Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to insure a publisher will reject your manuscript

by Vivian Zabel  

          Are people more arrogant than in the past? Are "writers" so self-absorbed and blind that they can't see the words in front of them? What drives people who desire to be published to insult the person or people who will make the decision to accept or reject? Why do some writers "know" that they and their words are sacrosanct?

          What I've heard most of my life about writing and publishing is more manuscripts are available than slots for publishing. That means writers need publishers more than publishers need us. Publishers, for the most part, look for reasons to reject submissions, not for reasons to accept. Therefore, why do some writers make rejection so easy? Yes, some really do things that will guarantee rejection. 

          Here are a few examples of how to insure rejection:

1. Do not follow the publisher's submission guidelines. Usually an automatic rejection. Publishers (and agents) have particular guidelines for a reason, well, several reasons. One is to discover if a person can and will follow directions. Another reason is the company needs things a certain way to work in its scheduling, assignments, and process. However, whatever the reason, whether reasonable or not, the publisher has the right to set its guidelines the way it wants things done. 
          Telling the publisher (or agent) who informs you to follow the guidelines and re-submit, "I have decided to submit my work to only those companies in the publishing industry, whose rules for manuscript submissions, falls within the normal and well accepted guidelines for manuscript submissions. I don't change my policy for anyone that has no flexibility to work with a client." 
          Uh, you, yes, you with the sneer on your face, you are not a client unless and until the publisher accepts you and offers you a contract. You blew it, big time. 

2. Insult the person who nicely informs you of the status of your manuscript. For example, if a manuscript is rejected, either do not respond or respond nicely. Rudeness means no second chance for this manuscript or any others. Some publishers give suggestions for improvement and allow a re-submission. A writer should be grateful whether he revises and resubmits or not. Telling the  company that they are stupid not to recognize a best seller is not the way to respond. Publishers and agents have long memories, and word does spread in the small world of publishing.

3. Argue with the company representative. If the company gives you a decision and you argue, you lose. Remember, you need a publisher more than the publisher needs you.

4. If given areas to improve and given the chance to re-submit, refuse to make changes, insist your words are perfect.  All writers can improve, and not just once but many, many times. 

5. Don't assume that other publishers will be more lenient and accepting of your actions and attitude. Most publishers know how other houses work and what they expect. Very few major differences will be found in the basics. IF the company is a traditional publisher and puts out quality work, it will be nearly the same in decisions, actions, and expectations as other companies that do the same quality of work. Does that mean that "publishers" don't exist that expect less and have lower quality of work? No, because some "publishers" do not actually invest in authors or books and  do not want only high standards. If an author wants that "anything goes" type of service, it can be found easily. However, if an author wants the best possible product, he can't assume that someone else will give quality work without him doing his part.

          Just because a writer does not see extensive submission guidelines does not mean guidelines are not followed "in house." Often a submitter will receive a form rejection and never know why. Be glad if you find extensive guidelines to follow, and remember to follow them.

          The onus is on the writer to do all within his power to have his submission accepted, not up to the publisher to find reasons to accept. Want to insure your submission is rejected? Just do one or more of the preceding actions.

4RV Publishing 
4RV online catalog 



  1. Why would anyone who really wants a contract and is looking earnestly for success, ignore the submission guidelines. Editors and publishers take a great deal of time explaining the rules of the road. They are not that hard to follow and common etiquette should be second nature.

    Sometimes it boggles the mind when you see someone so willing to shoot themselves in the foot.

  2. I don't understand, but some people are so positive their words are perfect that they are arrogant. I could give a list of examples, and other publishers have a long list, too.

    Even my words are not perfect, in fact far from it.


  3. Excellent post, Viv. Arrogance and denial are a deadly combination.

  4. Vivian, in my travels, I've seen this. As a writer, I've learned to be flexable and take feedback as constructive critism to do better. It just boggles me that some people can't be flexable. Then again, if you can't play nice on the playground, it shows just what kind of person you really are.