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Writing and Publishing

A Creative Way to Deal with Rejection

Rejection hurts. We’ve all heard stories of popular books that had scores of editors or publishers reject them before someone realized the potential and published them. The rest is publishing history.

Since writers deal with a lot of rejection, Writer’s Digest had the idea to provide a creative outlet for them to vent their frustration. They called it “Reject a Hit.” The popular feature ran for many years.

The premise was to pick an immensely successful book and write a fictitious rejection letter. It offered a safe way to allow authors to poke fun at the gatekeepers who blocked their path to publication. You can read some of these letters online.

I sent them my contribution, but the magazine shuttered the column about the time I made my submission. It never ran, and there is no suitable outlet to share my prose.

So, I’ll post it here:

Reject a Hit: The Bible

God,

I was a bit surprised to receive your submission for the Bible. Though I had lofty expectations, the writing left me disappointed, and the substance perplexed me.

First, this is an anthology—sort of. Anthology contributors should be contemporaries, not span several centuries. And you must pick one genre. Jumping from historical nonfiction to poetry is a stretch, and the prophetic works are repetitive.

Though I like the biographies of Jesus, do you really need four?

Dystopian is hot now. Could you rework it?

The writing styles are also jarring. Paul’s rhetoric annoys me. John’s words have a lyrical flow but confuse me. David’s poems seem bipolar. Luke’s writing is solid, though he does switch perspectives in the middle of Acts.

Also, there are too many layers here. It would take a lifetime to grasp; no one will invest that much time in one book.

Plus, the Bible is no place for violence, incest, and rape. Your characters must be wholesome if you want acceptance by religious book buyers. Additionally, I suggest you remove “Song of Songs.” It borders on erotica.

With great trepidation, I must reject your submission—all the while praying you don’t strike me dead. From a business standpoint, I don’t see an upside to this. I can appreciate that you expect the Bible will become the most popular book ever, but that’s unrealistic. Not even your contributors will buy a copy—they’re all dead.

Though I don’t see any future in this as a book, you may want to consider movies. There are a couple of good stories hidden in its pages. With some poetic license and the right director, you may be able to salvage some of this.

Sincerely

Rev. Uptight Preacher, PhD

Religion Editor, Pharisee Press


Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

How to Format Your Submission

There are two main points for the proper way to format your submission.

First, there are common basic criteria that almost all people agree on.

Second, most publishers and editors will tell you what else they expect in their submission guidelines. So, follow these basic formatting expectations in all your work, and then tweak it as needed for specific instances.

Here are the basics:

  • Times New Roman font: 12 points, black
  • Double-spacing between lines
  • Only one space to end a sentence
  • Flush left and jagged right (that is, left-justified but not right)
  • Indented paragraphs, usually a half an inch (Use the indentation setting in your word processor; don’t use a certain number of spaces or set a tab.)
  • One-inch top and bottom margins
  • Equal side margins (usually either one inch or one and a half inches)
  • Don’t have a hard break (that is, a “carriage return”) at the end of each line.
  • Don’t add an extra line at the end of a paragraph, except for a scene break or transition).

If you follow these basics, few editors will object, and most will consider you a pro.

Here are some bonus considerations:

  • Don’t format the margins differently on odd and even pages (as you would see in a book).
  • On the first page, include your name and contact information (email, phone, and mailing address) at the top, along with the word count (and with articles and short stories, indicate the rights you are offering). Some publications will specify that you put this information in the top right and others, the top left. Some will say to put this in the header and others will specify the top of the page, so expect some variation, but the key is to not omit this critical information.
  • For all other pages, add a header with your last name, short title, and the page number. There may be some variations on this too, but the main thing is to have this key information in a header (or footer), not on the page itself.

Last, don’t let formatting paralyze you. In almost all cases, editors will fix a minor deviation or two without complaint. They generally want you to succeed. Following conventional formatting—along with great writing—will help get your work published.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Common Submission Errors

Here are the three biggest mistakes people make when submitting content for publication. Avoid these common submission errors :

1. Not Following Submission Guidelines

The first submission error is not following directions.

Adhering to submission guidelines helps increase the chance of them publishing your work. Each deviation lessens the likelihood of success.

Common mistakes include missing deadlines (a huge no-no), submitting content not accepted by the publication, and having a piece that’s the wrong length. Too many writers ignore the directions for submissions.

2. Not Proofreading Their Work

The second submission mistake is not proofreading their submission.

Most editors will overlook an error or two, but when it’s clear that the author never even ran spellcheck, it’s obvious they haven’t bothered to send their best work, and they expect me to clean it up. Sometimes I don’t have the time, but it always irritates me,

3. Not Adhering to Writing Conventions

The third submission error is using non-standard formatting.

Some writers must think that creative formatting equals creative writing. It does not. They use odd fonts or switch fonts within the piece, various point sizes, multiple colors, and lots of bold, italics, underline, all three, and ALL CAPS.

All these things require work to clean up. Make it simple for editors by submitting a clean copy with no embellished formatting.

To have the best chance of success, avoid these common submission errors.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Should You Expect Submission Feedback?

Many writers wish editors, agents, and publishers would give feedback when they reject a submission, but they don’t. As a writer, I share this frustration. As a publisher, I know the reason why they don’t provide submission feedback.

After trying in vain to give writers feedback and wasting way too much time in the process, I’ve simply given up. I can better spend my time working with the submissions I accept to make them the best they can be.

When I reject a submission, it’s usually with a short message: “I have decided to pass. Sorry.” This is curt, but anything more, especially to tell them why, inevitably spirals into a series of email exchanges, which are time-consuming and seldom productive.

Few people who’ve asked for my feedback truly want to improve. Instead, they hope they can talk me into changing my mind.

If a person submits something clearly outside the type of content my publications use, I just delete their message. This may seem harsh, too, yet they didn’t even bother to read the submission guidelines and don’t have a clue about what we publish. I owe them nothing.

By the way, I get ten or more unsolicited submissions a day, along with several hundred spam emails. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference. It takes too much time to wade through them. I, like every other publisher, editor, and agent, am pressed for time. I need to make every minute count.

Instead of hoping for submission feedback, use other resources to improve as a writer. Then submit your best work according to the submission guidelines. That’s what I do.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

What Does It Mean When a Publisher Rejects Our Book?

No one likes to hear “no” but it’s part of writing, and we need to understand it

We work hard to write a book. We edit, seek feedback, and hire professional help. It’s our baby, and we love it. We cherish each word. We send it into the world with high expectations, but someone shoots it down by rejecting it. We must learn how to deal with rejection and we must learn what rejection means:

The Book Isn’t Ready: Sometimes our book isn’t as mature as we thought. It may require more work, or we may need more time to improve as a writer. If we push our book into the world before it is ready, we’re bound to hear “no.” Yep. I’ve done that.

The Concept Isn’t Good: Other times our writing is great, but the concept behind it isn’t strong. Excellent writing seldom salvages a weak idea. I’ve had my share of bad ideas.

The Execution Falters: Another possibility, despite good writing in support of a great concept, occurs when the implementation falls short of expectations. I’ve had great ideas I wasn’t ready to pull off.

The Platform Isn’t Big Enough: The sad reality of writing is that writing a great book isn’t enough. We also need the means to promote our books. That means we need a following. The publishing industry calls this a platform. Though our book can contain great writing around a unique premise with superb execution, we might still hear a “no” if our platform is deemed inadequate. Yep, I’ve heard that, too.

The Timing is Wrong: Publishers strive to publish books that people will buy. Sometimes readers grow tired of a certain genre or want to move to a different experience. That’s when publishers will stop producing one type of book in favor of another. The book we just finished may be a victim of a changing market. Perhaps in a few years, the pendulum will swing back.

They Don’t Know How to Market It: Even when we hit all of the preceding items, the publisher may not know how to market the book. They reject our submission, not because it’s bad, but because they don’t know what to do with it.

It’s a Great Book That Doesn’t Fit Their Vision: Last, everything with our book could align, but it’s not what the publisher wants at this time. There could be a number of reasons for this, and each one falls outside of our control. Just because a publisher won’t publish a book, doesn’t mean it isn’t quality work. Their rejection doesn’t automatically mean our book is no good. It could suggest something else. 

As writers, we need to understand the various causes of rejection. Although I don’t know for sure, I suspect all of these have happened to me.

Though we have no influence over some of these reasons for rejection, we need to do all we can to avoid the ones we can control. This starts by submitting our best work and continues as we seek to improve our writing. These are the two keys to success.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.