Monday, 7 January 2013

One publishing house's criteria for judging submissions. Reading this may help you get published in 2013!

If/when you get a rejection letter for a work you have submitted, do you know why your story didn't make the cut? These days you may not even be told your work is rejected -- you may hear deathly silence. At times you can pay a fee to receive feedback; this is a great idea. For a small fee you can see how the team at the publishing house judged your work and either found it wanting or will accept it for publication.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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...

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54 comments:

Trisha said...

This is great information for anyone looking to be published! I think people should be looking at that stuff even if they're just working on their own revisions with no desperate imminent need to try for publication, too. :)

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

So helpful, Denise. Thanks!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now if you can just explain acceptance, because that one still confuses me.

Denise Covey said...

Great to see you Cathy! Glad you find it helpful.

Denise Covey said...

Well that'd be deduced from some of this, but i do have more for another post...

Luanne G. Smith said...

That "plot" category could go two ways. Sometimes it seems they are looking for something unique, other times it's as if they only want reruns of what's already been done. Between the two, I'll opt for original, though.

Great list to be aware of.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Excellent list here Denise! Good to get the inside info. Also a good list for self-pulishers, if you don't score well, then maybe rethink your project before sending it out to the world.

Botanist said...

Excellent list. All these points should be no-brainers for any writer to keep in mind. The biggest difficulty is in seeing them in your own work. It's way easier to judge this in someone elses.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Denise,

This is a GREAT LIST! Thanks for putting it down into "words".

YAY for a new RFW prompt!!!!! Now I FINALLY have the perfect excuse to get back to my Film noir novella....

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Avoid waffle at all cost... check!
Can I eat the waffle? (Sorry, dieting at the moment so my mind is not far from food hehehehe).

Romance Reader said...

Great information Denise. Thanks for that...

Anne said...

Thanks for those tips. It will go a long long way... I'm excited for that new RFW blog prompt. Looking forward to it :)

Linda Gray said...

Great essential checklist! I think it would be useful during revisions and even earlier--something to go to if we feel our story losing traction but can't figure out why.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

They look for so many things. And first one has to get they query past the gatekeepers. That also involves skill and good timing.

J.L. Campbell said...

Useful tips, as always Denise. Gearing up for RFW.

Nicki Elson said...

I like the point system. Quantifying helps make sense of it. Still hard to know if what makes me want to turn the page will make someone else though.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Now this is the type of information most want to be publishied writers need to know.......if you don't want to be published it is still good info to have.........

Denise Covey said...

Yes, I was excited to get this list.

Denise Covey said...

So true. That's where the CP kicks in!

Denise Covey said...

Can't wait to read your story JOy!

Denise Covey said...

You're right. All the planets have to be aligned!

Denise Covey said...

I find it useful to say the least!

Denise Covey said...

I'm so looking forward to reading your entry!

Denise Covey said...

Woo hoo Michael. Can't wait!

Denise Covey said...

So true Botanist!

Unknown said...

This is a very important list and I've learned the hard way a few times when it came to it. I'm still trying to improve my skills.

Nas said...

What a great compilation in your list Denise.

And yes, all good advice, too!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Denise
A bit of the mystery is solved. I never could figure out what those agents and editors thought.
Nancy

Denise Covey said...

Aren't we all Clarissa!

dolorah said...

Need a good crit partner to help with all those points. I rarely see the faults in my own work.

....dhole

Tammy Theriault said...

great info to really consider!! thanks so much for posting! new follower here, hi! :D

Denise Covey said...

Now you know!

Denise Covey said...

Much easier to see them in someone else's work.

Denise Covey said...

Hello Tammy. Thanks for following.

Nick Wilford said...

It can often be hard to put our finger on what's not working in our work - analysing one element at a time is a great idea. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Says it all.

I know you sent a message through FB that I need to respond to; also to three nieces also on FB. Don't give up. Jen hasn't been feeling well since last Friday, but today we're both a bit perkier. I really do love your FB space. FB just seems more "homey." Today I am getting some writing done; back to my friend's story about her VERY disabled son. Today looking at it, I think it might work! How is YOUR writing coming along?

Nilanjana Bose said...

Helpful checklist to keep in mind for any fiction, whether seeking publication or not. Thanks, Denise. Will try and apply to the challenge too but very hard to spot flaws in own writing :)

Nas said...

Hi Ann,

I do hope Jen gets better. Hugs, my friend.

Denise Covey said...

No hurry Ann. I'm sorry Jen has been off colour.
My writing is very exciting Ann. Thanks for asking. X

Denise Covey said...

Isn't it! It's great to help each other.

Denise Covey said...

You're welcome Nick.

kjmckendry said...

These are great tips. I like the scoring idea.
I love the New Year new love. Hopefully I can come up with something for that.

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Kathy. I hope you can!

Kittie Howard said...

Great tips, Denise, that I've imprinted on the pea brain. :) And thanks for the computer advice. It's always welcome!!! I followed advice and removed the anon option. So far, so good, yay! (Refuse to go the gotcha option.) While we were in Louisiana, I hit upon the anchor needed for the third novella and will dive into the computer once I shake this pesky cold. Gotta have discipline here so will refrain from romantic endeavors. Sorry! About fast foods and so on: You're doing some great stuff in OZ. A bit envious here. :) Happy New Year! Think it's gonna be a good one.

Unknown said...

Wow, helpful stuff! Thanks for sharing, Denise. :)

Suze said...

Happy New Year, Denise!

My wish for you is that 2013 will see the realization of long-held dreams. I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Suze. That's heartfelt.

Julia Hones said...

Those "rules" don't always apply, though. Most best-sellers were rejected several times by publishers before they saw the light of publication. Acceptances are a matter of personal taste and preferences.

Emily R. King said...

And this is why they say rejections aren't personal. Great post!

Denise Covey said...

And when the best sellers were rejected it may well have been for some of these reasons.

Denise Covey said...

It is hard not to take them personally though.

Kittie Howard said...

Just want to add that our thoughts and prayers are with you during Oz's horrific fire season, very much in the news here, including that red wave, OMG!

The Mississippi River has never been as low as it is now. There's much dredging near St. Louis so barges can pass. However, if the lack of winter rains in the south and snow in the Midwest continues, there's a question if ships will be able to dock in New Orleans, a consumer disaster. Oh, but Mother Nature's on a tear everywhere!

Li said...

That was really helpful. I've received exactly 3 rejections accompanied by actual feedback (not the usual boiler-plate) and was very grateful (and, of course, thanked them profusely). I also try and read guidelines for contests (even though not entering) and read posts about entries which won, and why. Thanks for posting this!

Julia Hones said...

Not necessarily. Take a look at this link. You will be surprised when you read the reasons.
http://www.james-hughes.com/literary-rejections/