Monday, July 6, 2009

Because some things bear repeating....

I asked a friend the other day if our submissions page appeared too confusing. He said no, it looked concise to him, as far as our needs and wants. Why does it have me worried? It seems lately among potential new authors to our house, I'm getting everything but what is requested on the submissions page.

Now, we are currently working on a new website, but the Phaze logo will remain the same. Underneath our trademark moon are the words Exceptional Erotic Fiction. We publish romance of an erotic flavor, and straight erotic works. Recently I've received in my inbox the following:
  • A young adult novel
  • A memoir
  • Something where all the dialogue was written in a script font
  • A romance novel with ten spelling errors in the first three pages and several punctuation errors
  • Plotless sex
Occasionally I'll see on Twitter or in e-mail lists other editors and agents bemoaning their ill-matched bounty as well, and I wonder, how do they find me? What is on the website that encourages them to submit a work that clearly doesn't match our house? Is there some hidden text on site that sends out some subliminal message. We only want erotic romance, but you should go ahead and submit your haiku narrative about courageous celibate nuns overtaking drug lords in South America, because damn it, THIS is the thing that's going to turn publishing around, and we'd be idiots to pass on it.

Now, if you have written a haiku narrative about super nuns, I congratulate you. Somewhere out there is a publisher waiting for it. Please don't just Google "publishers" and start mailing people willy-nilly. Research before you submit. I can guarantee you that an editor will be more receptive to an author who has followed directions. Who will take you seriously if you submit hard sci-fi to the mystery publisher, and vice-versa?

I wrote the following several months ago. It bears repeating.

Why I Rejected Your Book

I don't like rejecting manuscripts. I'm an author myself, I've felt the disappointment of receiving that thin letter back from the agent/publisher saying thanks but no thanks. In my rejections I try to be as polite as possible, but I don't offer details. This is because I don't want to say one thing and have the author read another, nor do I have time to banter over semantics ("You published XYZ but you won't contract mine?" That sort of thing.). I also don't have time to submit a detailed analysis of our rejection. Sorry.

Nevertheless, duty does call for me to do so at times, and authors still ask, so here are thirteen possibilities as to why I had to regretfully pass on your work. Mind you, eight times out of ten the quality of the work is not a factor. I've passed up on some great works.

1) It's not erotic. Phaze publishes erotic romance and erotica, not inspirational, not young adult. Readers want the naughty bits as often as possible. If I receive a 100K word book where the only sex scene is in the last two paragraphs, and if there's no place to put more, chances are I'll pass.

2) It's not romantic. While we do have a few erotic titles that aren't necessarily HEA, the works had some merit or some element that I thought might appeal to our readership. Overall, however, our readers like the heat and the romance. If I don't find the right balance, and I can't see a way to make the balance, chances are I'll pass.

3) It's plotless smut. I'm at the point where I can tell with some synopses that I'm going to open a work that might as well be titled Dear Penthouse. Works like that do well in certain markets, but they just don't resonate with our readers.

4) It contains one of our taboos. Underage Nazi hero necrophiliacs humping dogs while showering golden on their sisters...ah, no.

5) You used a priest. Sorry. You can take the girl out of the Vatican....yada yada. This is my personal squick, and I just can't let it pass. It's not you, Father, it's me.

6) We've done it already. It came to pass not long ago I had to turn away a nice piece, because we already had two very similar stories. It was a very tough decision to make, and while I'm certain the work was written without knowledge of the previously published works, I had other factors to consider. Now, I might be more accommodating if such a situation happens again, it will depend on the climate.

7) We did it, and it didn't work. We consider most genres of erotic romance. Unfortunately, some genres don't do well as others. This puts me in the awkward position of having to turn away works based on the presumption that we won't see a good ROI on them because of the genre. It's a part of publishing I don't particularly enjoy -- the business end.

8) It's too short. We have a word minimum. We ask authors to acknowledge that. If you send a work under that count we are either going to reject or, if I like it, ask that you lengthen and resubmit.

9) It's poetry. Yes, we do have one title of verse for sale. All in-house authors, just something done for fun. Otherwise, unless you're sending something to Alessia Brio for a Coming Together volume, we will not consider entire poetry books.

10) It's copyright infringement. I miss The X-Files, too, but I'm not publishing your Mulder/Scully humpfest because I don't want to get sued.

11) You didn't format it correctly. I will say this, I'm not the stickler my predecessor was where manuscripts were concerned. If she saw a margin out of place, it was going back. Me, I'm more relaxed, but if I receive a 60K word book done entirely in some cutesy flower script, it's going back.

12) It didn't "click". The catch-all reject. Your work could be extremely well-written. Good characters, good dialog, etc. But there might be something there that I don't think would work for us. Maybe the story didn't excite me, or maybe the sex didn't arouse me. Maybe the work is just too long or too short for the story. In the case of too short, I might send back for a revision. For a work over 150K, I might consider sales potential.

13) Blame it on intuition. Mind you, my intuition isn't always 100%. That's all I have to say about that.

This said, I'll close by saying don't be afraid to ask a publisher or editor to clarify guidelines. Remember, publishers want to read works. Publishers stay in business because of authors; we're not here to feed on egos and gleefully dash hopes. What you have written is very good, it's just a matter of finding the right fit.


Missy Lyons said...

I think it was very nice of you to spell out all the reasons you might reject a work. Anyone who does their research (before submitting) will hopefully be better armed with a killer ms.

Jenna Byrnes said...

Yep, totally agree with Missy. Thanks for reminding people to follow the submissions guidelines, it's always the best idea!