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Rejection Letters: Can You Change Them Into Acceptances?
"Musings" - January 2007

by Margot Finke

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Rejection letters are a fact of writing life.  Every famous writer has a bunch of them tucked away in a drawer.  In addition, having one or two of your books published will not prevent rejection letters from landing in your mailbox with a depressing thud. The thing to remember is that a rejection letter does not always mean that your manuscript stinks!  A rejection letter can signify a variety of things.

Of course, editor speak is often vague, obtuse, unfathomable, or all three!  To benefit from their fuzzy scribbling, we writers need to break the language barrier.  Adding to our confusion, is the fact that all editors do not speak the same rejection language. . . Groan!  Unfortunately, that old saw, “ We are very sorry, but your book does not fit our current list,” can be extremely frustrating. Especially when you have researched the publisher well, and feel that your book  exactly fits what they publish.

Below is a list of assorted reasons why rejection letters may come your way.  Some of these reasons are comforting.  Others however, highlight areas where you need to shape up your manuscript, if you ever want to receive that first acceptance letter. 

  1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your writing, your plot, or your characters - the whole concept simply did not click with that particular editor – do more research, and then try another publisher.

  2. Loved the story, but already has several like it on their list – send it out to another publisher, ASAP.  It is just a matter of time!

  3. Your first page did not hook the editor into reading further – so, those terrific action scenes in chapter two, plus your great build-up to the finale, did not get a chance to impress.  Make sure your first page offers a sparkling lead-in to the rest of your book.  Make the editor want to keep reading!

  4. Great plot, neat characters, but your writing style is not what is selling now – either wait a few years for trends to change, or read more current books, and change your writing style.

  5. Too many typos:  this is carelessness that can be easily corrected – do a thorough proofread before sending out your manuscript.

  6. Your dialogue is not age appropriate.  Your plot is weak, or your characters lack depth.  It pays to have other experienced writers read and critique your chapters several times – fresh eyes will pinpoint areas that need strengthening.

  7. You love long, compound sentences, and descriptive elements abound.  You feel that twenty words always work better than ten. BEWARE the “waffle factor!” There is a fine line between excessive wordiness (you lose the reader!) and the crafting of rich text and fascinating characters.

  8. Sometimes editors have a bad day.  They are human too, you know!  A fight with wife/husband, a toothache, or maybe the boss is on their case about something – who knows?  On these days, no manuscript has a chance of approval.


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