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Every writer receives multiple rejections for their stories before they’re ever sold into books. But what if you’re pitching your book so much and you’re STILL not receiving any positive feedback? You may need to rewrite your manuscript.
This is the boat I have found myself in this week. Last fall, I sent out my story to roughly 30 agents and have since received 12 rejections. In the grand scheme of rejections, that is a low number. However, that number told me that something wasn’t working. Here’s how I knew that.
How to Know if You Need to Rewrite Your Manuscript:
Rejections aren’t only due to poor writing. Sometimes it’s your query letter to the agent or you need to practice patience during the submission process. So be sure to check all of your options BEFORE you rush to rewrite your manuscript.
First, Understand Your Rejections.
Not all rejections are created equal. But if you’re being rejected on a manuscript you’ve sent out, there are 3 possible reasons for each rejection.
1. Wrong Agent for the Book
Double-check the agent’s list and do THOROUGH research before submitting. Even if you have amazing writing, if your story isn’t right for that agent, then they’re not going to buy it. Period.
Sometimes I’ll look at people’s lists and think “They’re not reeeeeaaaaally a good fit, but maybe I can spin it”. No–I can’t. And you can’t either.
If you’re getting rejections from agents or publishing houses, be sure to double-check your research. Look up the agent after you’ve received the rejection and make sure they were even the right submission. (Read this to know how to find the perfect agent for you when you’re conducting your research.)
If you submitted to the wrong agent, you may not have to rewrite your manuscript yet. Instead, find a new list of agents that fit your story and submit to them.
2. Poorly Written Query Letter
It’s possible that an agent hasn’t even read your manuscript before they rejected it! You can get an idea of how well your query letter is doing by the kind of rejections you’re receiving. If most of your rejections are form letters without any personalization, you should review your pitch.
Once you know that you’re pitching to the right agents, but you’re only getting pre-canned form letters, you may need to change your approach. Double-check that you have these items in your query:
- A connection to the agent for WHY you want to work specifically with them
- An enticing hook that creates curiosity and piques the reader’s interest
- An understanding of your target reader
It’s also imperative that your query is less than 300 words. Go back and read through the emails or templates you’ve saved to make sure that you’re doing your story justice. And read how to write a query letter to make sure that you’re not making any rookie mistakes.
If you need to make changes to your query, send your story to a new list of agents before attempting to rewrite your manuscript.
3. Your Manuscript isn’t Working
If you know for sure that you’re pitching the right agents and you’re receiving nice remarks on your rejection letters, but you’re still not receiving any offers, then you may need to consider a rewrite for your manuscript.
This is where I’ve found myself. My story has received rejections that say things like “love the writing”, “your idea is fun”, “you have a great story idea”, etc. But those lovely words are always followed by that annoying conjunction BUT. “But your story isn’t for us”, “But it’s not right for my list”, “But I don’t have a passion for it”, etc. 😤
Do you want to know the most frustrating part? I KNEW that my story needed a change, but I stuck with it anyways. And you probably did too.
If you’re really honest with yourself and your writing, you know that something isn’t working. So you need to go back to your computer and fix the problem before you submit your story to anyone else.
Next, Determine the Problem.
Now that you know you have a problem, you need to find out what that is. There are three main spots that you should look at in your story to find potential problems:
- Have you targeted the right reader?
- Do you have a compelling plot with a defined problem?
- Are your characters realistic and believable?
I can guarantee that somewhere along the way you made a mistake within one of these three areas when you were telling your story. But don’t worry! Finding out you have a problem is the best way to fix it. 😄
Lastly, Take Your Time to Revise.
Once, you’ve discovered what your problem is, it’s time to revise your manuscript. However, you don’t want to rush through this process only to get your story back out there. That’s a surefire way of winding back in this boat.
Instead, take some time away and work on something else. Or spend time getting to know your characters and visualizing your new story before you ever start typing. Whatever you have to do to keep from rushing, do it.
I have taken almost 6 months off my book and wrote a handful of other picture books and another middle grade. And I’ve just now thought up a new outline for the book. It’s going to take me a while longer before I’m even ready to submit that story again.
However, now I have all these other books to submit while I’m taking my time working on my new revisions.
That’s one of the best parts of writing books, learning to appreciate the process. If you understand that you’re not going to get it right the first time (or even the fifth time), but you learn to love the times you spend revising, then you will stay a writer for a long time.
After all, you probably want to spend as much time writing as you can! Be sure to follow each step before you begin to revise your manuscript. Sometimes all you need is different agents to submit to or a better query in order to sell your book.
But if you need to make changes, it’s ok. Your book will still be on its way to being sold. And you will love that it’s the best version you could create!
Check out these other articles before you revise your manuscript:
- How to find the right agent for you
- How to write a query letter
- How to target the right readers
- Common Publishing Mistakes Writers Make
- What to do with Your Rejected Story
- 4 Quick Editing Tips for Your Kid’s Book
PS. Try this AMAZING exercise to make sure you have all the right elements that make a great read! Your readers will thank you. 😍