Archive for August 5th, 2010

Aug 05 2010

16 Reasons Your Manuscript Got Rejected Before Page 1

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Publishers and literary agents reject quite a few manuscripts on page 1.  However, if the query letter is bad, the editor will probably reject you without even looking at page 1.  Here are some common problems and how to avoid them.

1.  “This is just like Harry Potter meets Dirty Harry.” Comparing your work to another will probably make your work sound like an uninspired ripoff.  Also, you can’t assume that the editor likes Harry Potter, or Twilight, or Spiderman, or whatever else you might think is the most awesome work ever.  Instead of trying to hitch a ride on somebody else’s bandwagon, talk about your work.  If editors think “this will totally work with Harry Potter fans,” great, but let them make that determination on their own.

 

2.  The description of the plot/characters lacked details. “Gary must work with his partner to stop the villain and save the day.”  What are Gary and the partner like?  What’s the villain like? What’s the villain’s goal? Why should we care if they stop him?  A more detailed description is usually more interesting.  If I had to describe The Taxman Must Die in a single sentence, I’d prefer something like “Two unlikely Homeland Security super-agents, an accountant and a fun-loving mutant alligator, must band together to prevent a deranged cosmeticist from destroying humanity.”  See more details on how to write an interesting and exciting pitch for your story here.

2.1  You forgot to mention the main goal(s) of the characters and major obstacles.  That’s sort of the point of the book!  Don’t miss it.

 

3.  You addressed the letter “To Whom It May Concern,” “Dear Editor” or “Dear Agent.” If at all possible, get a name–it’s more personal.  Most literary agencies have bios and specialties listed for each agent online, so address it to an agent that specializes in your genre(s).  If you’re submitting to a publisher, try using Google and addressing it to an editor that handles submissions.  Even though your manuscript may well be evaluated by somebody else, that will show that you have put some thought into this company specifically.  If the publisher has made no information available, then I think Dear Editor is the least awful alternative.  (I would recommend against calling the publisher and asking for the name of somebody to address it to–I think that’s generally seen as a breach of etiquette).

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