I’m working to being a professional writer, however, I haven’t gone into those advanced stages yet. I’ve only been researching thus far. xD
The question is hard to answer because it honestly depends on why you’re getting rejected. You’re going to get rejected over the smallest reasons and some aren’t about your book at all. One of the main ones would be because it’s not the genre they’re looking for. Even if you’re on submission and there’s publishers who are looking at it and they’ve published within your genre before, but they may not be looking for that genre currently. It could be a YA fantasy, but those publishers are looking for YA romance.
This isn’t to say to write toward the trend. The publishing industry always changes, so if you try to write in what’s trending (what publishers mostly want), it’ll change once you’re ready to submit.
Secondly, they may be rejecting it because it doesn’t have something they want (like a romantic subplot). This actually happened to a woman named Rachel Hollis. She wrote a contemporary story about a young woman (like a 19 year old) who moved across the country to California and became a party planner for celebrities. The story had a lot of acceptance from publishers, but they would only take it under their wings if the author added steamy sex scenes. And this happened to her multiple times. But she disagreed because she didn’t want to write that—it wasn’t a part of the character’s personality since she was naturally innocent (and a virgin). So when she disagreed, they automatically rejected her. They told her that no one would like her story because of that simple fact: how it didn’t have sex in it.
Instead of traditional publishing, she looked into self-publishing, and that’s exactly what she did. She self-published her novels and gained a fan-base through them—heck, her readers enjoyed reading it and how innocent her character was, as if it was a breath of fresh air. So technically, the publishers were wrong. In other news, after its success, she got traditionally published later on with her other books, ones like Girl, Wash Your Face and its sequel Girl, Stop Apologizing.
But something like this doesn’t happen often, so then we kind of go back to square one: what else would’ve been a reason why you were rejected?
Well, another reason could be because they already accepted a story that was similar to yours. If they already have published or are getting ready to publish a story like yours, then then they’re going reject you because they don’t need or want a duplicate. This typically happens when the storyline or theme is a popular idea.
It could’ve been rejected because it didn’t hit the word count target. It could’ve been way under or way over. For debut novels, they tend to look for stories on the shorter side. For example, if you have a high fantasy, it can’t usually be about 40,000 words and it can’t be over 200,000 words. It might be rejected either way. The goal is to be within 80,000-110,000 words, for instance.
It could’ve been rejected because something is wrong with the story. Maybe the publisher can’t tell what the main genre is or what the main plot is about? Maybe the characters are Mary Sues? Maybe there’s a problem with the POV? Maybe there’s problems with the pacing? Or maybe the opening sucks?
When it comes to getting an agent and getting started on your submission, you want to make sure the story is ready. It doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be accepted, especially since you’ll be getting an editor anyway. However, it’s recommended to revise the manuscript at least three to four times before you start agent-hunting. And, when you do this, you want to get some alpha readers, critique partners, anyone who can give you feedback on your story. We often don’t know what’s wrong with our story until someone points it out. And not having any feedback could break your chances of getting an agent or a publisher’s acceptance.
You could’ve been rejected because of your background as an author. Maybe you don’t have a fan base to kick-start it? For publishers and agents, they look for people who either have an amazing story that they can sell or they look for people who already have a strong fan base since they can sell the book through their followers. This is why BookTubers and YouTubers and celebrities can get book deals so easily without much experience. They have a lot of followers who will buy their book and therefore, creates sales and revenue for the publishers and agents. If you don’t have that already, if you don’t have a fan base that will buy your book, they might reject you just because of that.
Or, on an overall scale, it could’ve been rejected simply because you’re not ready. Maybe the story just isn’t good enough because you’re still learning the ropes of things. It depends solely on how long you’ve been writing and what you’ve been doing to improve. Most published authors, and publishers as well as agents, recommend aspiring authors (those who want to be published) to write at least three or so books before they start looking into publishing. Or, it’s because of your age or maybe you’re just not experienced enough. While agents and publishers don’t care about your age (since you can be fifteen years old and still get traditionally published), your writing shows that you’re not ready because you’re an inexperienced writer. Most writers tend to get published in their 30s and 40s so they have experience on under their belt (meaning that they’ve been writing for at least a decade or two). It is becoming a bit of a trend these days where younger writers (teenagers and those in their 20s) start feeling flustered and want to be published before they turn 30 as if the world is ending. So many writers (at least those who are older and a bit wiser than others) tend to recommend everyone to take it slow and take your time with writing and improving yourself.
That’s kind of the reason why I haven’t started looking into publishing yet. While I’ve been writing for ten years, I’ve only been writing seriously for the last six years and I still have a lot of kinks to fix. Plus, I’m still young (I’m twenty-two).
But to answer your question (and stop rambling on—which I’m sorry haha) is that it depends on how you feel about the manuscript. Like the others said, you can get rejected dozens and dozens of times before someone will finally accept it. It happens to every writer who is looking into publishing. Heck, Stephen King almost gave up on his writing because no one would accept his manuscript. He threw it in the trash, his wife dug it out and told him to continue, and when he did, he—later on—did get accepted. Now, he’s one of the most famous horror writers out there!
If you look at your manuscript and feel like you can do better, I would say to move on. Maybe abandoning it isn’t the proper wording I’d use. I’d say to put it back on the shelf for later. After all, maybe after a few years down the road and you still see that book being traditionally published, you can look at it again and rewrite it, and maybe—just maybe—you can put it back through the process.
I also recommend looking at this video (from a published author) about giving up on projects: