- About 3% thought they were submitting to an agent.
- About 10% submitted work that is not even remotely close to what we publish -- memoirs, religious books, dissertations, cookbooks, etc. (Why is there always a cookbook?)
- About 20% submitted fiction, but not even remotely close to our type of fiction -- hardboiled detective novels, fictionalized childhood memoirs, YA witches and vampires, stories a la Tom Clancy and Louis L'Amour, etc.
(Side note -- Last week I asked for your input on our submission guidelines. I took many of your suggestions. New guidelines are here.)
So this leaves about two-thirds of the original pile. This somewhat-reduced group is all more or less romance and may or may not have enough erotic content for our needs. Of this remaining two-thirds:
- One out of three will be disqualified for multiple spelling errors, egregiously bad grammar, or other signs of a writer who is barely literate. These are the most mystifying submissions. You have the stamina to write a whole entire book, but can't take the time to run the spellchecker? Really?
- About half will be capable of writing a clear sentence in the English language, but won't understand basic fiction mechanics. These are the people who got As and Bs on all their high school papers and would probably make strong nonfiction writers. If they learn things like scene structure, pacing, characterization, and the like, they will probably eventually write publishable fiction. But they're not there yet.
Of those remaining ten or twelve subs:
- One-third (roughly three or four) will have great external romance plots, competent writing, and an interesting premise, but will leave me guessing as to what kind of erotic content is included. These are sometimes rejected, and sometimes get a request for a full with a reminder that we publish erotic content. I usually suggest that they make sure they have the right heat level before sending in the full. In about half of the cases, we don't ever see these fulls, which leads me to suspect the story wasn't hot enough to begin with. Of the ones that are submitted, they are usually not erotic enough to suit our needs, but if the author is willing, it's very easy to pump up the erotic content. (Usually.) For this reason, we tend to request the non-hotties more often than we reject them.
- Another three or four will be hot enough to melt my eyeballs, but will have weak characterizations, trite external plots, occasional awkward phrasing, and other glitches. Sometimes these are fixable, but much depends on the skill level and willingness to work of the author. These are the ones editors evaluate with one eye on the clock: "How much of my time will it take to get this into publishable shape?" The answer, almost always, is too much. For this reason, we tend to reject the hot-clunkies more often than we request them.
- Another three or so will be just right. Good plot, good heat, good writing -- or good enough, anyway, to be fixed in under a hundred editor-hours. With some sense of anticipation, we will request fulls on all three. Two will eventually show up.
What's the lesson in this? Read the guidelines, run the spellchecker, and respond to requests for fulls. Be willling to work and revise your stories. You can improve your odds a lot just by doing these basic things.