As a publisher, we have chosen to focus for now on anthologies. During our reading time (July through December) we take all comers, and welcome both new and veteran authors, with agents or without to submit.
Honestly, we love reading submissions, and thankfully in 2019 our first year we got a LOT of submissions. (YAY!) But what this means of course is that we have a lot of submissions to go through. For our debut anthology Moonlit Dreams/Moonlit Nightmares we received over one hundred and fifty stories to consider. Our next anthology A Room is Locked received almost double that.
Now, that may not sound like a lot (and in the grand scheme of things there are publishers that receive thousands of submissions each year), but for a small operation like ours, it can be. So, in order to get to the good ones, there are a few “tricks” that we do to weed out those who wouldn’t be a perfect fit.
Most publishers have a series of “gates” or criteria that must be met at a bare minimum before we’ll give your story serious consideration. While each publisher has their own gates, here are a few of the most common.
- Did you follow directions? This is most often the first gate for most editors. Each submission should have a set of clear directions, which include word count, formats accepted, how to send it in, where to send it, and how to follow up, if applicable. The reason this gate is so important is it gives an indication of the professionalism of the author being considered. An author who simply sends off a manuscript that doesn’t meet the bare minimum of the guidelines speaks to an author that is more concerned about “getting their story out there for their own benefit than creating a true business relationship with the publisher.
- Are you polite and professional? Okay, let’s say for the sake of argument that you didn’t exactly follow the directions. It’s not the end of the world. Another gate that many publishers employ is whether or not the writer presents themselves professionally. For example, let’s say that the max word count is 85,000 words for a manuscript, but you come in at a word count just shy of 92,000. Clearly you’ve gone over the mark. However, if you approach the editor saying something to the effect of “I realize that my word count is a bit more than desired. I am hoping you’ll still consider it based on the merit and be willing to work with me to create a great story” We would be more inclined to do just that.
- Is your story easy to publish? This is another gate that many publishers don’t really talk about. The truth is, publishing a story, printing it, distributing it, takes a good deal of money. And like most businesses, publishers are (at least in part) in business to make a profit. So when we come across a manuscript that requires specialized formatting, over-sized printing, specific colorations, etc that wasn’t in the budget, we do hesitate to accept it. It’s not to say that there is anything wrong with the quality of the submission, but if there is a good chance that we’d take a loss on it, it won’t make it to the top of the list.
After the Gates
Now, let’s say for whatever reason you’ve passed all the initial gates. Wonderful! That means that a contract is on it’s way, right? Well, not quite. This is when we actually take a good, long look at your story. This is where we decide whether or not it’s a good fit for our vision, whether we feel that there is a market for it, or whether or not it’s worth taking a chance on. This is where we also think about what it would be like to work with you. Are you willing to work with a developmental editor to bring out the best in your story? Are you willing to work with us to promote your book?
The bottom line is that we’re not only considering the quality of your work, but the quality of the author as well. We want to build a professional relationship with you that benefits both of us. After all, you’ve got a story to tell, and we want to share it.