Writers are constantly encouraging each other to not give up. Rejection happens to everyone, so you should keep trying if you really want to get your book published. Gaining that coveted title of “author” takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance, as anyone who has been published will tell you.

This is all true. However, what some writers fail to consider is that they are not ready to be published.

The number one reason I reject queries is not that the query letter has been poorly written or features an uninteresting plot, but that the chapter sample suggests a novice writer. The story ideas might be great, but the writer needs more practice. Listening to the advice of “Just keep querying!” can actually be detrimental in this case. It’s akin to a grade two piano student deciding they want to perform at Carnegie Hall. They might be doing very well at the music level they are at, but no matter how many times they ask or at how many doors they knock, they aren’t going to be able to perform in such a place until they have had more practice. 

There’s nothing wrong with being a novice writer. Being a novice at something isn’t failing. Many people assume either you’re good at writing or you’re not, so either you make it with your first book or you don’t. This is far from the truth. Writing, just like any other skill, takes time and practice. I don’t know if 10,000 hours makes you an expert, but I will suggest that most people need to write more than one novel before being ready for a publisher.

Being a novice at something isn’t failing.

To know whether your craft is polished enough to start querying, don’t rely on your best friends or your mom to tell you what they think about your book. And, most importantly, don’t rely on yourself, because you are too close to your beloved characters, plot, and worldbuilding. Try joining a critique group, attending a class, or hiring a professional editor to assess a chapter. I critique chapters for members of The Mythmakers’ Guild for this purpose.

It’s important to be willing to accept that your book isn’t ready and to ask what you need to work on to improve. Is your dialogue stilted? Is your sentence structure a mess? Are your character arcs nonexistent? Whatever it is, there are tons of resources out there that can improve your skills, and you can put your newfound knowledge to practice by rewriting your novel or penning something completely new.

“Don’t give up” is still great advice. But sometimes it doesn’t mean “keep querying until someone says yes.” It might mean “Write another novel or two, study craft, and get more experience. Then try querying again.”

Now, go forth and write!