I’m all for encouraging people to try new things and be adventurous. Eat the oyster, climb the mountain, marry the girl (don’t quote me). But, after having read some cracker manuscripts myself (including a self-help book on how to dominate women – not even kidding), I’m sure that not everyone can or should write (especially not that guy). Maybe the original coiner-of-phrases was being metaphorical when he said we all have at least one novel inside of us. On the other hand, I’ve read some books that I’ve thought were excellent, but the author had a long, hard time getting it published. While I focus on online content, I’m sharing some of the more common reasons that publishers and editors may reject your manuscript.
1. It’s too complicated
Reading is often escapism. Even when it’s not, it certainly shouldn’t be hard work to keep up with the characters and plot. Submitting a manuscript that is too complicated or doesn’t flow easily will ensure rejection.
2. It’s boring
Right from the first words in the first paragraph of the first chapter, your book needs to engage the reader. Start it with a bang to keep the reader interested. Here are some great suggestions for writing the opening words of your novel.
3. It sounds unnatural
Every author has his or her own voice. If you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else, you’ll lose that. And that is what makes your writing yours; what infuses it with a magical quality all your own. The editor or potential publisher needs to hear that voice.
4. It doesn’t inspire concern
As soon as the reader doesn’t care about your character, he or she will likely stop reading. Make them notice, make them care.
5. Clichéd characters
Don’t try to resurrect clichéd characters that have become tired. Bored moms that have an affair with the pool guy, braniac kids that are bullied, dumb blonde husband-stealers. Yawn. Step out from the tunnel vision to surprise readers. Extend yourself to create new, complex character profiles that surprise, entertain, enchant.
6. It’s preachy
We all have opinions about things, but a novel that starts out with a strong moral message or makes the reader feel reprimanded for their life choices is going to get put down very quickly. That’s not to say that your book can’t have a message. But, keep it simple, minimal (don’t beat them with the message-stick), and as objective or universal as possible.
7. Bragging cover letter
Let the potential publisher or editor decide whether they enjoy your book or not. Don’t write the cover letter trying to convince them that they should be loving it. Instead, use the manuscript cover letter to provide a bit of insight into what the book is about.
8. Use simple language
I love a good metaphor. Adjectives are the light in a dark world. But, take it easy. Overdoing it detracts from the story and becomes tiresome to read.
9. Unprofessional queries
Please, for the love of all things literary, take the time to TYPE and proofread your query and cover letter. Annoying your reader at this stage will guarantee that he or she doesn’t even venture onto your manuscript. Write simply and correctly, and address your email or typed submission to the correct person.
That’s it! Easy peasy. Right? Well, no. You still have to write the book. And that takes time, patience, humility and a whole lot of perseverance. You’ve got this! Just keep swimming.