Five Ways to Have Your Manuscript Rejected

18 Nov

Though I have never queried an agent or editor, I can safely pull out a few no-nos when it comes to submissions. On the theory side, I have done enough research/reading. (You see, I’m hoping I could use some of it soon enough. Oh wait, for that I need a novel first. Argh.) And on the practical side? Querying agents is similar to selling your work as a freelancer (like pitching an idea to a magazine editor). In some ways, that is. So, now that I have those teensy-weensy obligations aside, let’s check out what can fail you, big time.

Shh . . .Don’t Tell Your Agent. . .

1. “I am still at page 5 of my manuscript but my story-idea is so strong you will keep wanting more”: Umm. Maybe, yes. Your idea is awesome. However, it is just that. An idea. And agents don’t sell ideasthey sell books. But you knew that already, right? So don’t even think about querying an agent yet. It is like selling when you don’t have anything to sell.

2. “I am in dire need of financial support; this book is my only hope”: That may be true and you may be being honest. The only glitch, though, is that you don’t have to. You are writing to an agent who will sell your book. Please don’t do it as if you were applying for a grant. Besides, it won’t gain you any brownie points with the agent. At most, they will find you unfit for the book promotion. Stick to the query.

3. “My story is a going to break all records!”: I’m sure even J K Rowling never said that in her queries (and still got rejected several times). Confidence is good; arrogance is not. Telling an agent what works is like telling a Noble-prize winning scientist how to peek into a microscope!

4. “I don’t have a website yet”: This is like cutting out better chances to be consideredseriously, if you don’t have a website, a blog or even a Twitter, keep the details out. If an agent likes your work, they are sure to search for you. Or they will ask your virtual whereabouts. Let them decide. Better yet, start making some noise online before you query.

5. “Dear Agent Edwarda”: Hmm. All well here. Except that it’s Agent Edward. Please use the right salutation/first-name/last-name. And please don’t change their sexes! ;)

That’s about it. In short, turn up with a positive, healthy attitude toward yourself and show them your best side. Simple eh? Remember, agents are always reading the queries with an eye for rejectionthey want to dash through the slush! So keep these tips handy; bookmark this page and use it as a check-list when you’re sending out that email.

But wait, before anything, to the comments lovelies!

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28 Responses to “Five Ways to Have Your Manuscript Rejected”

  1. duke1959 November 19, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    good advice.

  2. Addy November 19, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    Guess am the first to comment?! Hey Browneyed, what in your opinion is the max no. of pages in your manuscript that you can show your agent while approaching?

    While I found that some are ok with 5 others want atleast 25? SO am in two minds, I am in the process of writing my book though haven’t finished much!

    Great post as usual ( Don’t think I need to mention that to a “freshly pressed” blogger ;) )

    Will create a blogroll and add your blog soon enough…

    Thanks and Best wishes,

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 8:31 am #


      It’s the agents who ask. They will specify if they want to see the first 5 pages, or first 50. Send only what they ask–not too much, not too less!

      It’s better you head on to once you are ready to shop. Look at the genres they mention and pick at least 10 agents.

      First step is to introduce yourself and send a query describing what you have. With non-fiction, you CAN send out a partial along with the introduction. A partial is a set of sample chapters. With fiction, DON’T send partials before the agent has asked you exclusively.

      If you’re shopping non-fiction, it may be okay to query BEFORE you have finished the complete MS. However, if it’s fiction you are writing, first finish the WHOLE MS and then proceed toward querying. That’s recommended especially if the author is unknown or a first-timer.

      In case of children’s picture book, you can send 3-8 pages along with the query itself. Keep the whole MS ready though. Also, don’t bother with illustrations as publishers prefer to use their own illustrators.

      Hope it helps.


      • Addy November 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

        Hey BrownEyed,

        Thanks for the reply.. I have to add that you and Ollin (those who are “Freshly Pressed” experts ;) ) are truly an inspiration for me.. Oh, and with regards to the children’s book I was actually thinking that I needed to illustrate them myself..

        Thanks and Best Wishes,

      • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

        My pleasure.

        And no, the major publishers will hire their own illustrators to do up a children’s book, if they decide to publish it. You, as an author, are entitled to giving suggestions, and even can show them your work with illustrations, but in most cases the big-wigs prefer their own way :)


  3. Maimoona Rahman November 19, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Hm, great tips. I’m all set to pitch a query. Wait. Do I have a manuscript?

    By the way, you really need to tell me about freelancing: how you find your markets and where you find them and what you write.

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      Thank You.

      You can start by building a portfolio or a sample list. It is better if you focus on the area you want to write while freelancing in your portfolio too–for example, if you’re interested in writing non-fiction for children (ages 5-6), then prepare pieces catering to that niche.

      Next, start researching markets. Have a look at for starters. Likewise, there’s a plethora of helpful resources on the web. is another.

      Take it from there. Build contacts. Try your local newspapers and magazines. Look up Yellow Pages if you’re OK with cold-calling.

      Hope this helps.


  4. Maimoona Rahman November 19, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Oh, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  5. Ollin November 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Great advice! :)

  6. jannatwrites November 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Great advice! I think I’ve come up with a dozen ways to get a ‘no’, but I am pleased to say that I haven’t resorted to begging, or stooped to your #2 :)

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

      LOL I know. But #2 is not uncommon . . .and I pity the agent who has to read up such weird queries!


  7. nrhatch November 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Good advice, Brown Eyed.

    Here’s some tips to toss into the mix when you’re ready to pitch:

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

      Thank You nrhatch. Ooh thanks for the link-share!


    • nrhatch November 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

      It’s a link within a link!

      Julie’s post is a fabulous read she wrote while getting ready for a writer’s conference. And it contains even MORE links.

      • Brown Eyed Mystic November 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

        Cool; will check. Thanks!

        I was trying to include your link in this post as a resource, but my WP is acting weird. It kept losing the image, and other times kept center-aligning my text. Have contacted the Support.


  8. M. Howalt November 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Really useful! Thank you for posting this. :)

  9. milkfever November 22, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    Loved it! Especially, number 2, “being in dire financial need”. Hilarious. But often true for most struggling writers. You’re right, just don’t mention it. :-)

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 22, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      Haha I know. And also many more such private details.


  10. invisiblemonster2010 November 23, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Ah, the dreaded slush pile. I learned in a college publishing course a startling statistic that something like 95% of what is sent in to a publishing house isn’t read unless the writer has some sort of personal in with the person (or team of persons) in charge of the manuscript screening process. Obviously that stat is subjective, depending on the house, its mission, etc etc, but regardless–it’s a shame to think that so much creative and utterly outstanding work goes unnoticed and, often, unpublished. If only we lived in a world where more good, hard, creative work could be rewarded. Just like a lot of good music, a lot of good writing is independently published and those poor souls don’t reap the financial benefit of their often great work. I keep hoping that, some day, there will be more people in charge with less money signs in their eyes. But my tirade on capitalism is a comment for another day… :) I’m so glad I stumbled across you on Freshly Pressed the other day, your posts are very enlightening!

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 23, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      Indeed, invisiblemoster, like you put it, it is often “dreaded pile”.

      I am in agreement with those statistics you note. Many agents agree with it too. Though it does depend on the publishing house, the range is more or less same. Such is the world of publishing. But I still love it! ;) Why focus on what’s negative when we have loads of freshly squeezed juices of positivity still around? Let’s drink that and be one with our writing instead, eh?

      Thank you so much for the lovely words. I look forward to having more conversations with you here.


  11. aloysa November 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this post. And I am soooo guilty of the first mistake… Oh, well, you already knew that. :-)

    • Brown Eyed Mystic November 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

      Thank You Aloysa.

      Are you? Well then what you need is a dose of anti-procrastination potion and lots of support and inspiration. ;)


  12. writerjane1 January 21, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Reblogged this on writerjane1 and commented:
    i found this quite interesting.Most are common sense, but always helpful to know! thanks


  1. Creativity Tweets of the Week — 11/19/10 | The Artist's Road - November 19, 2010

    […] “Five Ways to Have Your Manuscript Rejected,” BrownEyed, Of Parchments & Inks: What not to do, from BrownEyed’s own blog. (I’m a new fan of this talent as you can see.) […]

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