7 Reasons Why Publishers Reject Manuscripts

by CJ McDaniel // October 11  

If you’ve ever had your manuscript rejected by a publisher, you’re in good company. Even the greatest writers have been rejected at least once. If you have a dream of one day becoming a published author, the best thing is to not take it personally. It’s not a true reflection of your work, but you should pay attention.

Publishers have extremely high standards. They put all their money, time, and effort into publishing and marketing books. If yours isn’t up to par, they have no qualms about rejecting you right off the bat. So, rather than letting it turn you away from writing, learn from the process. Recognize that there are numerous avenues for getting published.

The best way to handle rejection is to learn about what you did wrong. Most publishers will take the time to tell you why they rejected your work. Listen carefully and apply their corrections. Maybe you can reapply with them, or use what you learned to apply to different companies.

Here’s a list of 10 reasons why publishers will reject your manuscript:

1) You’re Trying too Hard to Follow a Trend

Yes, we know vampires were a thing after Twilight, and Wizards after Harry Potter. The thing is, writers flood the market with those types of stories, trying to cash in. If you try to do the same, it gets boring. You appear unauthentic. It’s the same stories getting retold repeatedly. Write your own story and create your own unique world.


2) Your Work is too Complicated.

So, you might think in a world where “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” exists, it’s easy for publishers to take chances. They’re some of the bestselling books in the world and have a complex plot with a list of characters a mile long. But, while they passed inspection, in a lot of cases, publishers will put your book down if it’s too complicated and tricky to read.

3) Your Book Starts Weak

It’s completely understandable that a lot of authors need time to get warmed up. Knowing how to start your manuscript is one of the most agonizing decisions a writer makes. If it’s boring and slow, it will fail to pull in the writer. So, publishers are especially careful with picking up an especially slow start to a book.

4) Characters Who Aren’t Special

Getting into the meat of your story, you have to create a character that people care about. They must fall in love and become enveloped in their story. If the publisher doesn’t sense any care for the character, they’ll reject your manuscript. Therefore, they’ll have no reason to accept it!

5) Too Many Stock Characters

In the same vein as following a trend, there are way too many stock characters in books out there today. The “billionaire evil genius” or the “beautiful blonde bombshell”. It’s boring and no one cares anymore. The best books created uniquely complex characters at the right time.

6) It’s too Preachy

A lot of stories have a moral story. That’s great, but most people don’t want something that’s extra preachy or has a moral objective they won’t reason with. Don’t create a message on the first page, either. It must be something that develops throughout an interesting plot. A moral message, in itself, isn’t interesting reading.

7) Unclear Query Letters

When you write a query letter, your goal is to sell your book to the publisher. Many writers just go on and on about how good the book is, but offer little in why. If your query letter is just a glorified “why my book is wonderful” piece, you’ll get rejected. So, you give the publisher no reason to accept your manuscript.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!