Never give up but also be realistic.

So first off this is aimed mostly at writers trying to write professionally, mainly novelist. If you have finished work and are in the advanced stages such as, seeking an agent, query letters and all that, then this is mainly who I am pointing this at.

Okay, so if your dream is to be a traditionally published author but you are washing out left and right despite months and sometimes years of work and “fixing” there comes a time when you have to face reality. Now I am not saying give up writing, I’m simply saying at what point do you realize that a particular novel isn’t going to make it?

Our completed novels are like our children, we brought them into this world and we love them, we think they are masterpieces and they are sure to make it… but reality is not so kind. Here is a bit of comedy or at least I mean it that way, but have you ever seen an ugly baby? Well I don’t expect anyone to admit it because what kind of monster are you right, but we all know we have. The mother sees her child as the most beautiful kid on earth, well that’s us with our novels. We love them and to us they are bound for greatness and if there is bad we wont accept it, we simply say “It just needs some work.”

So… here is my question, after how many rejections, how many wash-outs and how much time without reads must pass before you face a hard and terrible truth that just because YOU love your book, does not mean others do also. Mostly however, at what point do you move on to another project and abandon your precious creation?

Hi there. I moved your thread to the Industry Insider club as it’s best suited there. Thank you for understanding.

Alicia -

Wattpad Ambassador/Mod

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A manuscript can be rejected literally dozens of times and then accepted somewhere. Editors and other literary gate-keepers are not uniform in their likes and dislikes. The important thing is to maintain perspective. “A Confederacy of Dunces” was rejected multiple times by multiple publishers. John Kennedy Toole, its author, killed himself. After his death, his mother began submitting the novel. It was rejected seven more times. She then began to hound, if not to say stalk, a famous author teaching at Loyola University in an effort to get him to read it. He made every excuse not to, until she physically handed him the manuscript.

In 1981, “A Confederacy of Dunces” won the Pulitzer for Fiction.

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My opinion…

Trad pub is HARD. Very hard. So incredibly competitive. It can takes years and years and MANY manuscripts before you get an agent and/or a publishing deal. That is reality.

What that means to me is that when you start querying a project – actually even before that – you start working on another. To focus only on the book that’s being queried as if it’s your golden hope, that it’s your everything, that there’s nothing but this masterpiece – that way lies heartbreak and failure.

Get the book ready to query. Set aside some time every day or two to work on querying. But turn your creative attention to the next book.

When to stop querying?

  • If you’re getting no nibble on the query package, there’s likely something wrong with the query – or your first five pages aren’t up to par. STOP QUERYING. Fix the problem. (This is why the general recommendation is to query in batches of 5-10 agents at a time.)

  • If you’re getting partial requests but rejections with no requests for fulls, the query is fine. There’s an issue with either your story or your writing. STOP QUERYING. Fix the problem.

  • If you’re getting full requests, and you’re getting feedback, you’re probably getting close. Your writing itself is likely ready for prime time. This story may or may not be. Keep querying, unless you decide to revise based on feedback. (if the feedback is all over the place, your story may be fundamentally flawed. It may take a serious rewrite to fix issues at that level.)

  • When do you really stop querying and give up? When you’ve either blown through ALL the agents who rep a small genre (like sci-fi romance) OR you’ve queried at least 100 agents OR you’ve realized the book needs more in-depth rewrites than you feel capable of doing OR you’re so sick of the book you’re ready to trunk it.

It’s not a crime to realize that you’ve queried too soon or that your book isn’t really ready for traditional publishing. Frankly it’s a worse crime to refuse to believe that when the results are screaming it at you. You cannot improve if you can’t be objective about your work.

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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:

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Thank you everyone, these were all some great views and insights!

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I think I have watched several of her videos and even found her books in several stores, she is awesome.

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This is actually a really smart process of elimination to narrow down your problems, seriously thank you!

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I had no idea about this story and it is both tragic and amazing, he finally made it but after his death… very sad!

I don’t know if I’d abandon a book I believed in, even if it was repeatedly declined by publishers. I’d probably just self-publish it and query my other works. If I really believed that it was “bad” and needed a lot of work I would take a chunk of time away from it and then rewrite it or get some in-depth critiques on how to make it better.

Traditional publishing is really hard. And although I don’t know the exact ratio, I’d say only .1% of all submissions to agents ever get picked up by a publisher. Agents reject a huge % of queries, and even if you get an agent to represent your book, they won’t be able to place a fairly good % of the clients they take on.

The problem is you don’t know WHY a particular piece is rejected. Is it because…

1.Your writing isn’t up to primetime standards?
2. Your query letter wasn’t well-crafted?
3. Your idea isn’t marketable?
4. Your genre isn’t the agent’s cup of tea?
5. Your book is too similar to other works they’ve recently placed?

Any of these can stand in your way. If it’s #1…you need to work on improving your writing skills. If #2, it MAY eventually get picked up, so you just have to keep submitting. If it is #3, then you might have to do research on what is being picked up and what isn’t. If it is #4, you need to do better agent research, if it is #5, it might have to go into a drawer until some times goes by.

When I was working at getting published my approach was to immediately start a new project while I queried the one I just finished. Now, with 20/20 hindsight I can see why each of my first 13 novels were rejected, but I just kept at it and #14 was the magic number.

Now, I should say that I did eventually get fed up and I did quit writing (for more than a decade) but when I came back to it, I was almost immediately successful, which makes me regret the 10 years I was away from the game.

Very true.

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So would you recommend taking a break every now and then, maybe revisit with fresh eyes and clear mind?

This is fantastic but it makes me want a glass (or several) of wine…

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I feel I can reject this notion with a single phrase:

“Do what thou wilt” ~ Aleister Crowley.

Why? Because, at the end of the day the biggest mistake in writing is to write for what other people want instead of writing for yourself. Do as you will, writing for others’ entertainment is a fallacy that will quickly eradicate the enjoyment and creativity put into a work. I believe writing for your own enjoyment is much more important than writing to make a product. Just like music of this era, products sell, but we should remember that creativity must continue to be promoted in one’s own work.

If you’re not proud of what you make creatively, what exactly are you doing with creativity?
If you cannot properly portray your own emotions, what is to think “creatively” then?

At the end of the day, just do what you do, really.
(sorry if I sound rude or condescending in this reply, I only disagree with parts of this post)

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I can agree with some of this but I will say that if you write novels you defiantly are not doing it just for yourself or because you love writing. Yes we write because we love it but we also want to be read, take for example a musician or casual guitar player. Now they can come home from work and strum a few chords to relax or learn a cover song and show it off at a party. Casual writers can also write journals or a diary just for themselves but novelist absolutely one hundred percent do it not only for themselves but for others.

I can not think of one novelist who pours months and years into a polished manuscript and stands up and says, “Ah that was relaxing, I’ll just set this on a shelf and do it again for fun.”

No, if you write that seriously and create that much content… you want to be read and others approval, it is just a reality.

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Which notion? The notion of aiming toward traditional publication? Sorry, but there are high standards and narrow gates for traditional publication. That’s the OP’s goal. Just because it’s not your goal doesn’t make it wrong.

Doing what you do doesn’t mean you’re any good at it – and wanting to be good at it is, again, not wrong.

(Hell, even Crowley worked his ass off to be good at what he was passionate about.)

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Continue to struggle with this… I have the full requests. I have the feedback. Most of it just tells me… I have a hard fit. Though i got a PAINFULLY nasty rejection on a query on Monday. And now… I have new first pages lol. We’ll see if that works. Trying to decide if I like it. I think for me, I know I have a tough fit but I also… knew the first pages were a tough sell. Maybe if i can change that I’ll get more requests :sweat_smile:

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Its a good question. Haven’t found the answer yet. I think one of the reasons its so hard to drop this book is the true following of dedicated fans i have found for it here. Not just “that was good” fans, but people who said it fundamentally effected them on an emotional level. Gotta believe there is an agent for that. Might be wrong but feels worth continuing to try. Generally I have heard that after 100 rejections one might want to think about other options for a project. But i think @XimeraGrey and @MichaelJSullivan’s posts fit with everything I have heard. You have to judge reactions and adjust accordingly

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True, you won’t get anywhere without hard work, my point was not to say “Hard work won’t get you anywhere”. “Do what you want” does not equal to laziness.

My point was to say that writing for yourself is more important than writing for others (unless you’re writing to be factually correct, then writing for the reader is a necessity). Thinking “Hm, I wonder what people want me to say” before writing is the first step to digging yourself a hole. The second step, actually jumping into the hole, is when you begin writing for other people’s entertainment.

Yes, you do need to be read, your work needs to be readable and in a good, readable form. However, if I was forced to write for some kind of audience that wants me to dance around for them, I’d rather take a bath in a volcano. Then again, this might be too much bias on my part, but I’m not a fan of an industry which uses an artist as a pawn in a large garbage collecting game to see who has more garbage than their competition. It’s really just a blatant contradiction to art. At least in my opinion.

And I’m completely new to the book industry, I’m more familiar with music and stuff. So feel free to fill me in on something I’m missing here.

@XimeraGrey