publishing rejections

Why Publishers May Reject Your Book—and What to Do About It

“It’s not about you.” That now-famous opening line from Rick Warren’s mega-bestseller The Purpose Driven Life may be especially true for authors querying agents. Depending on your perspective, that can be good news.

As I routinely tell book coaching clients: “If you’re going to let rejection get you down, don’t even think about starting to write and publish a book. Rejection is just part of the process in getting to yes—in selling your book to a major publisher.

Understand that having an agent or editor reject your book may have NOTHING to do with you, your book idea, or your work as a whole. Editors turn down books for any number of reasons.


9 Possible Reasons for Rejection

Reason #1: “Wrong publisher. This book doesn’t fit our audience.” (For whatever reason, you or your agent sent the book to a house that doesn’t publish the genre of book you’ve proposed. Possibly they’ve just done a sharp pivot away from financial books in their business line-up or maybe they recently dropped business books altogether.)

Reason #2: “Wrong timing.”  Your concept is too late/early for the market. Their editorial team isn’t convinced your idea is a trend. Or they may think the “fad” has already run its course.

Reason #3: “Missed the window.” They just bought the same idea from someone else. (Kick yourself for not getting that proposal done a month earlier!)

Reason #4:  “All slots are filled for the next eighteen months.” (Same action as above. Kick yourself for being slow to market with your proposal.)

Reason #5: “Conflict of interest.” They’re selling another book now on the same topic. (Ditto on your reaction.)

Reason #6:  “Market is too small.”  The publisher doesn’t think there are enough readers interested in the topic to make the book profitable. (Can you send them information to prove them wrong?)

Reason #7:  “Too much competition now with other books on the same subject” (What’s your unique perspective, format, approach?)

Reason #8:  “Targeted audience doesn’t typically buy books.” (Did your proposal identify the right audience—specifically—and provide statistics of market size?)

Reason #9:  “Doesn’t fit our needs.” Translate this universal unclear, all-purpose turndown to mean any of the following situations:

– “Your proposal was unclear to us.”

–“We’re unwilling to pay what your agent is asking.”

–“The writing is sloppy. We’d have to hire a collaborator or wait for you to rewrite it or hire your own collaborator. By then, who knows what we’re buying.”

–“I’m overwhelmed and just decided to clean the pile of proposals off my desk.”

–“Okay, I goofed and overlooked a great idea. Oh well. Somebody else will pick it up.”

–“We never read your proposal. It accidentally got buried. But seeing the date on here now, I’m sure your agent has already sold it.”


Decide which reasons are under your control and identify how to prevent or correct those issues. For example, write a better proposal. And for those rejections outside your control, shrug them off and move on to the next opportunity!


Join me at the next Booher Book Camp (B-o-o-h-e-r, like my name) for a  complete 12-step process for actually getting the draft done quickly in a couple of weeks. Plus, you’ll complete your book proposal and query and get invaluable feedback from me and other attendees. For details, check out


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