Can a Publisher Refuse To Publish a Book?

As an author, your ultimate goal is to publish your work. The publishing process is a long and critical one, and not every manuscript escapes scrutiny and rejection. 

A publisher can refuse to publish a book if they don’t think they have a good chance of selling. Not every book gets published because it doesn’t have the potential to be a bestseller or make back the money that was spent on publishing it. Some books are just not well-written or exciting. 

This article will tell you why and how publishers decide which manuscript to publish and how to minimize your chances of rejection as an author looking to publish. Stick around!

Reasons Why Manuscripts Are Rejected

Many people have great ideas and big ambitions, especially when it comes to becoming a published author, which is the ultimate goal for any writer. Unfortunately, not every manuscript makes the cut when publishing through a professional publishing house. 

Here are some reasons why publishers reject manuscripts:

  • The manuscript needs work or feels like it’s unfinished.
  • What the agents and publishers are looking for doesn’t align with what your work offers. For example, the genre category of your story might not be what the publishers were looking for at the time you submitted your manuscript. 
  • You haven’t created a big enough platform that could help the word spread about the book and thus help it make more sales. 

These are the primary reasons why manuscripts are rejected. 

Still, an author can make several blunders when submitting their manuscript, some of which can be pretty bizarre. And according to some sources, there are ten things you should never, ever do when submitting a manuscript to avoid a blunder of epic proportions. 

Of course, most of those things involve what not to do when sending a manuscript through the mail. If you’re emailing a manuscript, some of those things might still apply. Let’s take a look at those that do.

The Manuscript Needs Work

When you take a manuscript to a publishing house, you need to provide a completed sample of your work according to their specific guidelines. These differ depending on the publishing house, so ensure that you have checked that your manuscript fits these beforehand. 

Your story needs to be complete. You need to edit for spelling and grammatical errors and treat your manuscript as the final product. If you’re fuzzy on your story’s details or if the writing itself is poorly done, your manuscript will be rejected.

Misalignment of Genre or Category

If a publishing house is looking for autobiographies and you provide them with a piece of sci-fi, no matter how good that piece of writing is, they will likely not consider it simply because that’s not what their demand is. 

Do your research, ask around, and make sure that the publishing house you submit your manuscript to is actively looking for the type of work you’re producing. If you can’t seem to find any publishing houses that align with your work, you can always self-publish

No Use of Networking 

If you bring a manuscript to a publisher without even trying to market your book and yourself as an author first, the publisher will see this book as a more significant challenge than its worth.

Trying to release a book with next to no build-up for it is a monumental task that will likely end with the book’s failure. And, if you haven’t done any networking and you don’t have a potential audience or social media presence from the author’s side, you won’t have any success or sales. 

When a publisher sees this, they are less likely to accept your book for publishing

Build up a “fanbase” and get people talking and excited about your upcoming book. This will instill a sense of confidence in publishers that the book will sell well upon release and be worth the work. 

What a Manuscript Needs To Get Published

Every manuscript must undergo rigorous evaluation before publishing through an agency or publishing house. Some criteria must be considered when submitting a manuscript. 

These include making sure your manuscript’s category or genre fits the agency. You should tell the agency precisely what this is in advance with a cover letter, so they can decide if it’s something they are willing to take on.

You also need to check whether or not this agency is accepting manuscripts from authors at all. Some publishing companies work purely through agents that source manuscripts. 

If you’ve ensured these qualifications are met, you need to do the following:

  • Correct formatting: Ensure your manuscript is formatted according to the specifications set out by the publishers. Books have standard margin sizes and text formatting that you must abide by, or your manuscript won’t be considered.
  • No linguistic errors: Erase any mistakes through a thorough editing process. You can do this on your own or submit it to an editing service. Sometimes it helps to have an outside opinion and a fresh perspective. 
  • Aligns with publishing policies: Ensure that your manuscript fits in with standard manuscript submission policies. If you are not allowed to submit it digitally but use this method anyway, you will not even be considered. 

Different genres and categories naturally have different requirements, so research these and keep them in mind when looking into publishing. 

For more information regarding why proper formatting is essential and how to achieve it, take a look at this Masterclass on manuscript formatting. This touches on everything from margin size, to word count, to how to print your finished manuscript. 

Rejection Isn’t the End

If you feel your manuscript meets all the requirements and somehow still got rejected, you shouldn’t take this lying down. There have been countless stories of books getting rejected multiple times, only to be published and become wildly successful eventually. 

Here are ten books that faced rejection but became cultural icons (Hint: Dune and Life of Pi are included in that list). 

These are examples of books that ticked all the boxes when it came to crucial features of their manuscripts. To find out what these specific aspects of a successful manuscript are, read this FAQ by #1 bestselling author Meg Cabot discussing what you need in your manuscript to get it published. 

Final Thoughts

Publishers are allowed to reject a manuscript or refuse to publish a book for many reasons, such as the manuscript being incomplete or just not promising enough as an investment. If you follow the necessary steps, you will hopefully be able to add “published author” to your resumé!