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Good Writing That Doesn’t Get Published: 5 Problems That Sabotage Your Efforts

Good Writing That Doesn't Get Published: 5 Problems That Sabotage Your Efforts

Many times, writers come to us scratching their heads, wondering why their good writing isn’t getting published. If the writing in question truly is as competent as the author believes it to be, then the work isn’t the problem. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem elsewhere—or a solution. Here are five common problems that can sabotage your success rate, and the best ways to improve your odds of getting a positive response.

Problem #5: The intro. You might have the best book, story, or poem on the planet. But if the first lines fall flat, it’s unlikely anyone will read enough to know that. First impressions count enormously in the publishing industry.

SOLUTION: Take a close look at your beginning pages and opening lines. Are they engaging? Compelling? Is there forward momentum and innate conflict? If the answer is sort of, a little, or not at all, then it may be time to revise.

Problem #4: An unprofessional cover or query letter. There are so many ways a cover or query letter can go wrong. Some people create unusual, quirky, larger-than-life cover or query letters to show off a colorful personality and stand out in a crowd. But if a cover or query letter crosses the border into crazy town, then it’s standing out for all the wrong reasons, and  editors or agents will run the other way.

SOLUTION: Learn more about striking the right tone in your cover or query letter. And then, be sure you’re not including TMI.

Problem #3: Typos and formatting problems. Not everyone is a grammar snob (thank goodness!). We personally believe creative writers benefit from a masterful but fluid interpretation of grammar and usage rules. But if your submission is full of blatant errors, your writing will appear amateurish.

SOLUTION: If possible, hire a professional proofreading and formatting company, like Writer’s Relief, to prep and polish your work. But if you can’t hire expert eyes to review your submission, you can take these steps to proofread more effectively on your own.

Problem #2: Bad targeting. A fabulous submission sent to an editor or agent who simply can’t appreciate it will not succeed. Our 20+ years of experience have taught us that if a story, poem, or essay is well written, odds are there IS a publisher out there for it. Books can be a bit more difficult, but if you’re a good writer with a good story, there should be an agent out there for you. Literary agents are accepting work from new writers; we see it all the time.

SOLUTION: Refine your research when making your submissions. Try to target your work with greater precision so that it gets into the right hands. And remember: If you don’t feel that your own research is getting results, contact the team here at Writer’s Relief for more information on our pinpoint targeting techniques.

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Problem #1: Giving up too soon. We can’t tell you how many writers come to us lamenting that their work isn’t getting published. When we ask how many times a given work was submitted, the writer usually responds with a low number: five, ten, twenty, etc. It’s a shame, because getting published is something of a numbers game. Writers who persevere with patience tend to be more successful.

SOLUTION: Find a way to stay motivated when you’re making submissions. Set goals and stick to them. Keep yourself on track. Take the emotional element out of your submission process so that you can stay focused. And if you can’t keep yourself motivated to submit when the rejection letters start pouring in, get help. You know where to find us. We can keep your submissions circulating to boost your odds.

Photo by colemama

Writer QuestionsHow would you encourage a good writer to push through rejections? Leave your note in our comments section!


6 Responses to Good Writing That Doesn’t Get Published: 5 Problems That Sabotage Your Efforts

  1. Submitting your work to the right publication, which is not always so easy. I find it really difficult and time-consuming which is why I send little out there. We all need secretaries.

  2. The difficult part for all of us to realize is that rejection of any kind is a part of being human. I just keep looking for MY market; someone who likes the way I write. No. It’s not easy. Thanks for tips. ~Victoria Marie Lees

  3. No one like rejections I don’t care how strong you think you are, after 10 rejects it easy to see why would anyone give up

  4. Problem #1: Giving Up Too Soon is spot-on! I recently had a piece published in Kudzu Review on my years spent helping to restore salmon populations. I’d remarked to a friend that it had been rejected at least 12 times. When I consulted my spreadsheet, the number of rejections were actually 5. Rejections have a “dog years” quality: 1 can sometimes feel like 7. The salmon essay was at the scientific-human interest interface, which doesn’t appeal to all editors. So keep re-working each piece(!) while continuing to investigate other publishing venues.

  5. I often wonder about the cover letter. A lot of my stories go out through on-line submission form with “cover letter (optional).” I usually give them a brief “here it is, enjoy” message in the field. Am I wasting my time bothering with a cover letter? Or is it a sneaky way to sort the slush pile by discarding folks who don’t bother with one?

  6. While it’s essential to know what market you’re writing for, there’s always a risk of losing your centre as a writer in attempting to “change your swing” to suit the times. More difficult to resist that temptation if you write for a living and have no other source of income; but truth is a foundation in all good writing, especially fiction, and the first truth is that of the writer to self.

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