Blogger: Wendy Lawton
One of the most difficult words for a writer to hear from an agent or from editors who’ve looked at his or her manuscript is, “Not this one”.
I can almost see the words running through the writer’s mind, “What do you mean, ‘Not this one?’ This is the book I researched for the better part of five years. This is the manuscript I spent two years writing. I even spend a couple thousand dollars getting it professionally edited before I even showed it to you. ‘Not this one?’ Like I have a whole shelf of manuscripts?”
It feels like that proverbial moment when someone looks at your precious child and pronounces her ugly. But it’s usually not that at all. Let me outline some of the reasons an editor or agent may be meh about your manuscript:
- The story doesn’t feel fresh. Too many similar stories or books are on the market right now.
- The book doesn’t fit any recognized genre. Yes, it’s fun to create a genre fusion and yes, if it were successful you might be able to double readership but generally the blending of genres doesn’t work. I mean Christian Erotica isn’t going to be successful any time soon for a number of reasons.
- The story is just too edgy, too outside of the box. If you are writing in a genre or a category that hasn’t yet found an audience, your book is going to have trouble finding a home. Publishers do not buy books with the hope of finding an audience. They buy books to put in the front of the avid reader groups that already exist.
- There’s another book too similar already in the pipeline. You couldn’t have possibly known.
- While the writing’s good, it just doesn’t sing. The market is unbelievably tight these days. Good is not good enough.
- The subject or era has limited appeal. We don’t know why certain eras in fiction, for instance, just don’t have any traction. But that shifts, so hang on.
- Let’s be brutally honest here– if your book makes the reader feel guilty or feel pressured, it’s not going to work, no matter how much we think it should. Especially fiction, which is largely entertainment. In other words, if you write about child abduction, horrible physical or sexual abuse, evil in the world– it’s going to make your book a harder sell.
- The market has moved away from your voice. For instance, if you brought me a sassy Bridget Jones-type manuscript now that Chick Lit is dead, I’d have to turn it down no matter how good it is.
So what’s an author to do when no one wants the book you’ve slaved over?
- Quit writing. And if you can successfully do this, I’d recommend this as the route you should take. If you are like the rest of the writing world and you can’t quit no matter how much it hurts, read on.
- Put that manuscript in a drawer and start immediately on the next one. Take all the feedback you received on the first book and apply it to the second. Ask any professional you can corral about your idea for this next book. Try to get feedback on the idea before you commit to writing the whole manuscript.
- Pull that first manuscript out of the drawer periodically. Polish it up, applying all the new techniques you’ve mastered.
- When the book you finally end up publishing becomes a hit– maybe your second, your third or your tenth– your publisher is going to come looking for anything else you already have. Just this morning I received word that a series my client wrote ten years ago and eventually consigned to a drawer just made it through pub committee at a top publisher. I’m waiting on an offer.
- Take heart that the market is constantly shifting. What is meh today could be marvelous tomorrow.
So what will you do if the answer to that book you love is, “Not this one?”
Writers: what happens when nobody wants the book of your heart? Click to Tweet
The manuscript has been everywhere. No one wants it. What’s a writer to do? Click to Tweet