5 Ways To Sink Your Book Before You Start

There are a number of reasons that an editor will reject your manuscript, but by far, there are five reasons that will get your book rejected even before it has a chance to get read. Below are five no-nos worth considering before you submit your manuscript for consideration.

1. A Weak Start

Your book needs to be compelling throughout , but especially where it really counts: page one. Otherwise, most editors aren’t going to bother reading any further. If you can’t make the first page of your book attention-getting to readers, your book itself probably isn’t all that compelling.

2. Ignorance Of Grammar And/Or Usage

Typos aren’t great, we can all agree. At the same time, it’s incredibly tough to make sure that there are absolutely no mistakes in your manuscript. Generally speaking, a typo or two in your manuscript can be overlooked – but what won’t be is glaring grammatical errors or using words improperly because you don’t understand what they mean.

3. Proposals And Manuscripts Which Are Too Long

The average acquisitions editor reads thousands upon thousands of pages per year, both in and out of the office – and the last thing they want to read is your 100-page book proposal. Anything you need to say in your proposal can be said in far less time; editors should be able to read your proposal in 30 minutes or less (preferably far less). It’s rare for a proposal to be rejected for being too short, but the opposite is definitely not the case. Say only what you need to and no more.

This is not a universal rule, but manuscripts which are too long will be rejected out of hand by some editors. For instance, some will flatly refuse to read any submission over 400 pages. While this isn’t how every editor works, it’s a good argument for trimming your manuscript down before you send it to a publisher.

4. Marketing And Sales Ideas

Some writers feel that they have to include ideas on marketing and selling their book in their proposal. For instance, saying that their book should be merchandised in store windows or stacked at registers, suggesting that the book be available at national chains like Starbucks or that the author should be booked on national TV programs to plug their book. These aren’t helpful suggestions – anyone who makes their living marketing books has already thought of these kinds of things and will probably find your suggestions offensive.

5. Design Ideas

Suppose you were offered a chance to try out for the Yankees. Would you show up in the Bronx with a new uniform you wanted the team to wear and a suggestion to relocate the team from New York to rural Idaho? Not if you want the job. Instead, keep your lips sealed and play the game.

6. The Hard Sell

Believe it or not, editors actually hope that they’ll like your book. Editors’ careers depend on finding books that they love (and being able to read something they like certainly makes their work more pleasant). However, what they won’t do is take your word for it that your book is impossible to put down or that you’re the next Hemingway, Heidi Julavits or whoever you compare yourself to – and they’re certainly not going to accept your book instantly, no matter how much you hype yourself or your book. If your book is great, editors will know. Work on your writing, not your salesmanship.


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