Four reasons your book got rejected

Early morning, you open your email box and out pops yet another rejection from a publisher you had your heart on. You fume, you wither, you get depressed and angry and want to hit someone. Everyone is against your voice. And you feel one of these things:

–       Your writing isn’t good enough.
–       You are not good enough.
–       You have no influence with the editor/publisher.
–       Nothing in India happens without money involved.
–       You should’ve gone to a literary festival and made ‘friends’ and maybe that would’ve helped.
–       No one understands your book. They are all idiots over at the publisher’s.
Sorry, none of the above reasons might be the ones that made your book get a no from the publisher. If they’ve sent you a rejection it means that your pitch actually made it to some editor’s table, got consideration and a refusal. It means it was given a fair chance. I have spoken to a lot of editors and publishers in the last five years and these are the most common reasons I found publishers rejected my work. None of it had to do with me or the book I had written.

1 It didn’t match the publisher’s list

A publisher is a commercial business. Every year, they have a boardroom meeting where they try and figure the trends worldwide, genres and book kinds they think will do well in the market. So each editor already has a list of sorts beginning of their commercial year: Tags in mind like #MetroRead #HighFantasy, #ParanormalRomance, #WarStories, #CelebrityExpose. In comes your book. It doesn’t fit into the boxes they’ve figured. The list they’ve prepared. Only if the editor really, really likes the pitch and then the manuscript will they veer from the list. So if you happen to write the ‘fashionable’ genre of the moment, you’re more likely to be noticed. For example, when Twilight series did well, suddenly all publishers started to take in more fantasy romances. It didn’t mean there weren’t romances being written before, it just meant they started to get a yes from the listmakers.

2 You sent it to the wrong editor

Finding the right editor to pitch your work to is essential in getting it published. There are two things to look out for. First of all, what section is the editor handling? Big publishing houses in India have segregated editors in their editorial team. There’s a Young Adult editor, a Children’s editor, an Adult Fiction editor and a non-Fiction one. So your first step is to find the right genre editor within each publishing house you are targeting. Secondly, editors are hardworking people who are deeply passionate about the books they pick up for their list. Each editor across the industry, loves a particular genre. Do your research for each publishing house, find the right editor and try and connect with them and pitch to them directly. Some of them are open to it. I’ve done is successfully two times in the past.

3 The sales team thought it wasn’t sellable

The decision to publish a book is not of an editor’s alone or even of the editorial team overall. They do sort of a round table conference with their sales and marketing team. The book rights are bought only if the sales team feels confident that it can sell it in the market. Yes, if you’ve got the right editor to vouch for your book and he/she is willing to fight it out in that discussion, your book has a better chance. Which is why the point above is so important. Getting a voice in the publishing house which vouches for you. It helped me get my Anantya Tantrist three-book deal.

4 Your pitch wasn’t focused

We might be great at long form but when it comes to creating the right pitch, many of us fail miserably. In this scenario, the concept of an elevator pitch is quite helpful. If you meet a stranger in an elevator (the speedy ones), what will you say your book is about? You have five seconds. Do this exercise again and again till you cut all the vague meat off your book and know EXACTLY what to say about your book. Then write the email you’re going to send to a publisher. Any good publishing house gets a whopping number of book pitches a day. They call it the slush pile, because a lot of them are badly written emails, unclear and confused. Editors don’t have time to wade through each of them. They go by instinct and a well-written, focused email will always turn them on. It helps to know what each editor is looking for. So instead of a generic email to all, try and send a personalized one to up your chances.

There’s a lot of luck involved in the process and I wish you all the best. If you know of any other reasons of rejections, put them down in the comment box below.

(Also posted over at as a guest post)

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Fall of the great Indian editor

I gifted a recently launched book to my husband who loves to read breezy novels. This one was published by a top publishers in India and written by an established author who happens to be a famous Mumbai socialite. After reading, my husband pointed out how a character in the book who was supposed to stand on the dais in a scene magically enters the event a few paragraphs later. (No, it wasn’t a fantasy novel).

Another newly launched book which I am reading currently (based on a famous mythological character) is completely riddled with typos, repeat sentences and just lazy line editing. I apologetically wrote to its debut author on how my reading experience was being destroyed by the typos, spelling mistakes and loose paragraphs. He was kind enough to respond to me almost immediately expressing that the typos had cost him not only bad criticism but also a prestigious award. The publisher had outsourced the copy editing job and the freelancer made a complete mess of it. Now the publisher is re-publishing the book after editing it again.

There’s a lot written and spoken about bad writing and falling standards of writing in Indian English. Every time I go meet a publisher or an editor, invariably the discussion includes the kind of manuscripts that they get in their inbox every day or about the falling standards of writing in Indian English (cheap books, cheap bad writing). However, none of them seem to mention a need for a good editor.

Editing is a hard, frustrating, badly paid and anonymous job and I really bow down to those in the line. You are not recognised by anyone in media or publishing (you haven’t written the thing, so what’s your job again). And the everyday stress of typos is bad for your skin and back. But that doesn’t excuse the publishers from putting badly edited books on the shelves, less the top publishers of the country. What could be the reason that editing standards are falling down in spite of electronic editors, Microsoft Word’s automated correction and other technological help (or handicap as some editors I know might call them).

I can think of two . One, that most publishers get away with paying woefully low salaries (half of editors in the Media industry) to their editorial teams. Some of the small publishers outsource line editing and copy editing to a low-paid, newly out MA (English) graduate to save money. The result is a badly constructed book which is then blamed on authors (since editors are seldom named except in Acknowledgements from the author and who reads that anyway?)

Second, even in big publishing houses where the editorial team is a good 5-15 size, the weeding job is usually done by the lowest and the newest. Copy editing is given to the most inexperienced of the editors when you need a lot of experience to weed out a page.  That’s because weeding is considered a low-level job by experienced editors, who would rather move up the ladder to plot editing and managing of a team of editors.

Or could it be that there’s just too many books and the editorial team is too small and the number of books to take out each year, just too high? Editing is hard and has to be done in layers – multiple readings of the same paragraph till words start to swim in front of your eyes. If there are a lot of titles in a week, the editor will get exhausted.

I cannot think of any other reason for the falling standard in Indian books in English. Can you? Do email me if you know of something. I would love to include it. Till then, here’s a celebration of typos (all copyrights are included in the cartoons). Enjoy madi!










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An obituary to my ghosts

It’s painful to sacrifice ghosts. I don’t mean it allegorically in a past baggage sort of a way but rather literally. Let me begin in the beginning. I have been working on a kids’ story for the past eight months trying to get it approved with a publisher. The story, which I was very excited about started out as a ghost story and now has converted into a kids’ detective story. This is a result of about eight back and forths between me and the editor. Now, the editor has quit and I am working with a new one. This results in another series of back and forth. But this post is not about the shaping. It’s about my ghosts.

My pretty, enthusiastic ghosts who were the ones who coloured the story with their pale sights. They were funny, sarcastic and made the story their own. I loved writing about them. They owned the story from Day 1. On Day 154th, they are being chopped out of the story. First it was just rendering them in the second half of the book, then they appeared only in the climax, now they are being completely chucked out. It’s a simple case of the camel taking over the tent and pushing the poor owner out in a cold desert night. Sigh.

I, their creator and the one who loves them the most, is kicking them out of the ‘real world’ created in my fiction story. Making them story-less. Killing them off in cold blood. In other words, I am selling my ghosts to the suggestions by a series of editors who claim to know more about their ‘audience’, ie, the children.

So this is a post to give them a hug and bid them goodbye. Today is the day they die and are forgotten. But only by the story, not by me. I will bide time and create another story – this time exclusively for them. A story where they are the heroines. Till then, I know they have enough space in my imagination. At least they have no choice.

This post is my exploration of the pain of killing characters you have grown to love and associate with a story. It hurts. It’s as bad as taking out a thorn from your hand. Or cutting your own limb, without anesthetic. I am emotional over this today.

My poor ghosts are quiet. They don’t blame me. They just stand there in a corner, waiting. Biding their time. Another time. Another world. Another story. I owe it to them.

Now back to my story for the final kill.