Stupid Rejections From Book Publishers: Q & A With Other Writers

by Dr. Gary S. Goodman - Date: 2007-03-17 - Word Count: 944 Share This!

I received an interesting email from a writer who is being victimized by rejection slips. Below, I'll share it with you, along with my response.

I hope it gives you some perspective if you're hoping to get published by a conventional press.

Dear Dr. Goodman:

I've just finished reading several articles you published about "stupid rejection letters" detailing some of your frustrations in getting books published the traditional way.

Right now I am trying to learn how to write a book proposal so I can get one of my books published. When I read your comments, it made me wonder if it's even worth the bother.

Lately I've been reading a lot about how to get published, because I'm trying to sell one of my books, and I'm at the bottom of that learning curve.

One point in your article seems to contradict what I have read recently in several of these "how to get published"books.

Most of them say it's hard for newcomers to break in because they don't have a track record of sales success, and that publishers and agents are looking for authors who can be a cash machine with many more books in the future.

Yet in your article you say the opposite, that you were turned down because you churned out too many books.

Are you able to explain why there is a contradiction between your experience and what I have read in other places?

Most of the books I've read on the topic of how to get published are fairly discouraging.

I know that my book is well written and well researched, yet I see all kinds of books in bookstores that aren't well written or useful, so I don't know whether my chances are good or bad.

I've been reading a lot about how many publishers these days don't want to bother with you unless you're already as famous as Paris Hilton. Then they don't care how well you write.

I've self published on line, but with little success.

For the last three years I've been trying to sell my books online, and so far I think I have made about $1500 in total.

That's why I thought that if a publisher accepted my book I might be in a position to improve my financial state, which really needs improving.

But now I don't know what to do.

Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Thank you for your time.

Hi R:

I think you got the point of my article, and I'm glad.

Yup, it's a paradox that one writer will be rejected because she has no experience, and another because he has too much.

Please note: I didn't say my proposal was rejected because I have 12 books out there. The publisher said that, and I just quoted him!

It was either Aristotle or Plato that said "Education" is the one good thing in life that you cannot have too much of. From my view, producing knowledge, being prolific, are natural and desirable, and these dumb editors that dispute this notion are in the wrong vocation.

Anyway, EXPERIENCE is not the point. It is a smokescreen, a device editors use to blind you to the real logic that informs today's big publishing house decisions.

The point of conventional publishing is SALES.

Will your book sell?

Increasingly, this is a question publishers don't want to speculate about. They want to eliminate risk.

If you promise some of them, up front, "I'll purchase 5,000 copies of my work at 50% off retail to sell to my own client list or audiences," they might print 7,500, and casually offer the rest to bookstore chains and independent shops.

However, the way the retail book business is set up, Barnes and Noble doesn't actually BUY books from publishers. They get them on a consignment basis, more or less.

If they ORDER 2,500, and sell only 200 in a few months, they'll RETURN 2,300 for FULL CREDIT.

So, B & N is committing to TEMPORARILY ALLOCATING SPACE, renting it really, for a limited period.

Now back to you. If the publisher believes YOU WILL purchase the REMAINDER of the unsold books, it comes out smelling like the proverbial rose.


From a publisher's viewpoint, a Paris Hilton "celebrity" book seems like a sure thing. It's just a matter of how many copies to print.

You'll hear about how, one day, she will get $5 million as an advance, but what isn't reported is the fact that the publisher is betting that it will get at least that much back in "free" publicity.

(Her star power can get her onto talk shows, but has anyone ever heard her TALK?)

Now, a personal note.


If the answer is "To be rich and famous," you may have it backwards. Be rich and famous first, and then publishers might be more interested, not because you can write, but because your fame and buying power will make even a "bad" literary gamble a sure thing, financially.

If your reason for publishing is "vanity," then the world is set up to serve you, providing you're willing to pay to print your own works, which I'm contending is the aim, de facto, of what used to be considered stalwart presses, but now they have descended to the "vanity" or "subsidy" press level, themselves.

By the way, the fact that you've made "$1,500" in publishing all by yourself is a very positive sign.

Keep records of your sales, and when you have built them up, present them, with your proposal to the conventional presses.

Hey, people DO get published, others win the lottery, many fall blissfully in love, and folks just like us do all sorts of other "improbable" things.

Thank you for writing. My reply will become yet another article that I hope will open the eyes of even more writers.

Good luck!

Related Tags: coaching, training, book publishing, self publishing, book marketing, sales seminars, negotiation seminars

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books and more than a thousand articles. His seminars and training programs are sponsored internationally and he is a top-rated faculty member at more than 40 universities, including UCLA Extension, where he has taught since 1999. Dynamic, experienced, and lots of fun, Gary brings more than two decades of solid management and consulting experience to the table, along with the best academic preparation and credentials in the speaking and training industry. Holder of five degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School For Communication at USC, an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and a law degree from Loyola, his clients include several Fortune 1000 companies along with successful family owned and operated firms across America. Much more than a "talking head," Gary is a top mind that you?ll enjoy working with and putting to use. He can be reached at:

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