Writing: Turning Your Rejections into Sales

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The first rejection is always a shock. How could a publisher reject you after you worked so hard, printed the manuscript or burned a CD, wrote a proposal, and paid for shipping? Rejection is always painful, yet you may grow from it.

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Give yourself time to process the rejection. Put the letter away for a week. Then, setting your emotions aside, read it again for content. Does the letter contain any helpful suggestions? If the editor took the time to include suggestions he or she thinks your work has merit.

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See the manuscript from the publisher’s view. Did you follow their editorial guidelines? Did you format the manuscript properly? If you’re a nonfiction writer, are your sources credible? Ignoring these standards will guarantee rejection. Meeting these standards will increase your chances of a sale.

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Evaluate your resume. Your resume should be clear and factual. Tempted as you may be to hype your resume, don’t yield to this temptation. Publishers can check a resume in minutes and nothing is more of a turn-off than hype. List volunteer efforts if you’re a beginning writer.

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Re-check your market resources. Did you send your work to the right publisher? Jenna Glatzer, in her www.Writers.Break.com article, “Why You Get Form Rejection Letters,” says writers often send their work to the wrong publishers. A writer and editor herself, Glatzer says her rejection letters basically say, “Thanks, but this isn’t for us.”

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Check competing works on store shelves. This takes courage because you’ll come across stuff you wish you had written or similar to what you have written. Your work should be of similar quality. Can you improve the quality? Does your work fill a hole in the market?

Get more information. The publishing industry is extremely competitive and a publisher may shift its focus to fit market trends. Fairview Press in Minneapolis, for example, used to bill itself as a family publisher. Now it is publishing special resources for in-house use within the Fairview medical system.

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Revise your query letter. Writing a query letter can be harder than writing the manuscript because you have to sell the work and yourself on one page. (Editors don’t like long query letters.) It takes more time to “write short” than to
“write long.” See if your query letter can be improved in any way.

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Make your proposal appealing. Writing a proposal is similar to writing a thesis. Your proposal should be concise, easy to follow (bold or colored headings), and grab the reader. Write too much and the editor is turned off. Write too little and the editor is turned off. Your goal is somewhere in the middle.

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Does your proposal have a platform? Katharine Sands, agent, writer, and speaker with The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency in New York City, thinks “every proposal needs a platform section.” The platform includes your credentials, professional organizations, credibility, authority, reviews, media experience, and marketing connections. According to Sands, publishers are more apt to accept work from authors who have strong platforms.

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See what’s selling. Your top-notch writing and a sharp book proposal may not be strong enough to buck market trends. Talk with book store managers, read book catalogs, and check Amazon to see what’s selling. Health and fitness are exploding markets right now and you may be able to tap these markets.

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Revise your work. (I heard the groan.) Yes, this is discouraging, but once you get into it the process isn’t bad. Find ways to make your work more appealing. You may index the book, for example, or write the back cover copy. Anything you can do to save the publisher money is a plus for you.

Finally, keep writing and submitting your work. You never know, the market may shift and the manuscript that wasn’t saleable last year may be snatched up this year. Practice your craft, believe in yourself, and dream of seeing your name in print. It will happen.

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Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, written with Lois Krahn, MD is available from http://www.amazon.com A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. You’ll also find a review on the American Hospice Foundation website under the “School Corner” heading.

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