Sunday, November 23, 2014

Slush Pile to Delete Button

I've written several times about what I look for in an ms. This time I thought I'd write about what I don't like.
Before we get to the manuscript, let's have a serious conversation about calling me, "Dear SIR" in the query letter. Please do the slightest research. It has never been a secret that I'm a woman. In this digital age, when you cut and paste the query letter into 1,001 websites, at least change the greeting to fit the circumstances.
Again, more research -- follow the query guidelines on the websites where you submit. For goodness sakes, you're right there finding the "contact us" or "submit here" link. Try reading the page and seeing what the guidelines are.

Here is a little insight into my thinking when I open a submission that doesn't follow the guidelines: 1) this person is as dumb as a rock (sorry to all the rocks out there) and can't follow instructions; 2) this person thinks that rules apply to everyone except them. The song is Hello Dolly, not hello diva. Delete. Delete. Delete.
It really doesn't impress me to be told in a query that we are lucky to get to publish said ms. If it is that good, go get a lit agent. Or spend YOUR own money and publish it. The way that I deal with divas is to delete the email without looking at the ms sample, if they bothered to sent it.
Next is the synopsis. There are specific elements to a synopsis. I've blogged about it and it is all over the internet and in every writing course, but the basics are: One page, two, tops; single space lines; written in third person; tells the story, the whole story, of the main character and possibly the secondary character. By whole story, I mean from the beginning of the book to the end. Yes, tell the end. This is not the place to be coy. How can I judge the story if it is a secret?
If I get as far as reading the sample chapters, let me make this clear -- start the story in the first line. Here is the logic of that statement: 1) people who buy books always read the first paragraph -- hook them!; 2) after the book is published, even if you DIY the book, when you do a public reading, you start at the beginning. That means, you don't say a few words about the beginning and start reading Chapter 3. If Chapter 3 is where the story really starts, delete chapters one and two, and make Chapter 3 become Chapter 1.
Personally, I am not a prologue fan. I understand its function. I just don't like them. If this information is important, then put it in the story. That is not to say there are not prologues in Cactus Rain Publishing books, there are. I just don't like them in general.
Next comes the request for the full ms. Whether Judith or I read the ms first depends on our workload at the time. I should have asked Judith what are her no-pass items, I didn't. I'm into this post now, so here are mine: I don't like rants, especially religious rants. There are tons of religious books on the market. Someone seeking spiritual answers is going to go to one or more of those books. I get the same creepy feeling reading political rants.
Skip the rants.
Vulgarity. I understand that the majority of adults cuss, at least a little. Writing peppered with cuss words, especially those that start with "f" is almost always a sign of a weak writer. You can bet if I love everything else about the ms, the f-words will disappear, before CRP publishes it. Any cuss words in the ms better be needed to advance the story. "Shock factor" isn't good writing.
Senseless violence. The first clue is the word "senseless." Every single word, scene, character has to advance the story. I have no use for violence and considering the number of times I read an ms throughout the publishing process, you can bet I don't want to read junk. I don't want to read (even one time) about violence toward women, children, or anyone handicapped. Why is rape in the news so often? We have not said often enough to our children that it is not okay. RAPE-IS-NOT-OKAY.
Sex. I've never read erotica, so can't commit on it. But sex is like every other element in the story. It has to be well written and advance the story. I'm 100% not interested in reading about adultery. Thank you - no!
We have nothing against non-fiction, but we don't have the resources to fact check it. Don't submit it to us.
This isn't necessarily a call for submissions, especially with the holidays around the corner - we do plenty of goofing off this time of year. If you do submit to Cactus Rain, at least do it right.

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