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5 Reasons Book Editors Pass (That Have Nothing to Do with You)

Publishing can be a tough business, and rejection happens to everyone. It can be hard not to take it personally, especially after putting not just your time, but your heart into what you've written. But remember that rejection can be based on many reasons, and often it has nothing to do with your writing. Here are five reasons an editor might pass on a project:

1. Wrong category. Editors usually acquire in specific areas. There are editors that may specialize in a single genre, or only a few genres. The imprint may also focus on a specific area or type of book. Example: you’ve written a character-driven literary novel, but the editor specializes in commercial genre fiction like romances or mysteries. This is where a good agent can be helpful, as the categories editors are looking for can change based on what’s working in the market.

2. Publisher's poor track record. If the editor thinks your book is too similar to another book or books they published that didn’t work, she may feel your book is unlikely to be successful. Example: You’ve written a humorous memoir about the cats you’ve adopted, but another editor at the house published a cat memoir the previous year and it didn’t sell as well as they hoped. On the flip side, if your book is similar to a book that did very well, the editor will be more likely to make you an offer.

3. Too similar. Editors want each of their books to stand out on their list and be unique. If your book is too similar to another book the editor or one of her colleagues recently acquired, she might like it, but still pass. Example: you’ve written a mystery about a series of celebrity impersonator murders, but the editor just acquired a mystery about someone in Vegas killing Elvis impersonators.

4. The trend has passed. Sometimes, there’s a big demand for a specific subcategory in the marketplace. Usually, it’s launched by the surprising success of a particular book, and retailers want more like it. The first authors to catch this trend usually get snapped up, but soon the market becomes saturated, and the advantage of the trend becomes a liability. Some examples of trends in the last few years include Amish fiction, coloring books for adults, new adult erotica (i.e. 50 Shades of Grey), and dystopian young adult novels.

5. Personal preferences. Editors are people (really!) Their personal interests and what’s happening in their lives can impact how they react to a manuscript or proposal in negative ways. Examples: you submit a self-help book that uses a baseball metaphor and the editor knows nothing about sports, or your novel is about a woman with cancer and the editor recently lost a loved one to cancer. Of course, this can also work in your favor. The editor may love baseball, or be comforted by how your book deals with cancer, making her a perfect reader, and editor, for your book.

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