First, you should know that the manuscript, not the writer, gets rejected – especially if you are a relatively unknown writer. That was why JK Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter got rejected 12 times!!! But we can bet that right now, most publishers would accept virtually anything from her. This is because, first, your work is what pushes you until you get really popular and then your name carries you.

But if you are relatively unknown, then your work is bound to go through intense scrutiny. If the publisher believes it is not up to standard, it gets rejected. The reasons for rejection start with the basics, i.e. the manuscript sucks. The author can’t format/spell/doesn’t know grammar or punctuation. They are clueless about narrative, characterization, plotting, pacing, and can’t write dialogue. You should note that most Editors do not have the time to transform your work into publishable material (except us! We have all the time in the world) so they would most likely throw your work in the trash.

But, your manuscript might fulfil all the requirements needed but can still be rejected. Not nice eh? Here are some reasons why that happens:

  1. Same Old, Same Old: At every point in time, there is usually a particular genre that everyone wants to write on. So if the Editors have too many manuscripts on a particular genre, chances are they will probably reject yours without even opening it. It’s nothing personal.
  2. Accountants Red Flag: The accountants probably don’t know whether a book is publishable or not. But they can have the final say. That’s business. When they deduct all the projected costs like printing, distribution, promotion, overhead, etc. from the expected sales and get a negative figure, you are sure that is the end of the road for your manuscript. You might need to take your manuscript elsewhere.
  3. Sales Man’s Red Flag: Here is another person who probably doesn’t care how beautifully written your book is. You can write a beautiful story about a gay couple and the salesman can give the red flag that gay stories don’t do very well in Nigeria and that will be the end of it.
  4. Genre Ignorance: Not your ignorance now, but that of the publishing house. They might be pros in a particular genre, but might not be great in the genre you are writing on. All your futuristic science fiction idea might not sit well with the publishing house and that might be the end of your work.
  5. Money: The publishing house will not tell you they are in a bad financial situation. They will smile, take your manuscript, tell you they will get back to you. But you can bet the call will be bad news.
  6. Really Personal: Sometimes, rejecting your work could be personal. Maybe you were rude to the receptionist or the security man. Maybe someone has told someone that told someone that you are a nightmare to work with and even though you have a potential masterpiece, no one cares. They just want you out of their publishing house. Sorry.
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But! Truth is, we should all see rejection as a stepping stone. As this article proves, rejection might not be due to the fact you have a terrible manuscript. There might be a whole lot of reasons outside your control or sometimes the publishers might just be plain wrong. So keep going at it and you can be sure you will get that big break.


Samuel Ejedegba