I recently got a(nother) rejection for one of my manuscripts. I’ve really struggled with this one because of all my stories, it’s the one that I feel is the most ready to hit the shelves. Yet it gets no love, and no feedback on why. I’ve picked the thing apart, looking for big picture items, recurring issues–anything to explain why it keeps getting rejected. And then it occurred to me. Maybe the manuscript itself isn’t a problem. Maybe the problem is in my perception of my manuscript.
See, my story is a sweet historical fiction. Not edgy or dark.
I’m embarrassed to say that it took me more than a few tries to type that sentence. Why? Because while sweet is okay, it’s often used interchangeably with saccharine, sugary, and bubble-gum, which are not. Because much of what’s popular and successful today is dark and edgy, which my story most definitely is not.
But here’s the bottom line: if I want to find the right agent and publisher for my story, I have to know who to target. In order to do that, I have to know exactly what kind of book I have. In order to do that, I have to be able to define my story objectively and honestly.
Moving forward, I will continue to look for agents who like historical fiction, specifically those who have recently acquired historical fiction projects. But I will also be looking at what kinds of stories they’ve acquired. If they’re all dark, my story probably won’t appeal to them.
So know thy story, fellow writers. Don’t apologize for having written a sweet story, or one without vampires, or a western instead of a dystopian or an urban fantasy. Embrace your story and you’ll have a much better chance of finding the perfect home for it.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.