Friday, June 22, 2018

3 Surprising Benefits of a Nonfiction Book Proposal Rejection

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Let’s be honest. Writers, like most human beings, hate rejection. Especially when we’ve put so much work into a project. We refine our purpose, target our audience, and select our best chapters. We agonize over our hook and drive everyone around us crazy by testing alternate book titles on them. Anyone who’s ever written a book proposal will agree—completing one is like birthing a porcupine—with no epidural. 

It’s no surprise, then, that we experience disappointment and sadness when our proposal is rejected. Once we put some distance between the rejection and the project, however, we can usually learn from it. If we apply the lessons to our next proposal, we’ll increase our chances of receiving a yes instead of another heartbreaking no.
Here are three surprising benefits of a book proposal rejection:

1. It helps us realize our book idea isn’t fully developed or focused. Most publishers provide little more than a standard, Thank you, but this doesn’t meet our publishing needs at this time, response, but occasionally we might hear feedback like, “This seems like a collection of unrelated chapters lacking a central theme,” or “The writing is good, but the target audience isn’t specific enough.” Clues like this can help us develop a laser-focused concept that is timely, unique, and marketable.

2. It reveals our writing samples don’t support the premise of our book. Whatever unique angle you’ve chosen to write about, every chapter must support it. If your theme is Lessons I’ve Learned from the Sea, resist the urge to include that devotion about the dog you rescued from the shelter or the one about spending the night at Grandma’s house (unless Grandma lived at the beach). Every chapter (and every writing sample in your proposal) must reinforce and support your theme. 

3. We discover we weren’t that passionate about writing the book. My agent (the amazing Bob Hostetler) pitched a recent book proposal to an editor who passed on it, but asked for more information about an alternate idea I had included in the proposal. I wrote a new proposal, but was relieved when the editor rejected it, too. When I examined my feelings, I discovered I just wasn’t passionate about that book idea. (Apparently neither was the publisher.) Passion is crucial, because writing and marketing a book is all consuming. Do we really want our lives to be consumed by a project we don’t love?

Receiving a book proposal rejection, like being passed over for the last dance at the prom, is painful and discouraging. While not all books are rejected because of the issues I’ve discussed, many of them are. If we’re working for the Lord, our goal, like the publishers’, should be to produce the best book possible for God’s glory. Examining our work in light of rejection will help us do just that. 

May God grant you to the ability to create the book a publisher is dying to say yes to.


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterestm (Hungry for God).


  1. Love it Ms. Lori! You're right; rejections aren't dismissals but opportunities for us to learn more and improve. I sure hope I can remember these important points in the future. I think I'll save this to read after every rejection letter. God's blessings ma'am...

    1. Jim,
      I prefer to call them "redirections" rather than rejections :) Blessings on your writing, sir.

  2. It is possible to learn from the good and bad that we experience, even rejections. Very good points, Lori.

    1. You're absolutely right, Donevy. The more lessons we squeeze out of this writing life, the better the assurance that nothing's wasted :) THanks for reading today.

  3. Rejection always hurts.
    However, as you indicated above, it can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.
    Thanks for the insight, Lori.

    1. Ingmar,
      One of the greatest comforts to me, in successes or "failures," is the knowledge that God is sovereign, and everything's a part of his good plan for my good and his glory. There's powerful comfort in that. Blessings to you, friend!

  4. Thanks, Angie, May it never apply to your writing life ;)