Writing and Publishing

7 Reasons Why Books Are Rejected

Having our book rejected stings. Here are seven common reasons why this happens.

1) The Writing Isn’t Ready: Everyone is a new writer at some point. It takes time for our writing to mature, our voice to emerge, and our style to become consistent. Some say this takes 10,000 hours or requires 1,000,000 words before we hit our writing stride. Yes, there are exceptions, but there is truth to these guidelines. Aside from still honing our craft, sometimes our work just isn’t as good as it could be. I suspect every writer encounters this at some point.

2) The Content Needs Improvement: Sometimes the idea or concept (for nonfiction) or the plot or story arc (for fiction) needs more work. It must be expanded, enhanced, or otherwise improved. Sometimes we try to stretch a great article or short story into a book, but there’s just not enough there for it to work.

3) The Work Was Pitched to the Wrong Place: When we pitch our work or idea to an agent or publisher, we need to make sure they are interested in the type of book we have written. A romance publisher will not consider a thriller; a publisher of practical how-to guides will not consider an academic treatise. Agents also specialize in certain genres or types of books. Pitching to the wrong place will insure a quick rejection.

4) The Pitch Fell Short: There are various means to entice an agent or publisher. It may be an elevator pitch, a one-sheet, a query letter, a proposal, or maybe all four. Each one is an opportunity to garner further consideration or a chance to be rejected. Make each pitch be the best it can be. In most instances, we will never get a second chance.

5) The Agent Doesn’t Think He or She Can Sell It: Even when everything aligns, if an agent doesn’t think he or she can sell our book, the agent will not take on the project. Remember, agents only make money when they sell our book to a publisher.

6) The Publisher Already Has a Book Like It: A publisher will not take on a book that is too similar to one they have recently published or an older one that continues to sell.

7) The Author Doesn’t Have a Big Enough Platform: Publishers expect authors to help promote and sell their books. This requires they have a platform or network of sufficient size to do this. A small or nonexistent platform means the author will not be able to move books.

I’ve suffered rejection for six of these seven reasons. Understanding why this might have happened helps us to do better next time and move towards acceptance.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

3 replies on “7 Reasons Why Books Are Rejected”

Good topic, Peter, as well as valid reasons for rejection!

I didn’t bother looking for an agent and traditional publishers. A self publisher seemed so much easier.

They liked my voice and my content and wrote me a good review but they also thought that my many personal details will not be of interest to readers. They have also been pushing me to pay them for content edits–which I cannot afford–to market my book, or to build my own platform.

I have been working on their suggestions as well as on some suggestions beta readers gave me, but also with an independent editor.

I have been connecting with people more and more, either online or personally. They seem interesting to hear about my book and I have a pitch ready to use at any time I meet someone new. They all find it interesting and want to know more. I am not though a sales person and in comparison to others I have a very small audience, the members of which I consider more as friends than potential buyers.

Thank you for always writing helpful posts and for listening to me!

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