We hear it. We feel it. We see it. With tears treading our waterline, we read the twelfth, thirtieth, fiftieth rejection. I get it. As a querying author and a literary agent intern, I’m playing both sides. And I hear it a lot. So, why do good books get rejected? To be honest, there are hundreds of contributing factions, but today, I’m going to talk about five.
You Didn’t Follow the Submission Guidelines.
Wait! Before you exit, because you’ve heard this a million times, know I just had to add it. I want to drill it into your head. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Not following the guidelines is the easiest way to get rejected, and I see it way too much when going through my query inbox. Remember, when an agent represents you, it is a partnership. They don’t want to work with someone who can’t bother to follow the rules.
The Agent Doesn’t Represent Your Genre
This is why it is so important to research an agent before submitting. Your book can be the best children’s novel in the world, but if the agent you’re querying doesn’t represent children’s fiction…
The Agent Represents too Much of the Same Thing
This is kind of a double-edged sword. You want to send an agent things you know they would be likely to represent. However, if they already represent something too similar, they may not be interested. This you can’t help, but it may help you know not to take rejections too seriously. Sometimes it’s not about your writing.
The Agent Didn’t Connect Enough
This can be a frustrating rejection. The agent likes your story, likes your writing, and the style, but for some reason, they’re just not feeling it. Sometimes you can’t help this. Art is a subjective business, and in the wise, paraphrased words of Beyoncé, you can do everything write (wink wink) and still fail. If you’re only getting a couple of these, it probably just means the agent wasn’t the right person for your book. If you’re getting a lot, go back and read your favorite books. What makes you love the characters? Then read your novel, are those things still the same?
It’s All Relative
This one is the most frustrating, but it’s true. Other than not connecting, sometimes an agent just isn’t into it. This is the moment when a lot of well-meaning non-writers bring up that J.K. Rowling was rejected “Twelve Times!” before ever getting published. And this is the moment when I am going to tell you C.S.Lewis was rejected 800 times. It’s a hard business to get into, but the only way to strike out is if you don’t play the game.
Cliché, I know, but tropes are tropes for a reason. So, let’s read our rejections, cry, dust it off, and play ball!