Why is My Book Getting Rejected?

Every writer, on some level, struggles with rejection. Often you're left with no rhyme or reason as to why your book is being rejected by publishers and agents. It’s crickets. The worst is when you start receiving contradictory rejections. One person likes this part of the book idea; another doesn’t.


Have you ever wondered why your book is getting rejected?


It’s a little bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? This porridge is too cold, this one too hot.... Every writer wants to find that sweet spot, the one that is just right.


Can we offer some advice as to why you’re getting rejected?


If you’ve done your homework - honed your query letter and polished your book proposal - then maybe the problem isn’t the things you’ve done, it’s this one small thing you didn’t do.


As literary agents, we look for the smooth handle for your book idea. It’s the secret sauce that elevates your book idea to the next level: Create a...

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Don't Make This Mistake

There’s this funny thing writers do and it’s a big mistake.

During a recent conversation with a potential author client, he said he had a book idea that he was really excited about, but he was saving it for his second book because he believed there was a different book he had to write first. What?!

This is a huge mistake. 

Don’t delay your big idea. 

If you’ve got a great book idea that you are excited about, write that book! There are no rules that say which order books should be written in; unless it's a series, obviously. This might seem straightforward, but the writer's brain is constantly creating hurdles and rules. You should always question the rules. It helps to say them out loud or ask yourself, "Would I share this rule as advice with a fellow writer?"

Here’s what we like to tell our clients: Go where the wind is at your back. Whether that’s a book idea or a chapter in your book proposal. Use...

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PUBLISHING MARKET UPDATE; Vol. 3, Issue 6

We are definitely seeing a slowing in several sectors of the publishing industry. The weekly numbers for May 2022 are reported later in the Update.


Wall Street Watch


The numbers for the first quarter of 2022 are coming in from Wall Street.  The results are mixed.  


We have no doubt seen a slowdown from the red-hot pandemic-fueled periods of 2020 and 2021.  But, while sales numbers for 2022 are fairly decent overall, some in the industry are clearly feeling the pinch on the profit line thanks to a steady dose of higher costs, supply chain delays, and inflation.  


For instance, HarperCollins reported a 5% increase in sales in the first 3 months of this year but settled with a 16% decrease in earnings compared to the same period last year. Most of the revenue increase can be attributed to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt acquisition, but that wasn’t nearly enough to save the bottom line.


Hachette parent Lagardere was similarly helped by acquiring...

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The Unofficial Start to Summer Goals

Whether you are ready for it or not, summer is here! That means sunshine, ice cream, and vacation. It also means there’s a new season ahead of you. What are you going to do with this time?


For some authors, summer is a bonus season. With kiddos home from school, and vacation vibes all around, anything they can get done during this time is a bonus. That’s why goals beat intentionality when it comes to taking advantage of this or any season of life. 


There is a belief out there that if you want something badly enough, you will make it happen. You will overcome the obstacles in your way and triumph. Passion makes for great Nike ads and the best kinds of movies. We love a character that digs deep and wants it badly enough. “Alexa, play Eye of the Tiger.” But where does that leave the rest of us when our gas tank is empty? 


Passion can be a lousy friend if you’re waiting on it to help you achieve your writing goals. 


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Why Your Word Count Matters

Your word count matters.

Should you be concerned with your book’s word count? Absolutely. Knowing and understanding why word count matters is an important indicator for your project. Let’s make sense of these numbers.

One of the scariest requests a writer can get is to add words to a manuscript she thinks is complete. Suddenly, what you thought was done or close to it, needs an extra chapter or (and this happens) an extra 5,000 or 10,000 words. That’s a lot of words to add to something you thought was done. But why does word count matter? Wouldn’t coming in with a low word count just mean the book will be shorter?

It’s not quite that simple.

There are two reasons why word count is important.

The first reason is word count helps a reader determine if your book is a fit for him. Every reader has an expectation for how long a book will be based on the genre they are wanting to read. For example, if you write a novel and it is long, like Russian...

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PUBLISHING MARKET UPDATE, VOL. 3, ISSUE 5

Wanna make it big on TikTok?!  Yes, if you’re an author you do—particularly a fiction author.

What is #BookTok?! 

#BookTok is a linkable “hashtag” inside of the TikTok app, and somehow it is driving book sales in a big way.  TikTok is probably not the social media platform that you would assume would be frequented by voracious readers. But apparently, they are on there. Reader-fans are going on TikTok, sharing about their new favorite book(s), and tagging them with “#BookTok.”  And the click-throughs go wild.

The smart people at NPD BookScan did some digging into this latest book marketing phenomenon. They tracked a group of 90 fiction authors who were featured on #BookTok.  Comparing those authors’ sales in 2020 (before #BookTok started) to 2021, they found that those #BookTok authors saw sales growth of 73% for the titles being tracked.  Those authors alone saw sales go from 9 million copies to 20...

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Publishing Market Update; Vol. 3, Issue 4

 Barnes & Noble Reports Solid Growth 

B&N CEO James Daunt reported in an interview with Publishers Weekly that despite a slow December due to the omicron COVID variant, B&N stores were trending 5%-6% above pre-pandemic 2019 numbers.  Daunt cited two factors that drove increases in overall book sales: backlist sales and BookTok.  BookTok seems to have ignited the interest of young people in books, with teenagers and young adults responding to the recent hashtag-related social media marketing trend.

Daunt also credited the hasty store remodeling that occurred during the pandemic as a source of increased foot traffic and corresponding product sales.  While that effort was done mostly with existing furniture and fixtures, B&N is now taking about 30-40 stores through a more comprehensive remodel, with the plan to update all locations as soon as feasible.

Amazon Shutters

Well, its bookstores, anyway.  Amazon has announced the closing of all...

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What Value Are You Bringing?

Every successful author adds value. They build a bridge to their audience with that value. It’s why we subscribe, follow, and listen to them. Whether it’s purely for entertainment or wisdom or insight, value is what every author has to bring if they want to succeed

That’s why it’s important to stop what you are doing today and ask yourself, “What value am I bringing to my audience?”

This question plays a huge part in determining the felt need for the books you write. The things you feed your audience should be tiny morsels for the main course - your book. Value is what keeps them coming back for more. 

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“The smart author knows that everything begins with delivering value consistently.” 

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Check out this quote from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: “Good marketing can sell once, but only a good product can sell twice. In the long run, your performance reverts...

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The Secret to Becoming a Better Writer

Everyone wants to be a better writer. Even if you’ve crossed that finish line and become a bestselling author, there’s still room for growth. 

As agents, we want writers that care about craft. Your writing matters - the voice, the style…even the punctuation. And while we might not grade you too harshly on that last one, you must show us you care about craft too. 

That’s why we want to share with you the secret to becoming a better writer. 

It’s not a magic trick or a style guide, though the last one will help you. 

It’s not a course or a lecture or a YouTube video. 

It’s like most secrets: It’s very simple. 

The secret to becoming a better writer is to become a reader. 

That’s it. 

Great writers read. They read widely, across genres. We wouldn’t say it’s impossible to be a writer without being a reader, but it sure does make it a lot harder. 

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How to Query an Agent

Ah yes, the query letter. Feared and dreaded by every writer, it’s the magical key to unlocking the door that leads you to a literary agent. There’s a lot of information available on how to query a literary agent, and most of it is useful. Today, we’re going to look at a few pro tips for how to query an agent and unlock that door. 

First, only submit a query letter to an agent you’ve done some research on. Know their name and use it in your letter. Mention a previous book that the agent worked on that you enjoyed, too. Here’s an example: “I enjoyed Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. I saw your name in the acknowledgments section at the back of the book.” Mentioning past projects is a small thing that goes a long way with agents, and it lets us know you’ve done your homework. 

A query letter should do two things really well: be brief and specific. It needs to be no more than a page long. You’ve only got a...

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