Thursday, January 23, 2014

Say It Ain't So, Joe. 5 Reasons Why a Publisher Might Reject Your Textbook Proposal

Sometimes it's really easy to reject someone's proposal for a textbook or reference book. Mostly, though, it's difficult. We publishers would much rather accept and publish than reject.

Sometimes, though, the idea just isn't right. Here are five common reasons your textbook proposal might be rejected.

Reason #1: Lack of preparation

This one's easy. If you've sent a proposal to a publisher who doesn't publish books for the markets you're aiming for, you'll get rejected.

Do your homework. Look at the publisher's area for authors, we all have one. Use it.

Reason #2: Poorly presented proposal

Go ahead, write a proposal with tons of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and punctuation errors. See how far that gets you.

Reason #3: Too niche or not niche enough

This is a tough one. Some publishers succeed really well publishing books for tiny markets. Others need books with a broader appeal.


A proposal that falls outside the publisher's comfort zone probably won't get accepted. That's not necessarily your fault. It's just that you need to find the publisher for that particular market. Keep at it.

Reason #4: Great book that people won't buy

Maybe you've got an idea for a great book designed for a market right up the publisher's alley. People should really know the material you'll present in the book. The publisher may still decide to reject the proposal, typically for one or more of these reasons:
  • There might be a perfect time for the book, but it isn't now.
  • Maybe people should buy the book, but there isn't a reason compelling enough for them to actually pull out their credit card.
  • The market, rightly or wrongly, gets enough of that kind of information from other sources and doesn't think it needs a book dedicated to it.

Reason #5: Right book, right author, right market, wrong publisher

You could have a terrific proposal for just the right book at the right time for the right market, and you're just the person to write it. And the publisher still might reject it.

When that happens, it's nothing you did or could have done; it's the publisher. Maybe they don't have enough penetration into that market to warrant signing another title. Maybe they have too many similar titles. Maybe the publisher knows something about to happen in the company that he can't discuss.

There might be several other reasons why a great proposal is rejected, but one thing will be clear.

It's not you. It's us.