Lives on Loan:
The Importance of Christian Stewardship
Probably the only thing more difficult than writing a rejection letter is receiving a rejection letter...
Why Authors Hear NO From Publishers
by Ron Hunter, Jr.
When rejection occurs, it does not automatically mean an author’s material is bad. In publishing, a no is far more likely than a yes. Randall House receives around 300 submissions a year and publishes 16 titles. That’s a five percent yes ratio. “No” is never personal. Here are some reasons why publishers say no to 95% of the submissions they receive.
No...the genre is over-saturated.
Television networks often produce an over-saturation of reality shows or courtroom dramas when everyone tries to copy a successful show. In publishing, over-saturation occurs in similar cycles with too many devotionals or leadership titles. A recent example is the 20 books published as a rebuttal to The DaVinci Code. One or two would have been sufficient, but 20 was an oversaturation.
No...the timing is wrong.
Look for windows of opportunity. For example, I have been looking for a work on the history of the English Bible because of the 2011 window. I want it released this year; not two years ago or next year. Why 2011? It is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The timing provides a window of opportunity to promote all things “Bible” and books explaining how translations developed through history. A good concept becomes great when the timing is right.
No...try another publisher.
Simon and Schuster’s ratio of saying “no” is much greater than ours. Works rejected by one publisher may fit another. Most books received numerous rejections before being published. With traditional publishers producing fewer titles, reducing the odds further, an author may opt to self-publish. If publishers tell you “no” and you believe in your message, you may need to invest in your own book.
No...this is not our genre.
Not every publisher releases books in all genres. Publishers have their niche. For example, Randall House no longer publishes fiction. We don’t do poetry. The genre is too subjective. Purchase an annual writer’s guide to select a publisher. You may want to pick several.
No...you are not an experienced author.
Some publishers only accept proposals from proven authors. This reduces their risk. Max Lucado is an easy “yes” because he has loyal customers. Publishers always examine author credibility. We do not need a marriage book written by someone divorced four times or a leadership book from someone who has never led. While Randall House does publish new authors, we look closely at the credibility factor.
No...you do not have a significant venue to promote the book.
Publishers look closely at author’s venues for self-promotion such as a large church, speaking circuit, or influence. In recent years, there has been a trend to publish books written by radio and TV personalities.
Their influence builds higher potential for sales. The three legs of the publishing tripod are the author, the venue, and the intellectual property or idea. Unlike other publishers, Randall House takes risks on unpublished authors, but careful consideration is given in all other areas before saying yes.
No...your writing is not adequate.
Though closely related, writing is much harder than public speaking. Writing must communicate without gestures, facial expression, or audible inflections. Active verbs create more compelling stories than passive verbs. Authors often overcompensate by using too many adjectives or adverbs. Sadly, to protect feelings, friends have not been completely objective when evaluating the potential of ambitious authors.
No...the cost is greater than the return.
We have rejected great books with excellent content because the cost to bring them to market would be greater than potential sales. At the end of the day, it is about stewardship. We cannot ignore books sold versus the cost to publish them. People think of printing costs but rarely consider editorial, ghostwriting, design, printing, sales, and marketing costs.
No...you did not submit the work in proposal form.
Every publisher provides a guide for how they want material submitted. If you want them to pay attention, use their format. Proposals require you to do competitive research with an honest evaluation of the market and your book.
Publishers do not have the time or personnel to read every manuscript word for word. To strengthen your submission, use the book proposal guide found on our website and put in the hard work to honestly answer the questions.
Avoid publishers’ pet peeves. Understand original thought. Quoting large block text is neither original nor acceptable unless compiling other works. Only thesis works quote large amounts of material. Publishers allow short quotes duly noted to compliment your writing but plagiarism is never acceptable and is considered thievery.
Your master’s level or doctoral thesis is your baby birthed after long, arduous labor pains. The odds of publishing your thesis are exponentially harder than a normal manuscript. A thesis generally takes an existing premise and works off other bodies of material requiring larger amounts of quoted text but contains very little original thought. A thesis typically reads at a level above the broad market consumer.
What I find most disheartening is when a potential author says, “There is nothing else in the market like this.” I often name four or five bestselling books in that genre and ask if he or she has read any of them. If you do not read, you should not publish. If you have not read most of what is in your genre or topic of choice, how can you consider yourself an expert to author anything for others?
Do your research. Work up a great proposal. Publishers get hundreds of submissions, and it is not our job to triage the manuscripts—that is what proposals do. A thorough proposal represents your submission and determines if your sample chapters will be read.
Understanding Our Process
Like all publishers, Randall House looks at similar issues. Our primary role preserves Free Will Baptist theology. Our frequent releases in the theological genre prove the cost of publishing against potential sales is not the deciding factor.
What is the process of submissions to Randall House? Download our book proposal guide at www.randallhouse.com. Prepare a well-researched book proposal and submit it to our acquisitions editor. The editor reviews all proposals and at times pays review groups within our customer base to evaluate submitted works.
Our internal publishing board made up of editors, sales, marketing, operations, and the publisher considers all the information before deciding what will or will not be published. The author and concept is presented to the Randall House Board of Directors for approval. At no time can one person reject a Free Will Baptist author.
We look at theology first, concept second, and then author and cost factors followed by timing. Randall House is a recognized, award-winning imprint with talented authors and growing sales. With that notoriety comes more submissions, and more submissions means more rejections.
About the Writer: Ron Hunter is director of Randall House Publications. He is co-author of Toy Box Leadership, a book about leadership lessons learned in childhood.