Is there such a thing as an online repository for rejected novel manuscripts?

I think it would be a useful and educational resource -- especially to finally see examples of the so-called 'mistakes every failing writer makes' -- but I have yet to find whether such a repository even exists.

4 Answers 4


While there is no possibility of 'online repository for rejected novel manuscripts' made available by a publisher, you can find online resources for critical analysis of traditionally unpublished work.

A plethora of self published books can give you the idea of 'reasons it got rejected by a publisher' rather than 'mistakes every failing writer makes'. Nonetheless, it is a valuable resource to study as some of those may have been rejected by a publisher before.

Online writing sites like Wattpad can also prove to be a good resource if you want to study the work of novice writers. Wattpad hosts a plethora of stories posted by amateur to established​ writers, where you can actually come across examples of the so-called 'mistakes every failing writer makes' by chance. However, most of the writeups posted on Wattpad are still in progress, and can hardly be termed as manuscripts.

  • It is beyond naive to suggest that self-published work has been rejected by a publisher. 'Quality' and 'sales potential' are unrelated. Readers buy positive comfort stories. e.g. "US troops raped 15,000 British, French and German women during WWII" - if this is your theme - a publisher won't touch it. Novels aimed at niche markets are often self-published. Selling 5000 digital copies of a story to specific demographic can net a self-published author over $20,000 - a publisher couldn't match that.
    – Surtsey
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 19:34
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    @Surtsey Nowhere in my post I've suggested that self-published work has been rejected by a publisher. Although, if self-published books had to go via traditional publishing route (assuming majority of them were not sent to the publishing house), most of them would be rejected by them irrespective of the popularity it garners currently.
    – user39269
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 20:39

In addition to the existing excellent answer by Surtsey, I am sure such a resource, if found, will have to be illegal (as the publisher would have leaked material copyrighted by the author). Otherwise the author must either have:

  1. Relinquished first electronic rights.
  2. Submitted to a publisher not bound by Copyright. It appears from the comments such a bewildering institution may exist.


I don't know much about law, but found out here that in Australia, for instance:

Copyright is not ‘waived’ when you publish text or images on the internet. You can decide how you would like people to use your online content. Guidelines for using online text and images usually appear on a website’s ‘terms of use’ page.

So, we have to distinguish between copyright and first electronic rights.

  • Illegal, you say? By what jurisdiction, if I may ask? Not nitpicking, genuinely interested.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:16
  • @WeckarE. Free distributing (by the publisher) the work which is copyrighted by the author!
    – Ludi
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:17
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    Well, Copyright is not globally recognised, but I see where you are coming from. I think this better answers the core question, so if nothing else comes up I will probably accept it.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:19
  • Also, I think you meant to refer to Surtsey's answer, not ... mine?
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:19
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    For me, the question did not imply that such a repository would be filled by publishers. I expected it to be fed by (aspiring) authors who do not want their hapless oeuvre to rot in a drawer ...
    – Dubu
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 17:06

It is extremely naive to believe the publishing industry is somehow like school and an 'A' will get you published. There is no formula, standard or level to achieve in order to secure publication.

There is no rhyme nor reason as to why one publisher accepts a manuscript and another does not.

What is needed is a bit of critical thinking.

Let's look at Harry Potter: (1) The manuscript would make it into your repository as was rejected at least nine times. (2) Clearly Rowling was clueless as the manuscript was considered far too long for a Y/A novel. (3) The novel is of poor quality because Rowling 'never met an adverb she didn't like'.

E.L. James got everything all wrong. "50 Shades of Grey" id not clearly fit into any genre. It was too spicy for romance and too tame for erotica.

Another best seller, Peter Benchley's "Jaws" was accepted based on a verbal pitch.

At school your teacher will mark up your effort, grade it, and suggest improvements. 'Real' agents and publishers will do no such thing. They will never tell you what's wrong with your novel. They'll use choice phrases like "We didn't feel passionate about it" or state "There isn't currently room on their list." It would be embarrassing for one publisher to return a manuscript highlighting all its problems and, subsequently, another publisher hit the NYT best-sellers list after publishing the work in its near original form.

There are no 'mistakes every failing writer makes'. The 'How to' industry is worth millions of dollars. But you've been sold a bill of goods. There is no evidence that following a set of instructions will improve your chances of being published.

Off the record, most agents admit they have no idea what they are looking for - but they'll know it when they see it.

  • 2
    While a fair assessment, it does not actually answer the question at all. I firmly believe having the ability to read what didn't make it to the shelves has somesort of value.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 8:37
  • What you seek is impractical on so many levels. (1) It would provide a treasure trove of good ideas to be stolen (2) Putting the novel online or making it available is technically publishing it. So it would no longer be an unpublished novel, and may be disqualified by prospective publishers (3) Novels don't have a sell-by date. No author will want to classify their work as a failure - now and forever.
    – Surtsey
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 8:46
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    So would you then rephrase your answer to "No, such a resource does not exist"?
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 8:48
  • @WeckarE. It answers it in one very important respect: what was rejected many times can still become a bestseller!
    – Ludi
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:10
  • @Ludi I am a major proponent of "Do it well, people will like it, Do it often, the right people will see it. Do it well, often, and the right people will like it". Still, The value of complete 'bad' examples cannot be underestimated. Although I'm starting to suspect it may not really exist.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:14

Yes, it is called Amazon Digital Services. It is where authors publish manuscripts that have been rejected by publishers, or which they have rejected themselves by not bothering to submit.

Writing is a craft and publishing is a commercial enterprise. Like other enterprises that depend on appealing to the taste of consumers, such as movies or fashion houses, or cell phone makers, it is not an exact science, but companies in these spaces do know an awful lot about what works and what doesn't. It does not mean they don't make mistakes and produce dreadful duds from time to time, nor does it mean they always know when they have a best seller on their hands, but it does mean that they know a non-starter when they see one, at least 99.99 percent of the time.

Writing is a craft and can be studied as a craft. Publishing is a business and can be studied as a business. Both the craft and the business are written about extensively. They are also both reasonably transparent so you can study them for yourself. To be certain, there are charlatans peddling bad advice, as there are in any trade, and sometimes the advice of the charlatans (promising as it does an easy road to riches) can become popular and even be received as gospel. But those who are serious about the craft and the business will not be fooled for long.

Like all industries that appeal to taste, there is the je ne se quois factor on top of the craft, and that makes some people sneer at the whole idea of craft. But the je ne se quois factor really is the icing on the cake. You may not succeed without it, and you may not be able to learn it if you don't have it, but it can only successfully operate on a sound base of craft.

Read the vast majority of self published works (or join a critique group and read people's submissions) and what you will find in almost all of it is a basic deficit of craft.

If the craft was remedied, would they become best sellers? Probably not. Even with the craft remedied, most would lack the je ne se quois factor. But in many ways there is nothing that highlights the vital role of craft then reading works where it is so obviously deficient.

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