Five Tips to Avoid a Rejection Letter

Shut Up & Write! 5 Tips to Avoid Rejection Letters

I’ve had my share of rejection letters. Even though I now have three books published, I still get that terrible twist in my gut when a new email pops up from my editor: Has my latest submission received a red light? Is my career with this publisher over? Maybe I worry too much, but I know there are thousands of writers lined up behind me, quite capable of doing a better job if I slack off.

There are many thousands more writers, however, who will write a good story but never see it published. Why? Because they didn’t heed certain warnings. They thought their story was so compelling, they’d be the exception to all the rules. Honestly, that only makes it easier for the rest of us who DO follow the rules.

Yes, you need to have a compelling story. Of course, that’s the most important part. Write the best book you can. Pour your heart and soul into it. When you’re done, celebrate your accomplishment – after all, most people who set out to write a book never finish.

Now, take a deep breath and get back to work. There’s more to do if you want your book to have a chance at being published.

Though an acceptance is never guaranteed, I’ve learned a few strategies to reduce the chance my hard work will be tossed aside. Some are simple, others take more work. But I’ve boiled them down into these five tips:

#1 – Edit Your Work

Then edit it twenty more times. Then get someone else to edit it for you. I can’t emphasize this enough. Typos, grammatical mistakes and plot holes are going to tell the reader you aren’t serious about your work, so why should a publisher waste their time with it? You have one shot with this agent/publisher so make it count.

#2 – Do Your Research

Do this before you send your submission. Does the agent/publisher deal with your genre? What have they published lately? Is it similar at all to yours? Don’t send a historical fiction to an agent whose bio says they love young adult fiction. Do appropriate matchmaking for your manuscript.

#3 – Follow the Guidelines

This should go without saying… follow the submission guidelines exactly. Each agent/publisher is going to have a different set of requirements. One may want ten pages attached, while another will want a detailed synopsis pasted in the body of the email. If they ask for double-spaced, one-inch margins, then make sure you’ve formatted your manuscript accordingly. If you mess this up, you’ve lost your opportunity for them to even read your work.

#4 – Be Professional

You aren’t doing them a favor by allowing them the chance at publishing your work. The stranger you’re writing to isn’t your best friend, and won’t think it’s refreshing to be addressed in a casual manner. Be humble and professional. Be grateful they’re taking the time to consider your work. Write your query letter with this in mind.

#5 – Revise and Submit isn’t a Rejection

If you get a “revise and submit,” take a moment to jump for joy. This isn’t a rejection. They are interested in your manuscript and that’s HUGE. Read their suggestions carefully and take your time with the revisions. You’ve been given the gift of a second chance. Get it right. If you send a revised manuscript back in a few days, they’ll know you did a rush job. Take a couple of months – they’ll wait.

You can do all of this and still get rejected. This is a tough, tough business. But trust me, if you heed this advice, you’ll be far ahead of the pack.

Published by Julie Howard

Boise City Manager at Shut Up & Write! Julie Howard leads Shut Up & Write groups in Boise, Idaho. She is the author of “Crime and Paradise,” “Crime Times Two,” and “Spirited Quest.” She is currently on pins and needles waiting to see if her fourth book will be contracted by her publisher, The Wild Rose Press. More about her and her books are at or find her on Twitter at @_juliemhoward.

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