Thursday, June 18, 2015

8 Reasons Why Good Books Are Rejected

Your novel is brilliant. You know it is.

So why aren't any agents picking it up?

This is not a post about delusions of the quality of one's writing. It's about why you send your book out to 10 agents and another 10, and then 10 more, and you still haven't gotten a nibble.

It takes sending a book out to more agents than you would imagine before you find the right one. And that's what it's about: finding the right person, the one who will be as committed to your book as you are.
You're not represented ...yet. Persevere. Image "rejected" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by ☻☺
Last month at the Pima Writers' Conference, I had the opportunity to hear agent Moses Cardona, President of John Hawkins & Associates, speak and explain why he and other agents choose to turn down books, even when they are good.

I want to share those reasons with you.

1. Personal Taste. Agents succeed because of what they like and are inspired by. Their taste affects the kinds of books they represent and, thus, the relationships they have in the industry. If an agent generally likes and reads fantasy books, she gets good at selling them and knows the editors and publishers who work with fantasy books. If she finds a crime thriller that she really believes in and takes it on, she is entering new territory. Her connections don't work with crime thrillers and her methods of selling a fantasy may not work as well when working in a genre with which she isn't familiar. Thus, she will likely pass on it.

Additionally, if it's not the type of book she tends to read, she might not bother reading it. It does not mean your book sucks or you are a terrible writer. Don't take it that way. Make sure you are sending it to someone who actually reads crime thrillers.

2. Passion. In addition to be the type of book she likes, she needs to love it. If she is going to be an advocate for it, she'll need to be committed to it for the long term. If she just likes it and thinks it's good work, will she stick with it for months or years? If she just thinks it's salable, while she lose interest when the market changes?

3. The Market. Agents are supposed to know what is going on in the genres they represent. They need to know if an entire genre is in decline or if it is about to blow up. They need to know what readers are looking for and what they aren't buying.

If a book similar to yours was recently published, it can affect your project either positively or negatively. Has the need for that kind of book been fulfilled for the time being or has it sparked a trend? Is it too similar to yours?

4. Contacts. If an agent doesn't know the right editors and publishers for your book, she's doing you a favor by turning you down. (See #1 above.)

5. Suitability to Genre. If your book deviates too much from the conventions of the genre in which you are submitting, it may difficult to sell. It doesn't matter how brilliant it is if the agent cannot see where it fits into genre.

If it is a combination of genres, an agent might have a rough time determining the audience. The agent is not making money off of you unless she sells your book, so she's got to know who to sell it to.

6. Length. Do you know the average range in word count for books in your genre? If you fall outside of that range with a very short or very long book, you may find agents shying away from it. They know that publishers don't regularly take books from first-time authors that stray from the word count range.

7. You. Do you have more than one book in you? Are you going to be difficult to work with? Are you credible in your topic? All things that can influence whether an agent will take you on.

8. Conflict of Interest. If your project is too similar to one the agent is already representing, she is likely to turn it down to avoid misunderstandings or any legal actions.

So stop thinking that not getting representation speaks to the quality of your book. You're not represented ...yet.

You've got to keep sending it out. Persevere.

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  1. That's encouraging to the good novelists out there that are yet to be discovered. Timing I think is a great factor. :)

  2. I once got a rejection note from an agent who told me our books were too demanding for the publishers he was collaborating with. Go figure!