Fiction Writing Blues: Why Editors Reject Novels #writing #fiction #romance #paranormal

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

Why do book editors reject novels?     

As a book writing coach, I answer that question a lot when folks want to know how to polish their fiction-writing after a rejection. 

As strange as it may seem, even good book writing gets rejected sometimes.  In the Western genre, for instance, the bottom fell out of the paperback market for awhile. As a result, only the best of the best published authors, who had a strong and loyal reading audience, got offered contracts for Western paperbacks.

Fortunately, publishing is a cyclical business.  Remember the days when no editor would touch a "fantasy" with Romance in it?  Or when teen fiction was limited to the Goosebumps series of R.L. Stine?  Or when Mystery readers only had cozies and hard-boiled detective fiction to choose from?

Okay.  So say you're writing a popular fiction genre (like Regency Romance or Urban Fantasy.) Sales are booming, and you still can't find an editor to buy your book. Now what's the problem? 

It's a lot harder to explain why book editors reject fiction writers who appear to be doing everything right. One of my students falls into this category. She’s writing Romance novels, which statistically outsell every other fiction genre. She has taken a half-dozen online writing courses. She has workshopped her manuscript with at least three published Romance authors. She has hobnobbed with book editors and literary agents at writing conferences.  She has even won an award as an up-and-coming author. 

So why do book editors continue to send back her fiction proposal?

I have to admit, I'm beginning to think that her writing isn’t the problem.  

Novel Writing Coach, story critiques, manuscript critiques

The frustration of my writing student has motivated me to write a free, downloadable report titled, 20 Questions an Editor Asks before Buying Your Book. This title refers to the many personal and professional considerations that impact the book buying decisions made by editors at legacy publishing houses. 

On the personal side, for instance, book editors have to read your manuscript a minimum of 2 times (plus all your revisions) before your story goes to press. Mind-boggling, eh?  If I was a book editor who had to read every blessed word in a 400-page manuscript more than 2 times, you can be sure that I would only purchase a story that I absolutely loved!

On the professional side, editors have to contend with a research and / or marketing department that heavily influences buying decisions. For instance, editors may be forced to reject a novel because the Research department claims that medieval settings are out of vogue; that medical thrillers set in rural America are on the wane; or that zombie lovers are not the next hot trend. (Note: The previous examples were not based on insider knowledge. I offered them merely to illustrate a point.)

character worksheets, character templates, romance novelsHere's another eye-opener:  in mega corporations like Doubleday Random House, fiction book editors don't make decisions all by their lonesome.  If they fall in love with your story, they have to convince a whole slew of other publishing professionals (sometimes referred to as the Editorial Committee) that you're worth spending money on -- and I'm not just talking about your advance against royalties. 

Publishers have to hire an artist and models to pose for your book cover's illustration.  They have to consider the price of advertising and promotion, commodities (like paper), and the commissions that they'll owe to their sales team for shopping your book to national distributors.

In short, publishers incur a lot of operating expenses to print and market a book.  So you can bet that the book editor who is reading your story for the first time is not only evaluating your writing skills, she's weighing the business consequences of championing your fiction proposal to the Editorial Committee.  If your story should fail to generate revenue for her employer, the publisher, she'll have some explaining to do.  And if that editor finds herself buying a few too many books that bomb financially . . . 

Well, let's just say that book editors have career aspirations, too.

If you want to know how to become an author, here’s my best advice:   keep the faith in your publication dream, and write books. In the immortal words of Irwin Shaw, "If you're a real writer, you'll write no matter what."