Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What You Look for in Submissions Guidelines

I'm in the process of revising our submissions guidelines, and given the great answers to my question about dialogue, I thought I would throw out another question to our very smart commenters. As a group, you always manage to give me something new to ponder, and I appreciate that so much.

So here's my question. What do you look for when you read submission guidelines?

There are some obvious things, I think, such as information about the lines we publish, word count, and so forth. Then there are the details about how to submit -- how many pages, submissions address, what contact information we require, and so on.

I'm going to create an FAQ section, too. We'll include information about turnaround time, advances, and other little quirks we have (such as the publisher's ban on first-person point of view).

What else do you look for in submissions guidelines? Or, as they say in the movies, help me help you!

Theresa

45 comments:

Kathleen MacIver said...

This is going to sound familiar...but I look for your voice. Seriously. When I read an agent's guidelines, and I get a feel for his/her personality and who she really is, it really helps me get a feel for whether or not she'd be compatible with me. I like that.

On the other hand, when I read an agent's bio and submission guidelines, and it's "So and so did this. She accepts blah, blah, blah. Please send your submission as such and such," I have no idea if the agent really wrote it or if a dictionary did. I feel like I'm submitting to a computer program, instead of a person I might end up forming a relationship with.

I hope that makes sense...

JewelTones said...

Perhaps a few recommended titles for any various lines to give the author a feel for what you're looking for in terms of vibe/quality.

Things you're *not* looking for -- you mentioned 1st person POV, but are there subject matters you won't include? I've seen guidelines that say "no rape" "no child abuse" no xyz. That's helpful. It sounds like that'll be included in the FAQ section, but I wasn't sure.

JT

green_knight said...

If you have any dealbreakers, mention them. Whatever they are. If you dislike graphic violence, cats, non-proportional fonts... say so. If you're less inclined to read a query if someone sets off a title in quotes (as many Europeans will) instead of italics or all caps - say so. If you want a one-page synopsis, don't say 'short synopsis' in your guidelines and mock people who send you three pages.

Some people like log lines and 'this book combines the feel of _Harry Potter_ and _One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest_'. Other people hate them. A sample letter can help to stop writers from hyperventilating.

One thing I'm looking for is the sense that the publisher wants to get excited about finding great books. Some submission guidelines read, in essence, 'if you absolutely have to send us a mss, do it to this address, but don't expect anyone to care' which does not make me want to work with them.

At the same time, I expect the guidelines to be available on a publisher's site, but not prominent, because their business is to produce great books and to make it easy for readers to buy them. Sites that cater too much for writers - particularly the 'we will help you to get published' or 'we are looking for first time authors' kind - are having SCAM printed all over them.

Genella deGrey said...

I looked at RS's submission guidelines and have the following suggestions - merely to simplify and clarify:

I always love reading about the staff of a publishing house, but I think it deserves its own page. :) This will keep the sub page short and concise. :)

I love the way you have the genres and main themes mapped out. :)

Consider substituting the phrase, "showing clear emotional and physical conflict" with "show clear internal and external conflict."

Consider asking the writers to put the size (novella, novel, etc.) according to your word count guidelines into their query letter, and bump that section up from the bottom.

Consider bulleting:
1) Query letter with a One-page synopsis in the body of the query/email.

2) First ten pages of MS in digital Rich Text format (RTF) or inline text. (Does "inline text" mean in the body of the email?)

I love the way you've asked for the author's info bulleted. :) I think it makes things easier than having to sift through a paragraph. ;)

Consider encouraging cross-genre stories (If that's what you like) such as erotic/historical/paranormal or erotic/contemporary/supernatural or erotic/shifters/steam punk or what have you. As the needs of the house or the trends shift, you can go in and change this part.

Thanks for allowing us to put in our 2 cents!
:)
G.

Anonymous said...

(such as the publisher's ban on first-person point of view).

Have you discussed why this is in a previous post?

Wes said...

I've read your guidelines several times, and they seem fine to me, but I don't know what rich text format means.

Evangeline said...

1) Format of submission (paper, e-, flash drive, cd-rom)
2) Response time (and throw in if each submission receives a "receipt" when it's first emailed/mailed).

Jami G. said...

Wes,

Rich Text Format is the .RTF after a file name. When you're in your word processing program, you should be able to do a "Save As..." and then look for something like "Save As Type". This allows you to save the document in different formats. .RTF is a generic format that can be opened by multiple word processing programs.

Jami G.

Wes said...

Thanks, Jami.

sylvia said...

I love to see lists of "particularly interested in X at the moment". I'm a bit more iffy on negatives, I was pretty annoyed at one place that said "No Fantasy" with a picture of a unicorn with a line through it. It felt belittling. "Only interested in fantasy if it's something really off the beaten track" is useful though.

Specifics. For example, I'm going crazy at the moment dealing with synopses. Some people mean "a slightly longer description than the query", others want an outline of every scene, most want to know the end but some don't, and although most seem happy with 1-3 pages, at least one reference I saw seemed to think it should be 20-30 pages. I can live with tailoring a synopsis for every submission but it's frustrating when I'm not sure what's wanted.

Response time is awesome, it's really helpful to know a timescale.

Leona said...

It's interesting to me that this post has come at this time. I just spent copious amounts of time looking for Red Sage response time on the web pages. If that is not included, I would love to see it included.

I know for some that months is a normal response time, but for other's, that response time is weeks. As I don't want to be annoying the very people who will make a life or death decision on my MS, I'm afraid to even ask.

So, I guess I'm saying approximate response time would be great! It allows the author to know when it might be okay to say, "I haven't received a response." That way if they were sent one and it was lost in the world of SPAM then you know the author wasn't ignoring you if you requested more info or revisions.

I've seen recent blogs about agents/publishers frustrated with a lack of response and wonder how much of this is lost in SPAM land.

Babs said...

I would like a sample of a good query posted. That always helps.
Babs

Bethany Michaels said...

I think it's helpful when a house has each editor post what her favorite sub-genres are or what she is looking for in a submission in particular. As someone else stated, you kind of get a sense of the personality of the editor and a hint as to whether your voice/style/work might appeal to her.

Also, it might be useful to state what the acquisitions process is--a reader gets it first, then the acquiring editor, etc.

Jami G. said...

I'd like to second several of the suggestions here:
- A good query sample - Yes, there are some basics that all editors/agents agree on, but some like more detail, some like less, some want to understand why things happen, while others just accept the conflicts/events as stated.
- Definitely a clear idea of what each editor is looking for if submissions should be targeted to a specific person.
- Giving specifics for the synopsis size, pages, single/double-spaced, etc.
- Explaining the acquisition process and time-frame is helpful to soothe impatient authors.

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Theresa:
I want to see the Mantasy example in the WHAT NOT TO SUBMIT category. Surely, that will save somebody, right?

Bethany:

I totally agree with you about the process - who gets what - when. That eliminates the idea that one person is responsible for whatever happens. Because that's not the case, there’s more than one involved, right?

I personally would like to know some lingo or terminology for particular houses.
Like: Oh, I don't know...or maybe I do (insert me trying to be sneaky here) let's say: COME or is it CUM? I dunno...which is it?
How about the other 'C' word that I cannot name (I really hate this one) but I list it for others who can say it?
What about cock? And, hey, I'm not talking poultry. ;)
What about clit? Balls? Sac...Well, I'm sure you can expand on the list. Now, are there some terms that are acceptable and some that just aren't for you guys? Maybe a list would be helpful.

I did have this great story about all this - but I'm thinking it's someone else's turn with the stories. Theresa? You probably have an awesome one about words and guidelines - therefore, I'm all ears!
Murphy

em said...

Oh, Murph, I so want the story. In your own words COME ON!:)
Em

Wes said...

Murphy, am I the somebody you're trying to save? I appreciate your concern but I copied, pasted and printed up that story. And now - every time I find my hero falling into the company of sex starved nymphs who are totally hot for him - I hightail his ass out of there. Of course, the nymphs are nimble little minxes, so it's only a matter of time before they eventually overtake him........The poor bastard.

Murphy said...

LOL Wes!

I guess (about whether it's you I'm trying to save) depends on the nymphs. As in: if those nimble teenagers (Humm....how did I know they were in their teens? Gee, it's a mystery - NOPE, it's a Mantansy:) that's how I knew) do eventually catch up and overtake your hero? And they’re um, eager to shower him with all their adoring attention? I would have to conclude that the only 'poor bastard' connected to that story will be you when a big fat R is stamped on your submission and I read about it in Theresa's sequel: MANTASY PART DEUX subtitled: THE DISILLUSIONED or DELUSIONAL...pick one:D
Murphy

Babs said...

Brilliant Wes!
Brilliant Murphy!

Wes, I think Murphy's rubbing off on you. That was very funny. And Murphy, like Em, I'd love to hear the story. Anything like the eggplant one:)?

Wes said...

Ouch, Murphy!!!! Do have some ice for that burn?

This means war. I'm almost finished with my novella. I'll submit it shortly. I'll bet you one of the Dirty Martinis you talk about that it's accepted. Just send me your credit card number to pay for it.

Murphy said...

Wes,

I was going to say:

Ice for the burn? Nope. It's in my martini. And that's were it's going to stay because the only one drinking that stunning concoction will be me.
Accepted?
My credit card?
Can you spell delusional?

But that would be mean and I never want to be mean so I'm going to say:

(Imagine me smiling sweetly here)

There'll be ice in the martini I buy for you when your novella is accepted first time out. And where did that ice come from you may ask? Hell, because it froze over. Crap, I'm supposed to nice - my bad.

I'm just jealous thinking that your erotic novella will be accepted the first time out when mine wasn’t. So, if it does happen, and I do buy you that martini - keep the poison control hotline number handy, would ya? (Hehehe)

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

No, I'd like to think that this whole group has rubbed off enough on Wes enough that his story won't be a straight-up Mantasy. No... The question is just if it will still have too many Mantastic elements.

(Wes, I'm not trying to pick on you, really, I just really wanted to use the word "mantastic" in a sentence. LOL!)

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Jami:
Mantastic? I love it! Man, T needs to work that into her sequel.:)
Murphy

Dave Shaw said...

I wonder what the feminine equivalent of the mantasy is? Seems like there must be one. Thoughts?

I don't write romance, erotic or otherwise, so I don't think anything I've written could be described as a mantasy. Geektasy, maybe, with all the spaceships, computers, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, etc. ;-)

Wes said...

That's it for you, Jami! Now there are two of you on my case!!!!

Jami G. said...

Dave,

Chick-flick. :) Not a big fan of them, myself, so maybe I'm just in the mood to bash them. But some chick-flicks are good and some are rolling-eyes horrendous in a "oh please, that would so never happen" sort of way. LOL!

Jami G.

Jami G. said...

But, Wes, didn't you notice that I gave you the benefit of the doubt? :) I have every confidence that you could write something without any mantastic elements. :) <---Look, I got it in there again! I just love that word! LOL!

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Okay, hold the phone! To recap here. I was minding my own business. I didn't call anyone out. All I did, was simply suggest that Theresa and Alicia include the infamous Mantasy in the guidelines for WHAT NOT TO SUBMIT. Now, the someone I was trying to save? Sorry Wes, it was them (and no, not because of you. Sheesh)! But then YOU attacked with that very accusatory comment - and well, you said words like sex-starved and nymphs and I started to think...Okay, I can't let this go. You'd be great btw, to follow in a debate. You leave a lot of good material on the table.;) So, I give you the rebuttal you deserve for picking on me because the truth is YOU started it, and now I'm being lumped in with Jami? No offense JG, but you actually willing stepped into this one - where I was dragged. So, the way I see it? Wes, you're only being picked on by one person and it ain’t me. Geez, Wes, I'm so busy defending myself from your rapier wit that I don't have time to parry, is that fair? I ask you, is it?

And Dave? The female equivalent to the Mantasy? There may be one. I give you Anais Nin. She wrote for the pleasure of men. Mind you, since the male population is impossible to offend she was very successful at writing in the male POV, and get this one. The only sex she occasionally offended was her own. What does that mean exactly? Well, and you’ll have to help me out here - if there’s a naked woman, a cucumber and a cup of melted chocolate - what visual pops into your head? In mine (and I think I can safely speak for most of my sex on this one) I see a woman trying to relax and enjoy her chocolate fix for the day - when some guy comes sniffing around after it (I’m going with the chocolate here) and she needs to bash him over the head with cucumber to get him away. Now, think about your visual? Be honest....and I rest my case.:D
Murphy

em said...

Murphy: Hell. It froze over? :):)
Jami G, Mantastic? :)
OMG Murphy! LOL! A cucumber and melted chocolate? I almost choked on my dinner. Where do you come up with this stuff?
Wes, are you sure you want to pick an argument with either of these guys? Maybe I should send you the email that Murph sent me last weekend. I'd bet you one of those martinis you wouldn't want to deal with her again after you read it. When she's not being funny she's kind of intimidating, but in a good way, Murph. Really a good way.:)
Em

Edittorrent said...

I wonder what the feminine equivalent of the mantasy is? Seems like there must be one. Thoughts?

I believe that would be the romance novel. ;)

Anon asked if I have ever done a post on why we don't take first person stories. No, I haven't, because it would be a very short post: Because the publisher said so.

Theresa,
who already knows Wes is a damn fine writer.

Anonymous said...

I liked the hell, because it froze over, comment as well.

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

You say you're being lumped in with me like that's a bad thing. LOL!

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Hey JG: (that's your new call sign from me BTW, because I like it)

If I had to be lumped in with someone - I'm glad it was you.:) But, I bet you two dirty martinis that Wes, right about now, isn't thinking the same thing!

And Theresa, I was thinking about Dave's question like: it was a woman trying to write to please a man - the way that the men (who target Red Sage) are trying to write to please a woman.
Murphy

Wes said...

Geez, Murphy. What side of the bed did you get up on? I feel like a punching bag. I admit I leave a lot of material for you to work with. It'd be great following me in a debate!!! Ouch! Don't give me that rapier wit hogwash. What a lefthanded compliment. I'm going to do the mature thing and sulk. I'm taking em's advice and avoiding you guys. Yes, Jami. Both of you! At least Theresa likes me........I think.

Murphy said...

Which side of the bed? Why, the RIGHT side, of course!

And you know, Wes? When you sulk, you should do so quietly. Otherwise, your petulant mini-rant could be construed as whining. And I know that’s impossible as men don't whine. (insert me dodging lightening bolts from above here):D

Jami G. said...

Aw, Wes,...

Now you went and made me feel bad... :) And I was never even picking on you.

You know that we push you so hard to rise above the Mantasy only because we care, right? :) If we didn't care, we'd just let you be rejected... (err, at least that's why I do it, maybe I shouldn't put words in Murphy's mouth! LOL!)

Jami G.

Wes said...

OK, Jami, I'll believe that from you, but not from Murphy.

Dave Shaw said...

Murphy, my honest visual? Dipping cucumber in chocolate. I take it the woman is expecting?

Oh, my wife reminds me that she has a copy of Cucumbers Are Better Than Men Because.... I never quite got that one.

Murphy said...

Wes,

I care. I cared enough to give you the heads-up about the poison control hotline, right?

Dave,

I think I'd like your wife.

On second thought (I know, my second thoughts are never good);)

If your first visual was to dip the cucumber into the chocolate? Maybe I should be feeling sorry for the poor woman.........YIKES!:D

em said...

ROTFL Murph! I needed a fix. Thanks!
Jami G.: That was nice of you.:)
Dave: I was thinking the same thing about the pregnant woman. lol!
Wes: you need to sell your book just so Murph can buy you a poison martini. lol!
Can I just say, that this is the best blog to come home to!:)
Thanks again!
Em

Dave Shaw said...

Murphy, everyone likes my wife, and most people probably do feel sorry for her.

Em, great minds think alike, but I don't know what it means when people think like I do.

LOL

Babs said...

Murphy, Murphy, Murphy, I'm still laughing.
Thanks!

And Dave, maybe you should read the cucumber book your wife has.

Babs:)

Babs said...

I can't believe I said that.

Leona said...

I've been trying to follow this conversation by phone. I have to say I lost alot in the translation.

You are all very entertaining.

And Murphy? Do you have this cucumber book that Dave's wife has? Seems to me it was an interesting combination for a woman to think up... LOL

And btw, I like the JG moniker :)

Dave Shaw said...

It's on Amazon, but apparently it's an out of print classic: http://www.amazon.com/Cucumbers-are-Better-than-Because/dp/1889647373

Does anyone think there should be rules about cucumbers in submission guidelines?