Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Publishers Use Rejection Form Letters

The editors at Drake Valley Press receive a large number of queries each week. We can usually tell by reading the subject matter and seeing the author's style whether we'd like to see more. If we do, we will often ask for the first fifty pages and one of the author's favorite scenes. If we like what we see, we'll request the entire manuscript.

Sometimes the submission just doesn't grab us. It can be for a variety of reasons. The top reason is poor editing. When the author doesn't know the correct spelling of the word "query" it doesn't bode well for their manuscript. When there are fragmented sentences, punctuation errors, and poor grammar, it means a lot of time, energy and money would have to be spent to get it in good shape for publication.

Sometimes the story is a good idea but the execution isn't. In an industry where 85,000 words is the norm for new or relatively unknown authors, writing a book that comes in at 200,000 words - and insisting the book is perfect - can set the road to disaster.

Other times, the authors simply don't know enough about the industry. We will always ask for the author's marketing plan and their background. We want to know why they were the best person to write this particular story, and what is in their background that will enable them to sell it. When they think the first draft is the final and it's the publisher's job to rewrite it and then the publisher's job to do 100% of the marketing, their expectations are unreasonable.

So why do publishers often send form emails or form letters instead of telling the author what they need to work on?

The number one reason is The Author's Ego.

99.9% of authors, when told what they need to improve, will try to argue their case:

I've been told they use fragmented sentences because it's their "voice".

I've been told the book doesn't drag in the middle chapter that comes in at 100 pages - I just simply didn't understand it.

I've been told the facts they cited are absolutely correct - even though there exists scores of evidence that argue otherwise.

I've been told they didn't have to follow standards for their genre because their book is "special".

I've been told they won't have to market it, because their mother/ father/ sister/ brother/ spouse said it's the best thing they ever read. The book will sell itself.

The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is: publishers don't sit around all day, twiddling their thumbs and checking their inbox to read submissions. They are busy. Ultra busy. Weekends, evenings at home, holidays and vacations are often non-existent. They don't have the time for an author to telephone them in a vain attempt to convince them that their book is the best thing since sliced bread. The fact is, it isn't. None of them are.

Publishing is a business. The three things every author can do to help their own career soar are (a) write the best book you can possibly write; (b) listen to professional advice on improving the book so it has a better chance; and (c) learn everything you possibly can about the publishing business.

It's no longer acceptable to be a writer only. You have to be a stellar writer and know the business in order to be successful in this day and age and in this competitive publishing environment.

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