Most of us are either preparing to enter that query/submission stage, are in it right now, or have been recently. Agents and editors know what they're looking for, and when they don't feel a connection or they see something missing, the end result will probably be a rejection. And, while rejections are hard, most can ultimately help us to reach our goal of being agented and getting published.
So what are some reasons our manuscripts might be rejected?
One of the prominent ways of submitting to agents or editors is through queries. Yes, some of us will get requests in other ways but for the most part, we will still, at some point, have to send out a query letter.
There are a number of things that weaken a query, including too much showing not telling, poor grammar or addressing the query incorrectly, sometimes even being too long-winded. And the list goes on.
So what can be done to help this?
* Study other query letters - there are a plethora of good ones on-line or at agent sites (including and endless list on QueryShark)
* Have a critique partner, other writers, or even some kind of query help service look over your letter for feedback
* Follow the rules agents and editors give you when submitting (plenty of times they'll tell you exactly what to put in the query letter or give you some examples)
Sometimes it's not so much about what we're doing on our end, but what's going on at the other end.
Sometimes agents are inundated with clients right now or too busy to look at your work right away or even within a few months. Sometimes they don't have a connection with your work, or if they do, they aren't certain they can sell it in this market. While a rejection still feels personal and really hurts, we can still consider (especially if we're getting interest elsewhere) that there may be other reasons for the rejection.
So what can be done to help prevent rejections because of this?
* Research agents or publishers and make sure you know what they're looking for
* Attend conferences if possible and give an agent or editor more of a reason to take a look at your query or submission
* Research what's hot in the market, or at least genres that are more popular, to give agents and editors more of a reason to be interested
* Make sure your manuscript shines in every way possible
There are times when an agent or editor will ask for pages of your manuscript either with the query or after reading through the query. At this point, they get a chance to see your writing, get a chance to be hooked, and have that opportunity to decide whether or not your work will go anywhere. Unfortunately, they might make their decision within the first page or two. And if they're not interested? One possibility is that your opening isn't strong enough or, there isn't a distinct voice, or overall, your writing is just not ready.
So what can we do to help this?
* Don't submit or query until the manuscript is as polished as it can be (as well as completed), also don't query too soon. If it's your first manuscript, of course there's a chance it will get snatched up, but usually there's more to learn and writing more than one manuscript is a great way to get that experience
* Utilize critique partners, beta readers, contests, or even an editing service if you can afford it to make sure you're going in the right direction and your writing is getting stronger
* Follow the rules. Not just the guidelines agents or editors lay down but basic rules we hear as new writers, such as not using too many passive verbs, showing not telling, etc. Yes, there is a time for breaking out of that comfort zone or wowing agents or editors with unique techniques but for the most part, especially if we're seeking an agent or editor for the first time, we need to try to follow the rules
There will always be other reasons for being rejected, but for the most part, the major ones are outlined above. Some of the best things we can do as writers looking to get published are research the industry, agents, and the craft, act professional, and get ourselves out there. Don't be afraid to learn from other writers or even agents. Whether it feels like it or not, many of them do notice if you're trying.
So where are you all at in the submission process or what have you learned from your own experiences?