All publishing houses will have their in-house criteria, but I'm sure they will have many similarities. This is the criteria for one Australian publishing house's team of editors:
- INTEREST - Does the story hold interest? If you can't wait to get to the end to find out what happened, score ten points for the story. If you can't get beyond the second paragraph, score one point.
- PLOT - How clever is the story? Is it unique or does it copy other stories that you are aware of? Does it have a clear plot line that leads you inexorably to the end or does it waffle and go off on unimportant or unnecessary tangents that add little to the story? Allocate no points if there is waffle.
- STYLE - Does the story please? Is it easy to read or is it 'clunky'? Is the style appropriate for the plot? How consistent is the use of language? Is the style consistent throughout or does it change unexpectedly and without reason?
- CHARACTER - Character development in a short story or a flash fiction work is especially difficult. Not quite so difficult in the novel. However, if you empathize (or detest) a character in 1,000 words, then this deserves five points. If the character is inconsistent or cannot be imagined, give a rating of one.
- SETTING - There is little space for describing setting in a short story or flash fiction work. However, if you can see the setting in your mind's eye, then this deserves five points. If the setting is inconsistent or cannot be imagined, give a rating of one.
- GRAMMAR/SPELLING - Work submitted for publication should NOT contain any spelling errors (except the odd typo (1-2 typos per 1,000 words is acceptable). Poor grammar is less acceptable. If the story contains no spelling errors and there are no apparent grammatical errors, then score five points.
- PUBLISH? - If you would like to have read this story in a publication, score five points. If you would be peeved to find that you paid money to read this story, whether is a novel, an anthology, a magazine, score it zero or one point. If you are uncertain, score it somewhere in the middle.
- I hope this helps when you are submitting your work. Perhaps it will help explain a rejection or two...