There are abundant bear traps along the way that even writers who are old hands at accepting the vagaries of the publishing industry are having difficulty navigating in the current literary marketplace. Here are several issues–some old, some new–to consider.
Pitching a Book to the Wrong Agent or Publisher is Problem #1
Genre specificity plagues a lot of authors. It’s important to recognize that a hard-boiled detective mystery with a lot of torrid love scenes is not classified as Romance. If a writer is having difficulty pinning down the genre for a specific work, a friendly library staff member might be a wonderful resource (please don’t expect this person to read the entire draft). Only after the genre is identified can a writer adequately source the industry for suitable agents or publishers.
Agent or Publisher Bias can Knock a Work out of the Saddle
I recently presented material to a well-known independent publisher, only to be told that their firm did not handle anything dealing with Russians or the Mafia, something that was not mentioned in their already abundant submission guidelines. As luck would have it, a significant character in my narrative was a member of the Russian Mafia.
Of course this could be modified, but the point is that any writer can be blindsided by a bias against anything from Lithuanian folk dancers to fly fishermen from Montana. Keep in mind this is a quirky business, and it’s not always the writer. And it seems that once something is found to be deficient, the agent or publisher tends to turn up the power of the already very intense microscope.
A Manuscript can Suffer from the New Rock Band Syndrome
A manuscript can be deemed to be too close to other material. Or too far removed so that it doesn’t fit with anything else. I’m told these are standard rebukes in the recording industry. In the publishing business, either comment also follows with a rejection. My personal experience is that it would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than to persuade an agent or publisher to accept material for which they have a predisposition toward one or the other reasons for rejection that Is just stated.
What if you Write the Perfect Manuscript, but It’s Really Not so Perfect After All?
This is the bitterest pill to swallow. If a partial or full manuscript is rejected numerous times, it’s obviously necessary to take stock of the situation. Many writers contact a professional for assistance well after sourcing scores of agents and numerous publishers. There are only so many agents and publishers for any genre. And, unfortunately, agents and publishers inherently do not want to see work after they have previously rejected the material.
It is critical to have a manuscript polished to its highest sheen possible before submitting it. Quite often there are issues that are not apparent to the early-stage author which can be easily remedied, but when unchecked can send an otherwise solid body of work to the slush pile.
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