Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Slush

It's a chilly, clear Sunday, just the kind of day perfect for slush diving. I've got a stack of partials that have been gathering dust -- some are two months old now -- so it's time to thin the herd. What will we find today?

Men. Several of them. I've heard unconfirmed rumors that some romance publishers auto-reject submissions from men. Doubt whether it's true, but who knows. We certainly would be willing to publish a male author if he sent us the right kind of material. Our readers are predominantly female, and there are things they just won't read. Today, male authors have submitted:

-- a 1k short-short about a guy who hires two teenaged prostitutes to fulfull his fantasy of sex with two women. How is this romantic? He ought to try Penthouse or a market like that.

-- a story about a guy who crashes a girl party, disrobes, and mesmerizes them with the awesome power of his weenie. Apparently they are all so dazzled by his anatomy that they become his instant harem. This one came with a recommendation from someone I know, so I keep reading even after I should stop. It's written well, and absolutely wrong for our readership. Too bad. Pass.

-- a story about a guy trapped in an isolated location with a group of women who all want to have sex with him. He tries to be a diplomat and uses a calendar to assign his charms evenly. Hijinx ensue. Our readers would hate this.

Well, so much for the men today. Anyone else see a pattern there? Coincidence? Let's see how the women authors will do.

-- two romantic suspense stories. One author hasn't bothered to explain how her story is erotic romantic suspense, and it's not apparent from her submission. The other reads like standard romance with a really strong plot and two sex scenes thrown in. This isn't what we publish. Doesn't matter if it's brilliant. Wrong market.

-- Every single non-dialogue sentence on the first page of this next submission takes the same pattern: independent clause, comma, present participial phrase. Except for one which uses a semi-colon instead of a comma. By the third paragraph, I'm already mentally tallying the long hours of copyediting that would be needed to clean this one up. I flip a few pages in to see if the writing quality improves. It does not.

-- Here's one that's almost all dialogue. Two women are chatting and gossiping about a cute man. The dialogue is peppy but I'm not sure whose point of view we're supposed to be in, and three pages later, I still don't get a sense of story. It's a "picnic scene," and though the dialogue shows evidence of wit, there's little to it other than clever repartee. Pass.

-- The first sentence of this next one almost makes me snort my tea. I'm always very careful about discussing submissions on this blog -- I obscure the identifiable details and change things so that blog readers can understand what I'm seeing in the slush without ever being able to identify an actual submission. This morning, though, I'm tempted to quote a line from this submission. It's that funny. I keep reading, and I keep laughing. Comedy is so hard to write well. I'm not two pages in before I'm ready to ask for the full manuscript. Excellent.

-- Now I'm in a good mood. I've found at least one to request, so even if the rest of these submissions are quick rejections, this feels like productive time. I read the next one with a sense of accomplishment. The first sentence violates the laws of the physical universe. You know how Alicia always says, block your scenes? This is why she says it. If the author had blocked this scene, she would have understood her error instantly. The writing quality is good, and there's evidence of a strong plot and characters. I read the entire partial and set it aside. I may want to send her a personalized letter. I have to reject it, but there's evidence of talent here, despite the flaws.

-- Oh, here's something fun. This one reads like a cross between 60s lounge lizard caper movies and -- something else. Something you wouldn't normally cross with that style. I don't want to say more because this is so unique, I might give it away. I'd rate the writing quality at a B+, and the originality of the plot and setting gets a solid A. We can edit the sentences. Request a full and make a note to watch for this one. Too cool.

Someone asked me the other day what percentage of submissions we end up publishing. I have no idea. I can tell you, though, that here are ten, and I'll request full manuscripts on two. Doesn't mean we'll buy them both, but this feels like a decent hit rate for partials, and it feels like a typical assortment. The truth is, this is not something we have a lot of control over. Our rate of request depends a lot on what is sent to us. When the submissions are good, we ask for more.

1 comment:

Natalie Hatch said...

Do you think the male writers are trying to tell us something? I wonder what it is?
Are there any websites or resources available which state to a newbie what different publishing houses are looking for? (I know I'm trying to cheat here, but I thought I'd give it a go.)