This post by Dave King originally appeared on Writer Unboxed on 3/18/14. Since it’s addressed primarily to those seeking mainstream, traditional publication it may not seem like a fit for Publetariat, but now that many are making the wise decision to adopt a hybrid publication model, it will likely be of interest to many Publetariat readers.
Writing never feels more lonely than after you’ve sent your manuscript out to every agent and publisher you can think of and gotten nowhere. Of course, you can always take comfort in the long list of massively successful books that were initially rejected by nearly everyone who saw them. But for every brilliant book that gets rejected out of blindness or stupidity, there are thousands that get rejected because they’re just not very good. How can you tell which camp you fall into?
The quality of your rejections are a good sign. Granted, form rejections don’t tell you much, but if all of your rejections are form letters, it’s probably time to either start a major rewrite or put this manuscript in a drawer and start the next one. (If your manuscript is getting repeatedly turned down on the query alone, you might want to take a second look at your query letter.) If you’re getting glowing rejections (“I love the book, but it’s not right for our list.”) then you’re probably doing something right and should keep sending the manuscript out — though you might want to refine your agent search to make it more likely it will hit the right desk. And it’s still a good sign even if you’re getting, “I love the book, but . . . “ If a publishing professional has taken time to give you free advice, then your manuscript is probably worth the effort.