What's the number one reason why you reject manuscripts?

There is only one reason I reject manuscripts—I don't think I can sell the book.

Only a publisher would make that distinction, but it's an important one to understand. It's the reason why great manuscripts are sometimes rejected, while lesser manuscripts are sometimes accepted. I will sometimes accept a good (but not great) book because it fills a hole in my product line, or it's really timely and there's nothing else out there like it.

I always reject bad writing—poor technique, grammar, boring, unrealistic, facts and/or citations wrong, etc. The majority of my rejections fall into this category. I haven't done the math, but off the top of my head, I'd say about 90%.

I can't, however, always accept great writing. I will sometimes get a wonderful book that I have to reject because it's not right for my market (mainstream LDS) or I just published one that is too similar or I don't publish in that genre or I don't have the budget required to market it effectively. When this happens, I try to make it clear to the author that it is not the quality of the work I'm rejecting. These books nearly always find a home somewhere, and only rarely does an author feel the need to rub my nose in it. I forgive them because they clearly do not understand the distinction between accepting a book because it is good, and accepting a book because I know I can sell it.


Josi said...

Very interesting--

Anonymous said...


Let's say you request a full. The author sends it to you and for whatever reason you reject it. How often (on a requested ms.) do you do a form rejection as opposed to stating the reasons for rejecting?

If you sent a standard form and an author asked for more information so they could improve on their next manuscript they sent you, would you respond?

Jeff Savage
(But then again. Who is Jeff really?)

Rebecca Talley said...

Thanks for helping us understand rejection from a publisher's point of view.