Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Blame The Editors or Agents When We Reject You.

I have seen numerous writers lately diving on the "self-publishing" path after repeated rejections of their work. For most of these people, they continually say they are sick of the way the editors and agents are not permitting them to "be themselves." What I often find interesting is that many of these people have books that really have a limited market or no market at all. Sure, all of their "BETA-READERS" as they like to call them, love the books, but in most cases, these are not an objective samplings. Parents, siblings, relatives, friends and those paid editorial services are not the best tools for marketing research.

Now, I want to stress that I am not here to say that self-publishing is not a viable alternative. E-publishing, vanity presses, self-publishing, print-on-demand, or those publisher that use these approaches but call themselves "independent publishers" may be fine approaches. What I am stressing is that if your story is being rejected by numerous professionals in the business, whether they are editors or agents, you might want to take the time to really listen to them.

All writers need to take the time to really do market research as they consider both writing their books and even where they want to submit the projects. Sure, you might think the idea is the best thing ever, but that doesn't mean the story is really marketable. Sure you might notice that there are no books out there on your subject, but that doesn't mean your subject is something everyone wants to read about.

Does this mean you shouldn't write the book. No, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that the story becomes even harder for you to sell if there is no market for it. Taking it to one of the alternative forms of publishing isn't likely going to suddenly increase sales.

Yes, I know I will now have a ton of you telling me how "you did it." O.K. there are some of you that have. That is not the point of this post. I am simply trying to tell you to not blame the editors or agents for rejecting your work and using the other forms of publishing as "proof of why those entrenched in the system are wrong or screwed up." It wasn't us, it was the product you wanted us to sell.



  1. There are a lot of self-published books out there which met rejections from agents and editors. This is just my subjective opinion, but many of the self-published books just did not seem ready for publishing period. The writing may have needed work, the story line may be full of glitches, poor grammar, typos etc. To me, that's not really about marketing, but rather the book shouldn't have been published because the author still had a lot to learn about writing a great book.

    On the other hand, I've read stories about authors who've said agents have liked their work, but the agent couldn't sell it because there was no market niche for it.

    Scott, I like that you mentioned just because the market may not be amiable for a particular story doesn't mean it shouldn't be written. But once the story is written and the author receives no bites because it's an awesome story with no niche, the options are rather limited.

    Why should it become a novel only friends and family see? Why should a great story stay hidden from the rest of the world just because it'll only sell a couple hundred books to a select market?

    If the story is good, it's good. :) And it's received validation from professionals (agents/editors), not just friends, family, and beta readers. It seems more like personal decision and keeping realistic expectations than anything else when self-publishing stories like that.

    For editors and agents, publishing is a money making business. If the book isn't going to sell enough to help pay the bills, it's not a worthy investment. If the authors has done their research, then they know writing is unlikely to be the job which brings home the bacon even for the 1% who do find representation. Writing is an adventure most of us undertake out of love for the craft with just the hope of publication. With the odds so stacked against us, it's easy to see why so many authors jump the gun and go the self-publishing route.

    That's just my less than knowledgeable opinion.

  2. Well it may sound a little harsh, but I think you're right. Also, I don't take your post to mean that a story or a premise is necessarily bad just because there is not a market for it.

    As writers I think we have to consider deeply what our goals are. If you want to make money, become well known, or especially make a living with your writing you must persevere until you can become published traditionally. At least that is my opinion.

    If you just want to tell a story, and have it available for readers to obtain if they are really interested (even if that's only 100 or 1000 readers) then self-publishing is fine.

    I don't know about "independent publishing" but my guess is that's just a euphemism. This is not the music industry.

    Today's guest blogger is Renae Mercado!

  3. I think the beauty of self-publishing and now especially with the advent of ebooks, is that it allows an author an outlet of last resort to distribute their work, even if every agent and publisher rejects it.

    Could the unanimous opinion of agents and editors be a sure sign that their work is not ready for publication? Sure. And once it's self-published, if it's really that bad, no one will buy the book, no matter how cheap.

    But despite all this nay-saying, the value of self-publishing is the creative outlet it provides for the author that might never otherwise see their work in print. Maybe no one other than Mom, Dad, and the unfortunate recipients on the author's Christmas list will ever see the book. But I'm guessing that even a failure, once in print, feels better than the failure tucked in a drawer and covered with a mountain of rejection letters.

  4. I've read a lot of indie published material, and a lot of submitted manuscripts as well. The truth is that many should not have been printed because they were not ready yet. What is really scary is when somebody hires out as an editor to authors but their own published works are not up to any acceptable standards.

  5. To be fair to family members and friends, some of them are excellent critics. My friends readily tell me when my story title sounds stupid, or when they hated the narrator and couldn't finish.

    I've only started setting out to read self-published works, and I agree with other commenters: they often aren't (quite) ready for publication. So far, I've ended up sighing because it could've been so much better.

    Now, on the note of someone with an unpublishable novel hiring themselves out as an editor, I don't mind that. Writing and editing are two different skills, and it's easier to find the flaws in someone else's work than your own.