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5 Common Mistakes That Lead to Book Rejection: A Guide for Aspiring Authors

Updated: Feb 5

5 Common Mistakes That Lead to Book Rejection: A Guide for Aspiring Authors

Are you an aspiring author eagerly seeking publication for your manuscript? Have you faced countless rejections without understanding why your book isn't making the cut? Don't lose hope just yet! Understanding common mistakes that often lead to rejection can significantly improve your chances of success. In this guide, we'll explore five prevalent errors that could be hindering your path to publication.

the promise of lightning b jenna weatherwax

No Coherent Story

The heart of any book lies in its narrative. Without a clear, compelling storyline, readers quickly lose interest. As an author, it's crucial to ensure that your book offers a well-defined plot with engaging characters, conflict, and resolution. A meandering storyline lacking direction or coherence is a surefire way to land your manuscript in the rejection pile.

Another point to add to this is too many plots. I see this across new authors and veterans of the publishing community, but as a general rule, pick one major plot and 1 or 2 subplots. Putting too many plots in a story will just make it confusing to read. You need to identify the essence of your story. What are you wanting the reader’s key takeaway to be from reading your book? From there, pick a few subplots. These should still be carefully considered, and need to add something to the story overall. Don’t just throw anything into the pot just to have something there.

Not Submitted to the Right Press/Didn’t Follow Submission Guidelines

One of the most common mistakes aspiring authors make is failing to research and target the right publishers for their work. Each press has its own niche, preferences, and submission guidelines. Ignoring these guidelines or submitting your manuscript to publishers who don't specialize in your genre significantly reduces your chances of acceptance. Take the time to research publishers thoroughly and tailor your submissions accordingly.

For example, while SmashBear Publishing accepts horror as a genre, we do put limitations on this. We fully outline this in our submission guidelines, so always make sure to check before submitting!

Not Well Written

Quality matters. Your manuscript must showcase your writing skills at its best. Sloppy writing, grammatical errors, and poor sentence structure detract from the reading experience and signal to publishers that your work may not be ready for publication. Prioritize honing your writing craft through practice, workshops, and seeking feedback from beta readers or writing groups.

It can also come across as you not taking the process seriously. Publishing can sometimes fall into a weird category of people thinking it's 'just' reading books and marketing them. But in reality, there are large teams of dedicated publishers, editors, marketers, production assistants, etc who are extremely passionate about their work. We want to work with authors who are just as dedicated.

Not Edited or Proofread

Editing and proofreading are non-negotiable steps in the publishing process. Even the most talented writers benefit from the keen eye of an editor to polish their work. Neglecting to edit or proofread your manuscript thoroughly demonstrates a lack of professionalism and dedication to your craft. Invest time and, if possible, resources into editing and proofreading to ensure your manuscript shines.

Pro Tip: make sure you're not using repetitive phrases. Anyone who's read ACOTAR will groan anytime 'vulgar gesture' or 'watery bowls' is used. A simple search/reread will highlight these.

You must also be aware of how much your manuscript will likely change when it enters the publishing process. You must be prepared for major rewrites and edits, otherwise, publishers will pass on your work, no matter how good it is. You need to be prepared to work with the Publisher.

Cliché Story

In a saturated market, originality is key. Publishers are constantly seeking fresh voices and unique narratives that stand out from the crowd. A cliché story, filled with predictable plot twists, stereotypical characters, and overused tropes, is unlikely to capture the attention of discerning publishers or readers. Dare to think outside the box and infuse your writing with originality and authenticity.

That's not to say that cliche elements aren't entertaining. Who doesn't love a bad boy with a soft heart, or the one-bed trope, or the touch her and I'll kill you love interest. These are cliches for a reason; because we love them. But when your writing includes all of the cliches in the story, and then in the prose we see 'he made a guttural sound', or something similarly overused, it usually tips the manuscript into the reject pile.

In conclusion, while rejection is an inevitable part of the publishing journey, understanding and avoiding these common mistakes can significantly improve your chances of success. Remember to craft a coherent story, research and target the right publishers, prioritize quality writing, invest in editing and proofreading, and strive for originality in your storytelling. With persistence, dedication, and a willingness to learn from feedback, you'll be one step closer to seeing your book in print. Happy writing!

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