Publishing Insight: Why Your Manuscript Might Get Rejected

Information taken from a panel at the JRWC 2014 featuring literary agents: Kaylee Davis from Dee Mura Literary Agency, Katie Grimm from Don Congdon Associates, Kimiko Nakamura from Dee Mura Literary Agency, and editor Stacy Whitman from Tu Books.

Ever wonder why your manuscript isn’t making it past either a.) querying b.) an agent partial/full request c.) publisher submission requests?

Industry insiders provided the following top TWELVE things that might make them say: it’s not me, it’s your manuscript.

# 12:  You’re not following directions . Come on…do the simple things–sending your manuscript (MS) to the wrong person who doesn’t represent that category/genre, etc.

#11:The manuscript doesn’t include enough conflict.

#10: Your dialogue is: not authentic, sparse, dense.

#9: Your manuscript is lacking causality. You should have a domino effect. Each action–> leads to another action.

#8: You should try to read more in your style/genre–easier said than done but FIND THE TIME. Use websites like Goodreads and go to Indie bookstores to find out what books are in your style/genre.

#7: Whatever you do…do not include ANY flat Stanleys! All of your characters should be well-rounded.  Create dynamics and relationships between your characters through dialogue and action. Write bios for every character–even if the reader doesn’t know all of that info, YOU should know.

#6: Beware the cliched beginnings. This speaks for itself (you know: waking up from a dream, protagonist staring at his/her reflection, etc., etc.) Rules, of course, are meant to be broken, though. But it should be GOOD if it’s gonna be cliched.

#5: You’re in everybody’s head. Try not to include too many POVs. If you are, make sure it’s clearly delineated (chapter breaks, page breaks, use the character’s name, etc.)

#4: The manuscript is boring. This is VERY subjective and there wasn’t much discussion here but…if you’re boring yourself and your beta readers, you’re probably gonna bore the agent/editor.

#3: You need to make sure the plot doesn’t plateau. Try to have enough going on. The rule of thumb is to try and to have at least 3-4 things happening in a novel and to resolve at least ONE thing by the end, leave some things up in the air.

#2:  You might have too much exposition–try to cut back and add a little more dialogue. But see # 10 🙂


#1: Don’t bury the lead. Don’t try to trick the reader, unless of course you’re working with an unreliable narrator. If that’s the case, make sure the character isn’t flat and the others around them are amazing, too!

That’s all we got. What’s something that was left off this list?