Why can’t I get published?

For many writers, the dream is to become a published author. Unfortunately, rejection is part of the journey to getting published, and many writers get discouraged after being turned down a few times. You might submit your novel or children’s story to every publisher you know and in the end, have none of them accept it. It can be pretty demoralizing.

Rather than give up on writing and publishing altogether, it would be more helpful to examine the possible reasons why your manuscript is being rejected. Sometimes it is because of faults on your part but sometimes it has nothing to do with you at all! Here are nine reasons why your manuscript might not be accepted and published. 

  • Your manuscript is not suitable for the publisher.

Writers often submit their stories to publishing houses without doing any research on the kind of stories that come out of that publishing house. If your story is for adult readers and you submit it to a publishing house that specializes in children’s books, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when it is rejected. Finding the right publisher for your book saves both you and the editors a lot of time so do your research!

  • Your manuscript is badly written.

This is a harsh truth to hear. No writer wants to be told that a book they laboured over and poured their soul into is actually really bad and near impossible to read, much less enjoy. And hopefully, if the editor who reads it is thoughtful enough, you won’t have to hear those exact (scathing) words. But no matter how kindly your manuscript is rejected, the fact will remain that it might have been rejected simply because the editor struggled to read it.

This is why it is so important to practise. Write, write and write some more. And when you are done, revise and rewrite the story because writing is rewriting. Read as much as you can and then write as much as you can! It is only by writing and reading a lot that your writing will improve. The more you write, the better you will get at creating a story that is coherent, engaging, enjoyable and impactful.

  • Your manuscript needs too much work

Sometimes, your story is rejected because the editor could see that it has a lot of potential but it would take far too much effort from them to unlock that potential. For instance, your story could have an interesting premise but have dull characters, no tension and a predictable and boring ending. In such a case, the editor might decide that though there is something there, it would take too much time and effort to turn the manuscript into a wonderful book.

If this is the case, perhaps you can work on your story a bit more, addressing the issues raised in the reader report you receive, and then try again!

  • Your manuscript is still in the slush pile

Publishers receive hundreds or thousands of manuscripts every year. It’s quite easy for editors to get overwhelmed by the numbers so some manuscripts stay in the slush pile for a long time. The slush pile refers to the collection of unsolicited manuscripts that publishers receive. Since editors are busy handling the solicited manuscripts and the manuscripts that were already accepted from the slush pile, the manuscripts that remain in the slush pile could stay there even for years before somebody gets to them.

Some publishers are kind enough to give you a time frame of how long it might take to review your story, but some are not. If you do not hear back, or if the time frame they had given you passes without a word from them, then follow up with an email, reminding them who you are and which story you submitted.

  • The timing is wrong

Publishing houses have editorial plans which guide the decision on the kind of books that they will publish for a period of time. You might submit a wonderful story but which does not fit into the publisher’s plans. You might submit a children’s book when the publisher has decided to focus on producing books for teenagers that year.

Issues of timing are no one’s fault and there is not much that you can do about this as a writer. Try resubmitting your story later or to another publisher. If you are up to it and you have access to such information, you can also write a story that fits into the publisher’s plans at that time.

  • You did not follow the submission guidelines

Every publishing house has a list of guidelines for writers who want to submit their stories for consideration. Despite this, many writers go ahead to send their stories with no regard whatsoever to these guidelines. Often, this alone can be grounds for your story to be rejected.

The writer has a duty to go through the publisher’s submission guidelines and follow them to the letter as they prepare their story for submission. Submission guidelines help to streamline the manuscripts that pour in and make work easier for the editors. Before you submit your manuscript, make sure it adheres to all the guidelines to increase its chances of getting accepted and published.

  • Your story is boring

During the Storymoja writers’ workshops, one of the writing commandments that writers are taught is ‘Thou shalt not bore!’ Nobody likes reading a dull story, including editors at publishing houses. If the editor starts reading your story and is bored in the first chapters, they will not give your story a positive review unless you manage to wow them in the later chapters. Some might not even read beyond those first boring chapters and will reject it based on that alone.

The only remedy to this is to learn how to make your stories engaging and exciting. Infuse conflict and tension into your story, and make your language fresh and your characters interesting. If the editor cannot put down your story that can only bode well for you as a writer.

  • The publisher cannot sell your book

Publishing is a business like any other. The publishing house needs to make money to stay afloat and its primary way of making money is by selling books. If the marketing and sales departments of a publishing house inform the company that a certain kind of book is not marketable or is not selling, then that kind of book is likely to no longer be accepted.

Just like with wrong timing, this has nothing to do with the writer. In such cases, the writer should consider submitting their story to another publisher or write a different kind of book.

  • The publisher is just wrong to reject your manuscript!

Many people know that Harry Potter, the wildly successful children’s fantasy series by JK Rowling, was rejected 12 times before it was accepted. The truth is that, sometimes, when a story is rejected, it is simply because the editor did not like the story even when millions of other people might. Imagine how much regret the 12 editors who rejected Harry Potter must have felt when the first book in the series became the third most widely read book in the world!

When it comes down to it, the choice to accept or reject a manuscript is often a personal one. Editors will reject manuscripts they don’t like or understand and will accept manuscripts they like. Perhaps if your manuscript had landed in the hands of a different editor, that editor might have accepted it. Perhaps your manuscript just hasn’t found the right editor!


Now that you know all these reasons why your manuscript is not getting accepted, don’t despair, dear writer. Remember that it is your manuscript being rejected, not you. When you attach your confidence to whether or not your manuscript is accepted, you do yourself a great disservice and even cripple your creativity. Write, read, and learn how to craft a great story by attending writing workshops and classes like the upcoming Storymoja Writers’ and Editors’ Lab. Soon, the publishers will have no choice but to accept and publish your book.

Until next time, Keep Writing!


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