply a lockstep opinion with whatever the Publisher (the VP of Editorial’s boss) has already decided. 

I’ve worked in acquisitions for four different publishing houses now, and I’ve sat in many, many publishing board meetings. In all that time I’ve never seen a Publisher and VP of Editorial split their votes. If the Publisher and VP of Editorial happen to disagree on a book, they typically work it out between them until they can present a united front. And if they can’t work it out, the Publisher always overrules the VP of Editorial. That’s just the way it works. Sorry. 

So, if you want to publish a book, you need to convince the Publisher, the VP of Marketing, and the VP of Sales that your book is worth it. 

If you can win over those three people, then not much is going to stand in the way of publishing your book. If you win only two of the three, then your odds drop to about 50/50. The VP of Sales will almost always carry more weight in publishing board than the VP of Marketing. But he or she will often have to defer to the Publisher.

Still, if the sales department says they can’t sell your book—no matter how much the marketing department says they’ll promote it—then most Publishers won’t take the risk. They’ll side with the sales team and send your book packing. I’ve only seen a Publisher override a sales team once in 20+ years … so I guess it can happen. But it’s terribly rare. (Oh, and by the way, that Publisher was right—the book sold four times as many copies as the sales team projected!) 

At any rate, your wisest course of action is simply to set up your proposal so that there are no dissenters among those three executives.

Which, of course, is easier said than done.

Again, hopefully this book will help you with that. To that end I’ve organized it in three sections:

  • Editorial Reasons for Rejection;
  • Marketing Reasons for Rejection; and
  • Sales Reasons for Rejection.

If you can eliminate (or at least diminish) the reasons listed in each section, then you are well on your way to publishing success. (IMHBAO.)

One Last Warning

One last warning before we go further: I will always be honest with you in this book. Sometimes that may make you angry with me. I apologize in advance … but please don’t take it personally. I’m just trying to help you by sharing from my 20+ years of experience in publishing. 

It’s fine with me if you disagree with what I’m saying, if you discover that your experience has been different from mine. I don’t even mind if you put a giant red “X” through any page you dislike. But hopefully you’ll still find this information helpful—and profitable—for your writing career.

All right…Are you ready? 

Grab a pen. (So you can write notes in the margin, or draw the aforementioned giant “X.”) Give yourself permission to dog-ear any pages you want to come back to later. (Hey, it’s your book.) And…

Let’s get started.


Mike Nappa

Read Now: Reason #01 – Your Writing is Crap

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Reason #01: Your Writing Is Crap

An Editorial Team reason for rejection

All right yes, it’s true: Crap writing gets published. 

Crap writing often hits the New York Times bestseller lists. Crap writing sometimes even gets rave reviews.

But that won’t work for you. Here’s why: 

Most often, crap writing is done by (or ghostwritten for) celebrities. You know, the pop singer who decides that because she can opine seductively about a sexual encounter in a three-and-a-half-minute radio single, she’s therefore qualified to write a children’s book masterpiece about small town America in the 1940s. Or the self-absorbed athlete who decides that because he’s a millionaire, people will buy his novel about a football team’s rise to glory. Or the young actress who pens her life story … at the tender age of 16. You get the idea.

But if you’re reading this book, my guess is you haven’t hit number 1 on the R&B charts, you never even had a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, and Disney isn’t knocking on your door to star in a new series for preteens. I’m just sayin’.

What that means is, if you send me crap writing, I’m going to reject you. And I’m not even going to feel bad about it. I’ll feel like I’m doing humanity a service by keeping your stinky excrement off bookshelves everywhere.

And that’s the number 1 reason why an editor or agent rejects a book. Because

  • your thinking is sloppy,
  • the messaging is vain or irrelevant,
  • the ideas are trite,
  • the thought construction is ignorant,
  • the content is poorly organized,
  • the presentation is clunky,
  • the word choices are abysmal, and….

Well, let’s just say it gives off an unappetizing odor when exposed to the world and leave it at that.

What You Can Do About It

1. First, Study the Craft of Writing. 

Take time to learn what makes good writing good writing. How? Start by reading books you admire—first for the content, and then a second time to dissect the author’s techniques. Next pick up a few good books on writing from your local library or bookstore (see the appendix to this book for ideas). If you’re able, go back to college and take a few writing classes. Attend author signings and see if you can ask a question or two. Go ahead and take in a writer’s conference as well.

Whatever path your studies take, never assume that writing is something that just anyone can do. Do NOT say to yourself, “I’ve got a book in me!”(huge cliché anyway) and assume that means you are also competent to write a book. Don’t live on the false hope that the fantastic awesomeness of your idea somehow overrides your inexperience and ineptitude with the English language. It won’t. 

Hey, you’d never assume you could pick up a cello and immediately play in the London Symphony, would you? So take the time to study the craft. It’ll pay off for you when your book proposal reaches my desk and smells like perfume instead of … well, you know.

2. Nitpick Every Word 

Some think that writing means putting words on a page. That couldn’t be further from the truth. True writing means putting the right words on the page—on every page. So, before you send writing samples to me (or to any publishing professional), nitpick every word of every sentence in every paragraph of your work. Try to telescope from the macro (the big picture / plot / message / progression) to the micro (the individual sentences, words, and paragraph structure) and back again. Do this until every word justifies its inclusion in your masterpiece, and until everything from the start to the finish demands that the reader keep reading. 

My suggestion? Write your manuscript a minimum of three times before anybody else sees it. First, write just to get the words on the paper (or into your computer file). Then rewrite to get the right words into the book—ruthlessly deleting the excess, harshly rewording lines that are unclear, trimming and slicing to make a concise, compelling whole, . Then rewrite yet again to make sure your “right words” aren’t really the wrong words in disguise. After you’ve put that much time and attention into writing your manuscript three times, you’ll likely be remarkably sick of the art you’ve created. Only then is it ready to show an editor. 

3. Never, Don’t Ever, Nevernevernevernever Send Out Less Than Your Best.

Look, “good enough” is never good enough. So don’t hope that it is and then send it on its way. Instead, strive to shape every manuscript of yours into a work of art that’s painted with words. That’s the first step toward success in your writing career. And sure, it’s a big commitment. Are you willing to take that first step?

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Reason #02: You Lied To Me (The Honesty Problem)

An Editorial Team reason for rejection

Dear Mr. Nappa, 

I’m pleased to send your publishing company a guaranteed bestseller…

Dear Mike,

After studying your company, I’m confident you will be overjoyed about receiving my proposal for a new romance series based in 1800s Georgia…

Dear Nappaland Literary Agency,

Here is the proposal you requested to see…

What do the authors of all three of these letters have in common? They’re all big fat liars.

What’s worse is that they think they won’t immediately be seen as liars—they actually think I will swallow as honesty their overhyped exaggerations and will fall all over myself to represent their work to publishers.


All these letters do is tell me that these writers don’t have legitimate talent so they’ve turned to exaggeration and half-truth in hopes that will be an acceptable substitute. Trouble is, this is one of the recurring mistakes beginning writers make—I saw it repeatedly when I was an acquisitions editor, and I continue to see it with my literary agency. It always ends badly.

For instance, today I actually got a query from a writer who crowed, “The market for this book should rival that for the Holy Bible!” He’s telling me his book will best the bestselling book of all time? Seriously? He’s lying—and we both know it.

But still, desperate writers resort to desperate fictions like these (and many others!) to get agents and/or editors to read their books, blissfully unaware of the self-sabotage they are wreaking. 

Take those three sample letters above (all of which are amalgams of real letters I’ve received). If there really were a way to “guarantee” a bestseller, we’d all be rich already and I wouldn’t need you. Or even better, you could simply self-publish, make millions, and happily thumb your nose at all rejection-writing jerks like me. Likewise, if you really had studied my company, you’d know that there’s no way I’m going to represent your romance novel—and that I require a reference from an existing Nappaland author before I’ll even look at your work. And that poor third, honesty-challenged bloke must think I’m an idiot. If I had actually requested to see your proposal, I’d recognize your name, or at least have your title in my “pending” log. You get the idea. 

These tactics of exaggeration or white lying never work. At this point, people on my side of the desk have all heard the most creative truth-stretching efforts hundreds of times. Those little lies may seem new and exciting to you, but they’re easier to spot than you think. Still people send them on, no doubt giggling with mischievous glory as they envision how their little deception has tricked us into reading their subsequent delightful prose. These writers are like a child who claims before-dinner innocence while chocolate chip cookie-smear still paints his cheeks. 

Listen, as soon as you lie to me, our relationship is over. I’m not even going to read past your cover letter. Consider your book rejected.

What You Can Do About It

1. Let Your Writing Do the Talking.

You know what makes me want to represent a book? The book. Not your cover letter. Not your exaggerated promises. Not your American-Idol-wannabe pseudo confidence. Not your faked attempts at professional connection. Not even your purty grin and cowpoke sense o’ humor.

So when you’re pitching a book, don’t look for ways to tell me what you think I want to hear. Don’t try to talk me into reading your book by shading the truth about it or about you. Don’t try to impress me with a few little white lies. Chances are, you’ll only end up irritating me.

Instead, get me into your writing samples honestly, with realistic expectations and a basic promise that you won’t waste my time. That’s what matters. Just shut up and let your writing do the talking. If it’s got the potential you think it does, you’ll hear from me (and others like me).

2. Don’t Assume You Need a Gimmick to Get My Attention.

This is the realm of the immature writer. It’s a person who doesn’t feel confident about suggestion #1 above. But you must remember, even though it’s hard initially to get through to an agent or an editor, we all make money when someone like you does get through with something salable and well-crafted. So there’s no need for you to “gimmick” your way in the door with false pretenses or hype or even colorful proposal packages. (Let’s face it, if your writing’s not good, you’re just wasting that confetti you put in the envelope.)

Get out of the gimmick business. Get into the writing business. That’s how you’ll get my attention.

3. Make Honesty Your Best Policy.

Honesty is always the best way to approach a new editor or agent. It may not always get you what you want, but it will usually get you a measure of respect…and respect goes a long way in publishing circles.

For instance, as a rule I don’t read new authors without a recommendation from an existing Nappaland author or industry associate (such as an editor I’ve worked with or a colleague I respect). But I will admit to occasional lapses in this policy. I have, on rare occasions, gotten a query from an author that said something like, “I know you don’t normally read ‘cold call’ submissions, and I certainly respect that. But after studying your agency and examining the kinds of books you’ve been successful with, I honestly believe you might be interested in my new book. I’d like to ask you to make an exception just this once. May I send you the proposal for….” 

This author has been honest with me—and although I don’t always make an exception, I do always respect his or her honesty. Because of that, this writer might get a second look.

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Reason #03: You Insulted Me Or My Company

An Editorial Team reason for rejection

Imagine that I come to your house for dinner.

After you’ve graciously invited me in, I learn that you and your family are headed to Disney World for vacation this summer. Well, of course, I want to go along! So I say to you the following: 

“You know, my daughter is lovely! In fact, my daughter is so wonderful, that by comparison, she makes your kids look like rejects from an Ugliest Dog competition. I mean, seriously, look at your oldest child there. Those terribly crooked teeth are just awful! And your middle kid? Wow, is that the North Star on his forehead? Oh no, it’s just a Goliath-sized pimple. Gross! And I can see that your new baby obviously takes after her daddy…Well, at least plastic surgery will be an option when she’s older, right?”

I smile contentedly at you and your family. “Now,” I say, “wouldn’t you like my lovely daughter and me to join your family on that Disney vacation?”

Three guesses what kind of response I’m going to get—and the first two guesses don’t count! After I’ve insulted your family, chances are very slim that you’re going to invite me to join you on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride or to mix with Mickey and Minnie Mouse when your kids go to a Disney Character Breakfast.

Surprisingly, many authors think nothing of taking that same insulting approach toward an editor or publishing house. For instance, my wife is an executive editor at a mid-sized publisher, and she came home rolling her eyes recently.

“First,” Amy said, “this writer sent me a pitch with the most sappy, silly title ever.” (It was something like “The Glorious Bride” or “The Marriage Bride” or whatever—and no, it wasn’t a book about marriage.) “Then, she insulted the competition,” my wife continued, “which included belittling two books I published—which we are still selling, and selling well.”

Want to guess where that author’s proposal ended up? Yep. Rejection-ville.

Do you see why it ended up there?

In the first place, my wife—a well-educated, intelligent corporate professional—was intellectually insulted by the overly simplistic, sappy title. Honestly, this writer was lucky that Amy looked past the title and dug into the rest of the proposal. (I wouldn’t have.) 

Next, in an attempt to build up her own book, this writer actually insulted the work of the editor to whom she sent the proposal. Regardless of whether or not the writer’s critiques were valid, you simply don’t tear down a publisher’s current list of books as a means toward getting that publisher to add your book to a future list. That just makes no sense. 

Other writers insult an editor by

  • speaking disparagingly of authors she’s been associated with in the past, or
  • taking a tone of condescension in a cover letter (“Of course you wouldn’t know this, but as my book will show, 2+2 actually equals 4!”), or
  • garbling the editor’s name, addressing a “Mr.” as “Ms.” (or vice versa), or
  • simply approaching the editor with an overall sense of disrespect. 

Most often these insults are unintended, but the result is still the same—another ticket to Rejection-ville.

What You Can Do About It

1. Know your audience. 

The lesson here is simple: If you want to increase your chances of publishing success, then take care not to make the editor or the publishing house feel insulted—even by accident! The best way to do that is simply to know your audience.

Before you send something to an editor, find out what that editor has worked on in the past, both in her current position and at previous companies. Look through the publisher’s website to see what they’ve done recently in your area—and to gauge whether or not they’ve been successful with those books. See if you can discover career highlights for your editor. Look at the editor’s blog to see what she values, or which books he admires. Find out what the publisher as a whole seems to be proud of … and then avoid speaking disparagingly of anything on that list.

As with any relationship, the more you know about a person (in this case, the editor), the better you will be at tailoring your interactions with that person—and avoiding inadvertent insults that could sabotage your publishing efforts.

2. Be tactful. 

After reading this section, you might be thinking, “OK, I should be sure to avoid comparing my book to anything that the publisher has already released.” That’s the exact wrong message to take from this section.

There’s actually nothing wrong with comparing your book to a book (or books) that the desired publisher has already released. In fact, you should be able to show how your proposed work is more than just a rehash of what they’ve done in the past. BUT you must also be tactful in the way you do that.

Try to remember that simply tearing down another product doesn’t necessarily lift up your product. It’s better to take a “gap” approach to critiquing. That is, to identify areas in which the other product is strong, but also to show the gaps in that strength—and how your product fills those gaps.

Ask yourself, “If this were a child, how might I tactfully communicate a critique without insulting or disrespecting the child?” Let your answer guide the way you articulate yourself in your book proposal, and that should help you avoid making the editor feel insulted by your comparisons.

3. Be complimentary.

A little sucking up never hurt any aspiring writer—especially if your flattery is true. If you know the editor was involved in a successful project in the past, go ahead and compliment the editor on that. You might say something like, “After seeing your fine work on The Blah Blah Book, I’m betting that you’ll be just the right person to handle my book….”

Also, go ahead and compliment the publishing house as a whole on their recent line of books, or on their reputation with authors, or on their status in the industry. Doing so communicates that you both know this company, and are eager to support its success. Plus, it diminishes the number of opportunities you have to lob an unintended insult. 

So go ahead and say something nice…it just might pay off.

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Reason #04: We’re Already Publishing A Similar Book

An Editorial Team reason for rejection

Honestly, this reason for rejection isn’t bad for you. It just means you were a little slow getting to market. I’ve been on both sides of this equation—as an author and as an editor—and I can tell you this: 

Hey, it happens. Get over it. 

Not long ago I was pitching a book for one of my authors that was drawn from an academic study he’d done about what families experience at church. It was a great book, solidly based in relevant research, written by a bestselling and award-winning author, and—despite its academic pedigree—was easily readable and relatable. I figured I’d have no trouble selling this book, and so I started pitching it with enthusiasm to editors. 

The first editor responded quickly, within a week. They were already planning a book on a similar topic. Rejection #1 for our book. A second editor responded just a few days later with the same message. Then a third. Pretty soon it became clear that we were behind the curve on this topic, and despite all our book had going for it, about a half dozen publishers had already gone ahead with plans for a different book that addressed the same issues as ours did.

Now, eventually I was able to connect with a few publishers who hadn’t yet moved that direction with their publishing list and, in the end, we had two offers to choose from. But for awhile there, I have to be honest and say it looked like we might get left out in the cold.

Was it because our proposal was inherently weak or un-saleable? Nope. It was all a matter of timing—and we hadn’t timed our proposal right.

That might be your experience as well. You may have a great book with great market potential, but if someone has already beat you to it at a particular publishing house, you’ll just have to take your rejection and move on to the next place. 

Hey, it happens. Get over it.

What You Can Do About It

1. Consider this kind of rejection good news—and act accordingly. 

If one publishing house is already planning a book similar to yours, that means you’ve correctly identified a publishing trend. Way to go, you!

Sure, you’re a little late to capitalize on that trend with this particular publisher, but chances are good that there’s another publisher out there who hasn’t moved as quickly on the trend. So, armed with the knowledge that you are in the forefront of an upcoming movement, you can begin doing deeper market analysis to find a competing publisher to sell on your idea. Who knows, your book might end up outselling the one the first publisher signed ahead of yours. 

Ah, poetic justice is sweet, isn’t it?

2. Write something new and submit it to the same editor. 

If an editor tells you that the reason for rejection is quality, or marketability, or the fact that your momma dresses you funny, well you’ve already made the wrong impression. 

However, if the editor tells you that the only reason she’s rejecting your book is because she’s already got one like it in the works, that means: a) you and this editor think alike, and b) she probably liked your writing—or was at least willing to give your writing a good, hard look. 

Hm. An editor thinks like you, and she likes your writing. That sounds like a formula for optimism, despite the current rejection. So determine to take advantage of that.

Get back to your desk. Study the other categories this editor likes to publish in, and create an all-new proposal that’ll appeal to that editor’s interests. Polish it, and send it off within the next 1-3 months (long enough so you don’t seem desperate, but short enough so she’ll still recognize your name). Based on the last rejection, chances are good the editor will give this new book a closer look than a typical one that comes in through the slush pile. That may be all you need to get your foot in the door.

How do I know this? Because it’s a tactic that’s been used on me more than once. And it has worked at least 50% of the time. 

3. Do some trend forecasting.

If it really is too late to publish the book you’ve got—if too many publishers are already planning to release a similar book, then maybe it’s time to assess the current and upcoming trends in publishing.

Go ahead and take a break from writing and begin searching for data that’ll reveal future trends. Check out the last 12 months of bestseller lists. Look for current publishing stats and reports (I like to visit Bowker.com from time to time to see what they’ve got there). See what’s in the planning stages for movie releases and upcoming TV offerings. Look at the online catalogs of your target publishers and check out their “New and Upcoming Releases” tabs.

Bring all this info into your creative mind, and sift through it to uncover what you see are trends that appear. Then use that insider info to help you shape and pitch your next book—before someone else beats you to the editor.

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