Allison Williams

Why Is My Book Getting Rejected?

Learn to troubleshoot your query letter and first pages—and increase your chances of getting out of the slush pile


Allison K Williams


Live on June 23, 2022, or watch recording


Writers who can’t figure out why they’re getting rejected


Closed captions by Otter; transcript provided with recording

Your book feels ready…but it keeps getting rejected. What’s wrong?

Or you’re worried about querying agents at all—what if your book isn’t “good enough”?

Most rejections stem from the same three problems: the story isn’t compelling, there’s no clear audience, or the writing isn’t ready yet. But how can you identify and solve these problems? Literary agents with stuffed inboxes don’t have time for personal feedback. But Jane and Allison do.

For writers frustrated with (or anticipating!) rejections, we’ll look at what your query ought to include to catch an agent, editor or publisher’s eye—and what information is optional. We’ll show you the key elements of great first pages and a fast, easy way to find out if your book is starting at the right place.

Then we’ll live-edit participant work to show how to establish your voice, intention, purpose, and story from the very first sentence. You’ll learn editing techniques to improve your manuscript right away.

We’ll tell you what agents can’t, with frank, funny and fast-paced tips to get you out of the slush pile and onto the shelf.

This workshop will cover:

  • 5 key elements of strong opening pages and how to express them in your own work
  • Whether your book is starting in the right place (hint: START with “the best part”)
  • A three-step process to see if your writing is “good enough”
  • How a strong first page is the difference between slush pile and full request
  • How intriguing concepts sell novels (not copying what’s already on the market!)
  • The biggest query traps you must avoid when describing your story
  • 3 story questions that help you distill your book down to query length
  • One essential principle memoirs need to sell now—that you didn’t need when you started writing the book
  • Many manuscripts have 50 extra pages at the beginning. You needed to write them—but do they still belong?
  • How to establish theme, voice, character, and quest while diving into your story

This webinar includes a feedback opportunity

This class will use examples from attendees to demonstrate best practices as well as mistakes. If you’re open to having your query and first pages used as part of the presentation, for constructive critique, you can submit your materials when you pay for registration. Feedback is not guaranteed, and it won’t be a formal or full critique. But it’ll still be fun and useful!

Who should take this class

  • Writers who’d like their work to immediately capture attention and engage agents, editors and readers
  • Writers beginning their query process
  • Writers frustrated with form rejections
  • Novelists and memoirists unsure how to describe their book in pitches and queries
  • Nonfiction writers and memoirists getting rejections for “not enough platform” or “we don’t see an audience”
  • Creative writing students and MFA graduates from programs with strong craft workshops and no publishing education

This class isn’t suited for

  • Children’s picture book writers
  • Poets and short story writers
  • Authors who intend to self-publish or choose a hybrid publisher

What’s included in all of Jane’s classes

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology (see system requirements). You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Thursday, June 23, 2022
  • Time: 1:00–2:30 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s automated closed caption service (powered by Otter), which is about 80%+ accurate. We also use Otter AI to generate an unedited transcript, provided with the recording.

Allison Williams

About the instructor

Allison K Williams is the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book. She has edited and coached writers to publishing deals with Penguin Random House, Knopf, Mantle, Spencer Hill, and St. Martin’s Press as well as hybrid and independent presses. She’s guided essayists and humorists to publication in media including the New Yorker, Time, the Guardian, the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Refinery29, Hippocampus, the Belladonna and TED Talks. As Social Media Editor for Brevity, she inspires thousands of writers with weekly blogs on craft and the writing life.

As a memoirist, essayist, and travel journalist, Allison has written craft, culture and comedy for National Public Radio, CBC-Canada, the New York Times, the Christian Science MonitorCreative Nonfiction, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Kenyon Review Online, the Prairie Schooner blog, the Drum and Travelers’ Tales and Flash Nonfiction Funny. 

Allison holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and spent 20 years as a circus aerialist and acrobat before writing and editing full-time. She leads the Rebirth Your Book writing retreats series.

I am so glad I attended Allison’s webinar. It is exactly what I needed. I don’t need a cheerleader to tell me my story is important, I need no-nonsense how-to. This was that! THANK YOU!!!!

Jamie Beth Cohen

You’re the best presenter I’ve seen in quite a while: efficient, clearly knowledgeable, pleasant to listen to, and provided great value.

Dawn Lybarger

Allison, working with you has totally transformed me as a writer. I wake up in the morning and I am ITCHING to write. I feel like I have to get all of this out of me, and I’m enjoying the process for the first time, really…at last, I know where I’m going with this book.

Amy Evrard Young

All students receive the following

  • Access to the live class. After roughly 75 minutes, Allison will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 90 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.