When you start out as a new writer, you have this romantic idea that you’ll finish your masterpiece and send it out to agents and publisher and you’ll see the offers rolling in. The reality is very different. After years of struggling through and editing every tiny detail until it’s absolutely perfect, you’re met with rejection after rejection. It isn’t always a reflection of your work, publishers get so many submissions that they will often cut the pile down based on the tiniest details. If you’re not getting anywhere with your writing, it might be for one of these reasons.
The Book Is No Good
One of the biggest hurdles you need to overcome as a writer is being able to bin your own work. When I first started out, I was very attached to everything that I wrote. If something didn’t work I would spend hours on it, trying to make it into something worth reading. The truth is, sometimes you just can’t. There isn’t a writer alive that comes out with something brilliant every time they put pen to paper. Everybody writes things that just don’t work. Knowing when to admit this and move on to something else is a difficult thing to learn, but it will improve your writing when you do. Don’t get rid of anything completely, you might be able to do something with it later, but don’t keep flogging a dead horse if the book isn’t working.
The Book Isn’t Finished
It’s basically impossible to know when a novel is finished, and you can never really say that it’s completely done. But you can get it close enough to be published. However, a common mistake that people make is they send it off for publication before it’s ready. Even though you’ve spent endless amounts of time editing, there’s still work to be done. The best way to know is to have as many people as possible read it. They’ll be able to tell you whether you need to do more work on it. If you’ve gone through the entire novel a few times and you’ve made hardly any changes, you’re probably there.
It’s Been Done
Another misconception that a lot of writers make is that their book will sell because it’s similar to other best sellers. Since the release of books like the Hunger Games series, young adult, dystopian novels are all the rage. But that doesn’t mean you can write a carbon copy of the Hunger Games with a few tweaks and get a publishing deal. It is possible for you to capitalize on the popularity of a genre or style, but you need to have something completely fresh and new to bring to the table. Using the same themes is fine but if your characters are predictable and you haven’t tackled that theme from a different angle, you won’t get anywhere.
You wouldn’t think that the formatting really has anything to do with you, but it could stop you from getting published. When you’re submitting samples to publishers, they often have very specific and strict guidelines on how to submit the work. Not following them will probably get you struck off straight away. If you’re a bit of a technophobe, consider taking a few Microsoft Word training classes so you can get the specifications exactly right. If a publisher opens the document and you haven’t followed their advice, they probably won’t even read it most of the time.
Most submissions ask for the first few chapters and a plot synopsis. Writers will focus on going through those first couple of sample chapters with a fine tooth comb until every detail is perfect, but they’ll neglect the synopsis. If the publisher likes the sample chapter, then they’ll read the synopsis but if it’s confusing and disorganized, then they might not move forward from there. It can be difficult to describe the entire plot of a book in a succinct way, but you’ll just have to practice. Decide on what the main themes and plot points that make up the essence of the novel are, and focus on them. If you get bogged down in the backstory of every single character, things will get muddled and publishers will be put off.
Choosing The Wrong Publishers
Writers often think that the more publishers they send their work to, the more likely they are to get somewhere with it. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. Publishers all have a specialty and they’re usually pretty specific. If you want to be successful, you need to spend a little time researching publishers and find ones that work with genres and styles that are similar to yours. Most publishing companies will have a page that shows information about exactly what they are and aren’t looking for. Not reading them is only going to waste your time and theirs because you’ll be sending people samples of a novel that they’ll never be interested in.
Your COVER Letter
Before they even get to your sample, publisher’s will read your cover letter. If they aren’t impressed, they’re likely to move on without even reading the sample. The function of a cover letter is to give the publisher more information about you and your work. You need to sell yourself. Start out with your credentials, and don’t leave anything out. Any creative writing qualifications you might have, and any work you’ve had published in the past, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. From there you need to tell them why your book is going to sell. Who is your target audience and why is your novel going to stand out from all of the others on the market? You also need to include a lot of smaller details which people often forget, like the word count and some contact details for yourself. People often leave these things out and publishers will see it as a bad sign if you do.
You can follow all of these steps and still get rejections. It’s just part of the process. The important thing is that you don’t give up and you’ll get there in the end.