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Sunday, May 22, 2011

10 Reasons Why Your Book Didn't Sell

I've sold books to traditional publishers, both big and small, under my own byline and as a ghostwriter and coauthor. At the moment, I'm waiting on a contract from a publisher for one of my own titles and my agent is shopping a book for one of my ghosting clients. While my client has a great idea, a compelling proposal (hey, I wrote it!), and a strong platform, the book hasn't sold yet. It's a lesson in how publishing works today.

Here are 10 actual reasons why some of the big publishers have said no to this book--and why they may say no to yours as well:
  • "Great idea but too narrow of a focus for us."
  • "Too much competition in the category."
  • "Despite the need for the book, too hard to reach the target audience."
  • "Not enough of an expansive platform for us to break the book out of a crowded category."
  • "Not right for our house."
  • "With all the books on the market in this category, I don't have the confidence or vision to champion this one."
  • "It sounds great, but we've struggled a great deal with books on this topic. As much as I'd like to consider this, I know it would be very difficult for us."
  • "Too small [audience] for me."
  • "I'm going to pass--I don't feel strongly enough about it."
  • "Overlaps in different ways with other books on our list."

Note the variety of responses, many of which would be impossible for my client and me to predict--at least until we pitched the book. But I'm not discouraged yet--a number of publishers have expressed interest and are considering the proposal now. For every "no" we get, I remind myself that it only takes one "yes" to get a book deal. I think we will get a yes--and I'll let you know when we do so.

Readers, what about you? If you've pitched a book to traditional publishers and it didn't sell, what reason(s) were you given? I'd love to hear them here.


  1. I pitched a non-fic book about the differences between modern day Spiritualism (the religion, not the way of thinking) and the movement at the time of its founding over 100 years ago. I was told it was "too controversial".

    Really? Since when did controversy NOT sell? And why on earth would a history book evoke that sort of response?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Beth! I agree that controversy should be a *good* thing, especially with nonfiction. Strange rejection.