Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tales from the Slush Pile

Recently found in the slush (identifying details obscured to protect the writers)--

  1. An author who spends an entire paragraph explaining, in carefully worded but deceptively vague terms, why her submission fits our guidelines. In fact, it doesn't even come close, and even a cursory glance at our website should have proved that. It's a canned letter, which is fine, but these "spaghetti on the wall" submissions sometimes irritate me. This one sure does. Why make such a grand point about fitting our guidelines if you're just going to ignore them anyway?
  2. Several manuscripts in first person pov. We don't publish these. It could be brilliant, and the publisher will still hold to her rule against this style. I used to sometimes ask for revisions on these, but not so much anymore. I just don't have time for that. I am tempted to start a drinking game, though. First person? Drink! Who drinks? "I" do! Alas, that would slow my response time even further. Better stick to coffee and tea.
  3. A clutch of stories with wives cheating on their husbands. This is a trend now? Cheating spouses almost always going to come across as unheroic, unsympathetic characters. There are exceptions, which typically involve some sort of heroic self-sacrifice or permission from the non-cheating spouse. That is, the "he pissed me off, so I'm gonna get him back by doing his brother" motivation probably won't work. Plus, we say "no marital infidelity" in the guidelines.
  4. Double bonus: A cheating wife story told in first person. Everyone drinks twice!
  5. A half-dozen or so stories with jailbait characters. There's no way we'll publish stories like this. Not gonna happen. I'm not going to jail for anyone's youth fetish. With several of the particular stories under consideration, it would be so easy to age the characters by a year or two and avoid the problem. So why even go there in the first place?
  6. Several very good stories in the 70-100k range. Word must be getting around that we're looking for these. Here's a submission tip -- anything over 55k is an editorial priority right now. There are reasons for that, but we're not ready to make any announcements yet. Details will follow when there are share-able details.
  7. Two -- yes, two! yay! -- that were referred by in-house authors. Real referrals, too, not just the "I met your author once and am trying to make it sound like a referral" referral. I love the real ones. It's a sign that our authors are happy enough to recommend us. I route these submissions to editors with somewhat lighter loads right now, with notes pointing out the connections, and with high hopes that a fast response will be given.
  8. Verb tenses matter. I can forgive an occasional error with the past perfect tense or the subjunctive mood (which can trip up anyone, really). But random uses of present, present progressive, etc., in place of the narrative simple past are probably going to undermine your credibility as an author. We're also seeing a rash of improperly conjugated conditional verbs. Verbs are too important to be treated so poorly.
  9. Know what else matters? Two things-- EROTIC CONTENT and ROMANCE. (Sorry to get all shouty and capital, but sheesh.)

All told, I knocked out about 80-ish submissions. About a half dozen either were routed to editors for further review or triggered an automatic request for a full. I'm also pleased to note that, due to our new procedures and system, our response time on initial queries is improving. This is a good thing for everyone.



Meghan S. said...

Can I ask why you don't accept manuscripts in first person POV? I ask because my current WIP is written in first person, so I'm wondering if it will be rejected by many agencies solely on that basis. Do first person POV novels tend not to sell as well those written in third person?

Gossip Cowgirl said...

Congrats on lots of work done. That is a great feeling!

Looking forward to the news on longer manuscripts. Will keep watching carefully.

K.C. Neal said...

Like Megalicious, I'm curious about the first person thingy, too. It just seems odd to not want ANYthing that's in first person. Would you mind tellig us more about that?

Dave Shaw said...

I'm interested in Theresa's response to the first person question, too. In the past, I've been told that such rules are usually either because of sub-genre conventions and/or publishing house styles.

One might speculate that it's avoided in erotic romance because there's so much porn written in first person, and they don't want to blur the lines too much. Not that I know anything about porn, of course... 0:-)

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

I'd like to know, too. A friend's agent talked her into rewriting her novel *into* first person before submitting it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good day at the office :)

Edittorrent said...

Well, the short answer is -- we don't take first person because the publisher said so. She decides, and I enforce.