I know that, as writers, we tend to assume the worst. We’re an emotional, sometimes needy bunch. So when you get a form rejection from anyone, the immediate response is “I’m a terrible writer.” You need to stop doing that. Many of the mentors, including myself, said that a pass does not necessarily have to do with the writing.
Even when you do all the research you can, sometimes there are unintentional biases or preferences that you just can’t account for. This is frequently what “just not for me” means. I got a lot of entries for things I never thought to say I didn’t want (or didn’t know I didn’t want).
- I got a substantial number of entries in a genre I haven’t really read in 10+ years. It’s a genre I enjoy, but I don’t know the market, I don’t know the current tropes, and I don’t know what plots have or have not been overdone. As much as I enjoy reading these types of stories, I am not a good person to tell you how to make yours better. And that’s my fault, not yours, because I didn’t think to list it as a genre I most likely wouldn’t accept.
- A lot of you write so well, I could tell that your books were going to make me cry. Sometimes, that’s OK. But I’m extremely stressed out right now, and I realized about halfway through reviewing submission that I personally needed a lighter book. Reading a tearjerker repeatedly for the next few months just wasn’t going to work for me on top of everything else.
- The same is true of a LOT of books with a heavier subject matter. There are books I would read. I enjoyed The Book Thief. But I’m not in a place where I could read it over and over right now.
- The topic is one I’ve written, am writing now, or plan to write about in the near future. If there’s a chance I’m going to read your work and unconsciously incorporate it into my own, I can’t even read it. It’s a conflict.
- Your weaknesses as a writer (and we all have them) are too similar to mine. We need to be able to complement each other with your strengths and weaknesses. If all the things I can’t help you with are the things you need help with the most, I’m setting us up for a very frustrating relationship. I don’t want to do that to you, especially if I already know and like you.
- The entry didn’t match up with agent wish lists. Every agent in this contest is looking for certain things. I’ve done contests where I was picked and got no requests. It hurts. If I like your manuscript but don’t think our agents are likely to request, I’d rather not put you through that. And you’ll likely have better luck by directly targeting agents who have a book similar to yours on their MSWL.