Sunday, November 26, 2017

More Rejections? Thoughts on why?

I have really been thinking about this a lot lately. I find that I am rejecting so many authors lately, it seems ridiculous. Now, I know what some people might say. Agents like myself are only looking for the book that will immediately land the author and the agency on the NY Times Best Seller List in the first week. While this might sound like a great reason, this is far from the truth. Although we would love to have a book do this, for most of us, we are looking for authors to be around for the long haul. So, with that said, why am I rejecting so many people?

I honestly have to say, it is coming down to the quality of the writing that I see being submitted. The writing is just not good. Sure, there might be moments of brilliance, but for the most part, I am finding stories that feel hastily rushed, full of cliché, and reads very elementary. Sure, these authors have been fully committed to their stories and their writing, but it is not there yet.

So why is this happening?

I have my theories about this one. I am not sure I can prove these ideas, but I do believe the hypothesis for each is pretty accurate.

THE SELF-PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS NOT PROMOTING QUALITY OK, before I go any further, this is not me just throwing the self-publishing industry under the bus. What I am saying is that the self-publishing companies out there promote that EVERYONE can write and EVERYONE can be published. All you have to do is write that story, send it in and "bada-bing, bada-boom" you are published. Any quality control is completely based on what the author did before submitting the book. What I hear, over and over again is, "my beta-readers loved it." Well isn't that great! But has there been any real thought about insuring the quality of the product is worthy of being published? Probably not.

Writing takes time to learn and people are just not doing that. The goal is about getting that product finished and off to the market as fast as possible.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES ARE NOT THERE I do believe writers want to learn, but when we attend conferences, the focus is entirely on marketing and self-publishing. We are again, not focusing on teaching the work of writing BEFORE the book goes to market.

I would also add that many of the workshops we see are not being taught by people who have figured it out for themselves. These are those people who have self-published and are now proclaiming their ideas are the end-all, be-all of solutions. I remember seeing one author promoting a series of plotting books, and yet this person has not done anything for 10 years. Probably not the professional who should be teaching this.

So, what are authors stuck with? Blog posts like this one that might give an author a nugget of information, or reading books that have been around for 10+ years even though the market has moved on.

An extension of this is also the writing chapters and organizations out there who bring in guest speakers for the weekend who again, might not be the strongest person to teach the lesson, or someone who is presenting a workshop that has been recycled for the last 10 years.

We are also stuck with writing groups who are simply finding the cheap way (although I should say inexpensive way) of bringing in speakers. Look, bringing someone in does cost money. You have to fly them out and put them up in a hotel. But think of what you get??

Think of it this way... you get what you pay for.

These are just two ideas, but it should get you thinking. Until this industry decides to start teaching writing, the rejections will continue to keep flying out over the Internet.

Let me just also add one more element. K-12 education is not teaching writing anymore. Even many of the English 101 classes are just promoting the 5 paragraph essay and opinion writing. If people are not learning the basics here, how can we expect to see a quality novel??


  1. I am pretty sure the heart of all authors who have recently submitted to you (myself included) just broke :)

    Heartbreak is good though, if it inspires growth. I have experienced a lot of 'educational opportunities aimed at aspiring writers that did little to improve writing quality.

    Most of it is focused on breaking into the publishing industry. On the other hand much of the affordable 'help' is essentially from a paid beta reader.

    I find myself wavering between hope and despair...what's a hopeful writer to do? Perhaps, focus on improving my craft, and not quit my day job ;)

    I hope you get some writing that you enjoy, and soon!


  2. Mr. Eagan:

    I love this post. As an aspiring writer with well over 100 rejected books and hundreds of rejection letters (chasing since the 1970's) I too wonder what is the key to writing the perfect ms. I am part owner of a local newspaper and write articles weekly. The quality of the letters to the editors has decreased. Some of the articles submitted to me make me want to pull my hair out. Yet when I submit to editors I get requests for fulls but the rejections all say the same thing, writing not quite there, on the right track, etc.

    I have accepted the fact my newspaper articles may be the only thing I ever get published. That said, I cannot stop writing so I will live out this life sentence writing and reading blogs like yours, never giving up hope that someday my skills will improve to the fact I can at least land an agent.

    If you were to write a book for authors of how to polish a ms, and what things to watch for, I'll bet you could make the New York Times best seller list!

    Love these posts so please keep writing them.