Kathleen King asked 3 years ago

Dear Sarah and Polly, What are the main reasons you are likely to reject a submission? How often are submissions with a great hook and publishing potential rejected because major editing is required? Will you work with an unpublished writer to improve such a manuscript? Thank you.

1 Answers
Polly Nolan Staff answered 3 years ago

Hello Kathleen and thanks for your questions.

I’ll answer them starting with the last, if that’s OK.

Yes. At Greenhouse we pride ourselves on working with unpublished writers to help them make their manuscript good enough to sell to a publisher.  Both Sarah and I have immense editorial experience, having worked our way up through the editorial ranks of major publishing houses before becoming agents.  We love to edit and if we see potential in a manuscript and find an author who wants to work with us, nothing makes us happier!

It’s unlikely that we would reject a manuscript that had a great hook and publishing potential, no matter how much work was required, as long as the author showed some persuasive writing ability.  We want to work with people, not take over their books, so it’s important that we believe they have a voice of their own and, even if that’s not shining through in the first draft we see, that we can detect that voice in there somewhere. We would also talk to an author before signing them, to ensure that they are willing to do the necessary work with us (not everybody is/believes they need to) and that we share the same vision for their work.  It’s really important that we – and the author – feel that we can work in happy partnership.

Aside from the obvious reasons for rejecting a submission – poor writing, derivative idea, the author clearly being out of touch with the market, unconvincing/implausible first person narrative etc – there are numerous reasons for us to pass.  Lots of things – some obvious, some nuanced – inform our decisions.  When we sign somebody, it’s because we really believe in them as a writer and we really believe that we can get them a publishing deal.  If we don’t have that conviction, we will pass. But remember: we don’t have a crystal ball. Nobody can know for sure what will get a publishing deal. It’s a subjective business too. Not everybody will love a story . . . which is what makes this world an interesting – and often challenging – one but it’s also why we will always sign up the novels we love if we really believe they have potential.