You completed a novel, wrote your query, and pitched the novel to a few literary agents and then the rejections arrived. Many authors take the rejections to mean that they lack talent or that the literary agents think they suck, but wait a minute…
In the thirty years that I’ve been writing professionally (non-fiction) and the ten years that I’ve been pursuing a career as a novelist, I’ve noticed trends in book publishing. I’ve also noticed how economics affects the types of authors literary agents and publishers sign and promote. The current publishing market is conservative both in the advances given out to new authors (if the authors even receive an advance), as well as, to what extent a publisher will gamble on a new author.
Much like the pop music and American movie industry, book publishers prefer to go with the tried and true, whether that represents young adult fiction or sticking with established authors. Publishers and editors also expect new authors to have built an impressive platform which includes a niche market and social media followers for non-fiction, or a strong web presence and appeal for novelists.
When I posted my novels on the Authonomy website (Harper Collins UK) many years ago, the authors who rose to the top weren’t necessarily the best writers or even the most interesting people. They were extremely good at working the system and charming other authors to read their books (you scratch my back and maybe I’ll scratch yours). Many of these authors already had platforms such as a loyal following on Face Book, or were already known as an expert in their field, or they just knew how to brand themselves before anyone was even talking about branding individuals. But this didn’t mean they necessarily were good writers (though some were talented writers).
So what I’m saying is that receiving rejections doesn’t mean that an author lacks writing talent. It does mean that the author requires a new set of skills that revolves around networking, branding, and building a platform. It does involve in some cases, hiring a writing or a life coach to keep the writer on track. Sometimes it involves hiring an editor to perfect the manuscript because the writing craft involves more than finally typing “The End” on page 300.
I found through my own mistakes that taking workshops or joining a writing or editing group early on sharpens the writing skills. Despite trending genres, a well-written manuscripts still causes literary agents and editors to sit up and take notice. It also helps to be consistent with your writing style and developing a strong narrative voice for both non-fiction and novels. For instance, think of the strong narrative voice author Liz Gilbert brings to her infamous memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. You literally walk away with her voice in your thoughts.
Here’s a secret that I discovered after years of receiving rejections from agents and book editors. It usually is about them and not you. Granted, some times our manuscripts warrant serious editing or rewriting, but many rejections occur because the agent or editor isn’t in a position to take a risk on a particular genre, story, or voice. Consider these following reasons well-written manuscripts receive rejection:
- Developing the manuscript takes too much time and effort (agents and editors are busy with their signed authors)
- The agent or editor doesn’t feel passionate about the story (which means if they signed a contract with you, they wouldn’t stand behind the book)
- The agents or editors feel that the author needs further development before signing (writing skills haven’t reached maturity yet)
- The manuscript represents a hard-to-sell genre
- The editor or agent feels that the author would be a challenge to work with (too much drama based on the author’s dealings on social media)
- The agent or editor doesn’t have the time to teach the author about the workings of book publishing (you learn this through workshops, blogs, magazines and conferences)
- Agents and editors have their opinions and quirks in regard to the type of books they prefer (it comes down to personal preferences)
So before giving up on what might become an illustrious career as an author, consider hiring a writing or life coach. Or hire a professional editor to critique your manuscript and give you advice on the best markets for your book. They might advise you to head back to school so that you can polish your writing and storytelling skills.
While some authors sign their first publishing contract while they’re in their twenties, I find that most authors toil away at writing, taking workshops, attending conferences, and joining writing groups (on or offline) for several years, even decades before writing a book worth publishing and reading. With the age of instant gratification (self-publishing), it’s too easy to defy the book-buying public by publishing books that compare to half-baked bread coming out of the oven. Readers are often more sophisticated than we believe.
I learned the hard way that publishing a book too soon interferes with real opportunities. True, you can always head back to the drawing board and reputations can turn around. We’re always learning and growing. But when I look back at my writing endeavors, I believe that now, at the age of 51, I’m finally ready to publish both my non-fiction books and novels to audiences who will truly appreciate the time I took to polish my skills and develop my humanity. It matters.
I’m an author and intuitive coach for artists and entrepreneurs. I’m also an astrologer and former arts journalist. If you would like help mapping your writing career, sign up for an intuitive session via e-mail wholemusicexp at gmail For fees and other information visit Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living (under intuitive coaching)