Rejection is not always a reflection on you or your work. In fact, there are many good books and articles rejected each day for a variety of reason.
Good books are rejected because of similar books.
You may have a great idea and you may be an incredible writer, but if someone has written a similar book, especially for your publisher, you may be out of luck. In addition, there may be projects in a publisher’s pipeline that you could never know about unless you submitted your proposal.
That isn’t to say that different publishers will back away from your book if there are similar books. You just need to show that it has a unique message or perspective that distinguishes it from its competition.
Good books are rejected because of different focuses at a publisher.
You may have addressed an important topic, and that topic may be within the interests of a publisher, but perhaps you wrote a book that didn’t strike the right angle or genre for that publisher. One publisher may aim for literary books, while others may opt for the academic route.
Good books are rejected because of cuts or changes with editors.
Sometimes publishers may change their focus or even eliminate a line of books. With new editors come new criteria for accepting books. Editorial changes will mean a book that may have been accepted a few months ago will no longer work for a publisher. Timing and luck are huge factors when pitching book and article query letters.
Good books are rejected because editors don’t always know what they want.
While publishers have guidelines and specifications, they don’t always know what book would work best. This is something that some editors themselves have admitted. See editorial veteran Leonard Goss’ endorsement for my new book A Path to Publishing.
That doesn’t mean that all editors are fickle and indecisive, and you should never tell them what they want. Rather, they always aren’t able to know what exactly will work and what will not. There are plenty of stories of best-selling books passing through a series of rejections before finding success. The moral is that editors are human like you and me, and that publishing is not an exact science—as it should be.
Good books are rejected because of publicity concerns.
Even if you’ve written a great book, some publishers may reject your proposals because they fear they’ll be unable to market it to a particular group of people or that you aren’t popular enough to promote it. Those are big problems for writers to deal with, but at least they aren’t necessarily marks of a poorly written book.
In addition, if you are able to write a good book, you can certainly work on raising your profile and reworking your material so that it speaks more directly to an audience of readers. These are big problems, but they don’t spell doom for you as a writer.