Submissions and so forth

Amanda addresses the business of submissions at Mad Genius Club:

Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up.

Having been on both ends of the process, perhaps some of you might be interested in an editor’s perspective.

  1. Most of the stuff that is submitted isn’t anywhere near ready. Seriously, we’re talking “WTF were you thinking” territory. Don’t submit just to submit, practice, then file it away if it’s not genuinely on par with what the publisher publishes and move on to the next work.
  2. You have VERY little time to impress the slush reader, who is wading through large quantities of writing that ranges from barely literate to mediocre. Make it count.
  3. Keep the cover letter short and to the point. No one is going to be impressed by how BADLY you want to be published or HOW MUCH you want to work with the publishing house. What you want has nothing to do with how good your book is.
  4. Pay a modicum of attention to whom you are submitting. If you submit a gay teen werewolf romance to Castalia, we’ll reject it right away. If you’re an SJW, don’t bother.
  5. Spellcheck, particularly your cover letter, bio, and first chapter. The occasional typo is forgivable, but if you simply can’t spell, most slush readers will quite reasonably assume you can’t write.
  6. Pay attention to who else the publisher publishes. Be familiar with some of their authors and read a few of their books to see how your work compares to them. At Castalia, our goal is for me to be the worst writer we publish. If your stuff isn’t objectively as good as my books, or Peter Grant’s, or Rod Walker’s, (and read the Amazon reviews to see how THOSE books are regarded) then you simply have no chance of being published by Castalia. Because John Wright and Owen Stanley and Nick Cole are even better.

All that being said, sometimes a submission does make it through the process. Last night I was discussing some editorial changes I wanted to see with the author of an unsolicited submission who hit several of our interest triggers with a solid, well-written murder mystery and political thriller set in feudal Japan that reads very much like military SF. If he can nail those changes, and I have no reason to think that he can’t, Castalia will be delighted to publish it.