Reasons for Rejection
by Lucienne Diver
Rejections are a frustrating and ever-present part of the publishing business. Twenty-three years in, and I can think of no book ever that was universally loved. Most books receive more passes than offers. So, let’s explore some common reasons for rejection.
Too similar to something the publishing house has already acquired
Sadly, there’s nothing to be done about this one. We stay on top of things like who’s bought what from whom, but we can’t know everything, especially if something’s only recently been acquired.
We’ve just discussed this one at TKA because it’s a frustratingly vague response. It might mean that the emotional impact isn’t as strong as it could be—that the characters aren’t truly brought to the depths or heights of their personal challenges. It might mean that the story isn’t “big” enough, meaning it lacks implications beyond the characters’ own personal journeys. Or it could be that the publisher doesn’t think the story has a strong enough hook to get their marketing department on board and distinguish the book sufficiently in the minds of buyers, bookstores, and consumers.
Not connecting with the characters
Every art form is subjective, requiring creation on the part of the artist and connection/understanding on the part of the viewer. Writing is no exception. I’ve seen rejection letters that boil down to “love the story, couldn’t connect with the characters” and “love the characters, didn’t connect with the story”—all for the same novel! But if you’re hearing more than once that the characters are the issue, think about three things: have you given us a character with whom we can identify? This is the first rule of sympathy and connection. Have you given us someone we can love (or at least love to hate)? Have you given us someone who lives and breathes, who’s unique and original and really a product of his/her nature and nurture? Someone who’s not a caricature or an everyman, but a particular person we couldn’t meet anywhere else.
Pages aren’t turning
Some books are paced more leisurely than others by their nature. The trick is to keep the reader engaged, but not all readers will be engaged by the same books. They just won’t. Still, you can do your best to avoid this reason for rejection. How? With high stakes, emotional and otherwise, and a ticking clock—something that imposes consequences if things don’t happen quickly enough, whether it be another murder, the progression of a disease, or the fact that the man you love is headed out of town (and out of your life forever) if you don’t catch him in time.
So, rejections—we all despise them. Therefore, let’s do our best to minimize contact!
Agents of the Roundtable
What are some non-client books you've read recently that you especially enjoyed?
PAMELA HARTY: Recent books I have read include FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffin, LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll, THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica, THE NEST by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney and BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley.
LUCIENNE DIVER: Favorite two books I’ve read recently: DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch and UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. I highly recommend both!
MELISSA JEGLINSKI: Recently I’ve enjoyed Kristin Hannah’s THE NIGHTINGALE and Ruth Ware’s THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10. Two very different books but both highly compelling.
TRAVIS PENNINGTON: I've recently been reading books for younger audience, and I enjoyed THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart and STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli.
New Clients On the Block
» Beth Duewel: Website | Twitter | Facebook
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» Sara Ackerman: Website | Twitter
» Beth Cornelison's three books in her new Adventure Ranch series, to Patience Bloom at Harlequin Romantic Suspense in a nice deal, by Lucienne Diver
» Two novels in a spinoff series by Chloe Neill, set in the same world as her bestselling Chicagoland Vampires series, to Jessica Wade at Berkley in a good deal, by Lucienne Diver
» German rights to N.K. Jemisin's THE FIFTH SEASON, to Droemer Knaur in a nice deal by Thomas Schlueck Agency on behalf of Lucienne Diver
» Shirley Jump's untitled contemporary romance, set in the North Carolina town of Stone Gap and revolving around a newly opened B&B run by two best friends, to Susan Litman at Harlequin Special Edition in a nice four-book deal for publication in 2017, by Pamela Harty
» German rights to Cat Sebastian's THE SOLDIER'S SCOUNDREL, to Dead Soft by Julia Aumuller of Thomas Schlueck Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer
» Kate Pearce's Diable Delamere series, including EDUCATING ELIZABETH, to Steve Feldberg at Audible in a nice four-book deal, by Deidre Knight
» J.C. Welker's debut THE WISHING HEART, in which a seventeen-year-old thief hoping to heal her ailing heart steals a vase containing an enslaved jinni and quickly finds herself the target of every magical mobster in London, to Theresa Cole at Entangled, by Kristy Hunter
» Aimie Runyan's NIGHT WITCHES, a fictionalized account of the brave women in Russia's highly decorated all-female air force regiment who played a key role in helping defeat the German army during WWII, to Miriam Juskowicz at Lake Union Publishing in a nice deal for publication in November 2017, by Melissa Jeglinski
» Larissa Hardesty's KISS ME KILL YOU, to Jennifer Mishler of Entangled Crave for publication in 2017, by Travis Pennington
» The Daily Dot's list of the nine best fantasy series included The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin.
» THE MASKED CITY by Genevieve Cogman made Amazon's Best Books of the Month Science Fiction & Fantasy.
» THE SOLDIER'S SCOUNDREL by Cat Sebastian received a "Desert Isle Keeper" review from All About Romance as well as a great review from Kirkus.
» Booklist named THREE WEEKS TO WED* by Ella Quinn as one of their Top 10 Romance Debuts of 2016.
» SB Nation interviewed Mia Siegert about her YA novel JERKBAIT as well as LGBT and mental health issues in sports.
» CLOSER HOME by Kerry Anne King has a special Kindle price through the end of September.
» New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James mentioned being a fan of Nalini Singh and Diana Pharaoh Francis in a Happy Ever After interview.
» THE NOBLEMAN AND THE SPY by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon is now available on Audible.
*Not sold by TKA
Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird-watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.
THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL
is her debut novel.
TKA: From the original concept to the completed novel, how did THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL come about?
Cat: I really wanted to write the story of a Regency-era fixer. That time period was rife with injustice, and I could just imagine someone taking matters into his own hands—for a fee. This fixer character needed to be matched with his opposite—a highborn gentleman with very idealistic notions of law and order. From there, the rest of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
TKA: THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL is Avon’s first ever male/male romance. Why did you decide to specifically write m/m over a more traditional romance?
Cat: In the summer of 2015, I participated in Avon's Fanlit contest. I had been reading Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint
and a KJ Charles novella, so I had historical m/m on my mind. When I realized that the Fanlit prompt didn't need to be interpreted as m/f, I quickly drafted an m/m entry and submitted it. I didn't win (or even come close!) but I had so much fun writing that m/m entry that I decided to try my hand at a full-length novel.
TKA: Please share a bit about your agent, Deidre Knight, and how you found her.
Cat: When I completed the manuscript that became THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL, I knew I needed an agent with a lot of experience not only in the romance market, but especially m/m. Deidre's name kept coming up, so I cold-queried her and she rescued my manuscript from the slush pile. After we talked, she sent me a sample of the kind of edits she would suggest. At that point I had hardly written anything, so it was important to me to have an editorial agent; as soon as I read Deidre's suggestions, I knew right away that she would help me strengthen the story.
TKA: Do you have any advice for authors specifically interested in writing male/male romance?
Cat: My advice to anyone writing about a minority or underrepresented group is to listen carefully to the voices of people belonging to that group. Otherwise you risk harmful representation, and no story is worth that.
TKA: Will THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL have a follow-up, and when can we expect it?
Cat: The next book in the series is the story of Jack's brother, Georgie. It will be out early next year. I'm also working on an f/f novella about a jewel thief/lady's maid we meet briefly in THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL.
Visit Cat's official website, follow her on Twitter, and join her fans on Facebook.
Author Tip of the Month
Shiloh Walker is the author of THE RIGHT KIND OF TROUBLE, the third book in the McKays Series.
In a nutshell, don't give up. Ever. And don't be afraid to change.
This is not a business for wimps or those looking for something easy.
The past few years seem to have painted an "easy" picture in the eyes of some, especially with how many breakouts were happening in the indie world.
It was a shiny new world... but lately, that shine has started to dim.
It seems it isn't so easy, or at least it's not what it (the world of writing and publishing) was.
But is this really the case?
Turn back the clock to 2006, 2007, 2008. People who were here then can tell you there was a lot of rumbling, courtesy of the ebook starting to rear its head.
Those were GOOD years for some digital first authors. I was one of them. Sure, pirates sucked the joy out of it at times, but connecting with readers and other authors? Getting my books into the hands of people who were looking for something a little different than what they were finding coming from traditional pubs?
Granted, there were those who said, "But those aren't real books... nobody reads them."
Yeah... about that... [crickets chirping].
It sounds kind of familiar, right?
Back in the 30s, when the production of the mass-market paperback changed how people read, it also scared a lot of people…. LITERATURE WILL DIE. That was the fear then.
Yet the introduction of the paperback put books in the hands of more people. People who previously couldn't get their hands on books now could. Also, these were DIFFERENT stories from what people were used to reading!!!
Reading was made more accessible. That's still the case now. We still feel those effects. Libraries are able to get books... and not just the books some people think we should read, but books that appeal to all.
In the 1400s, when the first printing press was created, the fear was that it would put an end to religion. We can certainly see how that turned out: Bibles and religious texts are still the predominant force in publishing, even now.
Please note, I'm giving these dates by memory, so don't quote me on them, but you might now be wondering, what does this have to do with writing...?
In a way, everything. Since the very first word was put to paper, the writer has worried. It's in our nature. We write for ourselves, yes. But we also write because we want people to appreciate the story we have to tell. If we didn't, we'd never hit SEND in the first place.
So when there's a change on the horizon, it's in our nature to worry. But we have to remember another historical fact. People once thought that the horizon was the end of the world and people would sail right off the edge of the world and disappear.
Now we know that if you head east and keep going, you’d eventually end up right back where you started, or at least, you'd circle the world. Because the world just goes round and round. It's...cyclical.
So is publishing. The world of publishing (and thus, that of writers) is ever-changing, but it also rises and falls in a series of cycles. What we see now is nothing new. People were going through similar states of upheaval ten years ago with the (more mainstream) emergence of the ebook. Before that? There were other changes. Consider how genre fiction changed things, consider how mass markets changed everything.
Some people will fade away. Some will give up. Some aren't able to change with the current trends or just can't sell again, no matter what. That sucks, but it's the facts of the writing life. And it's a hard life.
But you don't give up...ever. Not if this is the life you want. And you have to be willing to change and adjust with the times, because this world never stops shifting around us.
To learn more about Shiloh, visit her official website.