Tag Archives: submit manuscript

Anatomy of three very similar rejection letters

Recently, a friend of mine asked for some help after receiving two very similar rejections letters. Up until this point, she had received many stock “No thanks” responces, or the dreaded crickets in the email (as in no response at all.)


Every few months, she edited and sent out a new set of queries. Then, after getting a few manuscript requests, she received something different. Yes, still rejections, but two days in a row she received rejections with FEEDBACK. Score!


I looked over the feedback she was sent by three different agents, and realized the reasons for the rejections were very similar.

Without giving her name, or showing the exact rejections, I am going to cut and paste my analysis of those rejections. Even reading this back to myself after I’d written it, gave me ideas to go back and revise things in my own manuscript.

I hope you find this helpful!


Hey you! First of all, YES I believe you read into this correctly. Your writing is so polished that a few people decided you were worthwhile enough to tell you why they decided to pass. So, on that point: CONGRATULATIONS!

All three of these emails confirm that you have an awesome, original concept that they all believe has the power to be a hit. This is the first hurdle everyone needs to overcome. Rock on, girlfriend!

Past this point, you need to prove that the structure and voice are good enough for them to RISK countless hours of their own time to try to sell your work. (Because, hey, if they can’t sell it, they don’t get paid)

Read-hold up PKO_0016876So, this is what I see when I read each email…

#1. “I had a hard time connecting…”

#2. “I didn’t connect with the narrative voice.”

#3. “The narrative wasn’t able to keep me as entranced as the plot would suggest.”

These all said pretty much the same thing, which is AWESOME! Now you know what you need to fix.

“Connection” has to do with VOICE and DEEP POV.

VOICE: You need to ask yourself: Is the voice that I am writing in authentic to my main character? If she is 16, does she sound like a 16 year old? (In spoken word, inner thought, and also in the narrative)Point_of_View2

DEEP POV: Does the overall narrative flow without any bumps that will draw my reader out of the story and remind them they are reading a book? (look for “gentle” show verses tell issues. Look for words like WAS, LOOK, SEE. Check for passive tense.)


Basically, you want to hook the reader on the first page and draw them so deeply into the POV of your character that they can’t get out. They forget they are reading, and all of the sudden it’s 6 hours later and they flip the last page. [[Not that I am an expert at this, but every draft I do gets me closer]]

Now, on comment number three: “The narrative wasn’t able to keep me as entranced as the plot would suggest.”Huh

This could be one of two things. Because of the first two comments, I would guess that the issue is voice and/or deep point of view. HOWEVER… it is also possible that there is a pacing issue.

PACING: Does the book lag anywhere? Are the slow parts just slow enough to let the reader take a breath, or are they so long that the reader gets bored? Can you concatenate the slower chapters to give the required information quickly so you can get back to the good stuff?

“I had a hard time connecting with the way the mystery unfolds.” This could also be pacing, but also ask yourself if there is a “build” in your mystery as each stone is unturned. Is the reader DYING to know whodunit?

I’d look over the manuscript again, thinking about each of these topics INDIVIDUALLY. I think you should only work on one of them at a time. (At least that’s what I do) It helps to keep focused, and gives you less of a chance of missing the opportunity to make a good paragraph GREAT if you are trying to accomplish too many types of edits at the same time.

This is probably the most exciting edit you will ever do… the one where little bells will go off in your head as you see the manuscript come to life. Have fun!

[BTW – just writing this has me thinking about my own manuscript, and a couple of things that I want to look at again, so THANKS for the push!]

So, there you have it. Rejection isn’t always bad. I remind myself that Fire in the Woods was rejected quite a few times, and I’d revised over and over before I received two rejections with feedback similar to above.

My next edit after that feedback got me a three book deal!

Keep submitting, and don’t be afraid to edit some more.




Ashes and Fire2You can find Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

Catch up with me on social media!

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Give that Publisher What They Want, Dernit! Finale

I am uber stoker to be able to dig into the wild and crazy brain of someone who is out there doing this crazy publishing stuff professionally. When you read this, you’re gonna want to slap yourself silly, because this is hearing it right from someone who does this for a living. For the next few weeks, we will be delving into the slush pile with professional editor and author Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Here we go…

The Writer’s Toolbox: Give ’Em What They Want! Why Formatting Is Important By Danielle Ackley-McPhail

(Originally published in Allegory Magazine ©2011)


Here is a listing of all the Posts from Danielle on this topic.  Good Stuff if you missed any of them!

Post one Don’t get all creative now!

Post two Duh – Contact Info

Post three Basics 2 – Identifiers

Post four Formatting #1

Post five Formatting #2 Advanced

Post six Ellipses, Emdash, Quotes

Post seven Keep It Simple

Summing Up

You might think this article was about the technical aspects of formatting, but you would only be partially correct. What this article is truly about is respect. If you want to succeed at this dedicated hobby you’ve chosen to pursue (believe me, you don’t want to think of it as a career…it only leads to masses of frustration) then you need to get your head in the correct mindset. You are not alone in your desire. There are countless individuals who want to be authors. There are a considerably less individuals who are in a position to make that possible. Editors have to look through hundreds, even thousands of manuscripts every year. I don’t think I have to tell you that they can’t accept them all. You know what that means? It is your job to make their job as easy for them as possible. You can do that in two ways:

  • Ignore what I’ve shared with you here and start deciding which room you are going to wallpaper with rejections first, or
  • Do everything you can to make your manuscript clean and formatted to the publisher’s preference so that technical issues don’t distract the editor from the creative aspects of your work.

Now I’m not saying if you follow all the submission guidelines your work is guaranteed to be accepted, but I am saying you stand a heck of a better chance of at least getting noticed.

Special Thanks to Danielle Ackley McPhail for this wonderful insider info!

Thanks Danielle!

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include four urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She is also the author of a single-author collection of science fiction stories called A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers guide, The Literary Handyman and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In An Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections, including Rum and Runestones, Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, By Other Means, No Man’s Land, Space Pirates, Space Horrors, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and Mermaid 13.

She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DAckley-McPhail). To learn more about her work, visit http://www.sidhenadaire.com, http://www.literaryhandyman.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.

Website and/or blog www.sidhenadaire.com, http://lit_handyman.livejournal.com, http://damcphail.livejournal.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/DMcPhail

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/danielle.ackleymcphail

Amazon author page   http://www.amazon.com/Danielle-Ackley-McPhail/e/B002GZVZPQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1331314265&sr=8-1

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/989939.Danielle_Ackley_McPhail



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Writing to a Deadline Part 3: “I got something… now what?”

“I got something… Now what?”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out Parts #1 and #2 or this won’t make sense.

So, I have a main character.  I know who she is.  I’ve written two pages.  She meets a little girl and a dog.

 I stop myself.

Learn from your mistakes, Jennifer.  You need more than this.  You only have two months to write and polish this story for submission.  There is no room for error.  You need an outline.  You need absolute direction and form.  No room for straying.

Was I stuck?  No.  Two drives alone in the car gave me four more characters.  I have their wants, needs, and desires set in my mind.  I know how they will react when meeting my main character.  I know what is going to happen.  I know how it will end.  It wasn’t on paper, but I had an outline.

I went back and looked at the first two pages.  Wow.  They were beautifully written.  Probably the cleanest first draft I’ve ever done.

Too bad they didn’t work anymore.

I took a few key descriptive sentences I liked, and set the rest aside to start over.

In the back of my mind I knew everyone else was three weeks ahead of me.  But I knew where I was going now.  I had focus.

I knew how the story started.  I knew all five character’s motivations.  I knew the plot, and I knew the ending.  In fact, I could picture it.  The publisher gave it to me— it was that odd picture that I could not find a story in three weeks ago.  Funny how that happens, huh?

So, I knew where I was going… Now, I just needed to bring my characters there.

10,000 words writing to a deadline… outside the comfort zone of my genre.

This is the real world.  Here we go.

In the immortal world of Crush the Turtle:   “Let’s see what Little Dude can do.”