The Submission Game

Bedazzled Ink has dabbled on and off through the years with allowing unsolicited submissions. We’ve never had much luck with the process and so we’ve mostly relied on serendipity to acquire books. Amazingly enough, serendipity has worked very well for us.

When we created our latest Web site we added a page where authors can query us. To control the over-abundance of useless stuff author sometimes send along with their submission, we created a form for the authors to fill out, making the process simple, easy, and clear.

Then we let the author know what we’re interested in at the moment—

“At the moment, we’re currently open to queries for our BInk division. For fiction, we only want to see books with strong women protagonists for mainstream literary fiction, mainstream lesbian fiction (including genre fiction that transcends or exemplifies the genre), and literary juvenile fiction.”

We even went so far as to include a drop down menu to let us know which submission category a book belongs in—Literary Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream Lesbian, Juvenile, and Nonfiction. Nice and simple and clear . . . right? And like many publishers, we’re not always looking for all the types of books we publish at any given time, so key words in guidelines are “at the moment” and “currently.” Always remember to visit publishers’ guidelines regularly because they may decide they have enough of one type of book and are looking for a different type or they’ve expanded a line of books, etc.

Well, many authors don’t feel the need to do simple things like read submission guidelines, look at the kind of books a publisher publishes, or even look at the publisher’s Web site if the guidelines are posted on another site that lists guidelines. The few times we had guidelines on other sites, we got religious tomes, poetry by rednecks, political rants, really really poorly written fiction that you know had been rejected by every single publisher in the universe . . . Our little form/control system seems to have successfully filtered out the lunatic fringe of writer wannabes, at least.

So after six months we decided to see how our new submission system is working. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve received.

submissionschart

So pop quiz.

What is our only criteria for fiction? A female protagonist. Note that 17.67% of our submissions have male protagonists.

Now, what kind of mainstream fiction are we looking for? Literary. Excluding male protagonists books, 47.04% of the submissions are mainstream genre—romance/chick lit, young adult, fantasy, memoir, and mainstream literary. The memoir is about a woman’s journey to the perfect relationship—too chick lit/romance for our taste. So 64.71% of our submissions are mainstream and only the young adult (5.87%) and the literary (11.75%) meet the mainstream criteria.

And that leaves the lesbian submissions—35.29%. 17.67% of the submissions are lesbian romance so they don’t match the category. Leaving us with 5.87% that are young adult and 11.75% that are mainstream lesbian.

So 64.76% were rejected right off the bat. Of the remaining 32.24%, one of the mainstream literary submissions, all the young adult, and all the mainstream lesbian made it to the “shall we ask for the full manuscript?” stage. We’ve already accepted all the mainstream lesbian for publication, we’re looking at the young adult manuscripts, and we’re discussing the one mainstream literary submission.

What we have learned from this study is that saying what we are looking for is not enough. We have to actually say what we’re not looking for, which, of course, is everything except what we’re looking for. So perhaps it’d be easier for authors to peruse the guidelines and brush up on category definitions if need be. After all, it’s not only a waste of our time, it’s a waste of the author’s time, unless they really enjoy collecting rejection slips. Well, we don’t particularly enjoy sending them out.

What we enjoy is receiving a book that knocks our socks off and we can’t wait to release it to the world. Got one of those and we will say yes so fast it’ll make your head spin. That’s because we really truly know what we want, even if a certain number of authors seem to believe that we don’t.

It just makes sense to study the kind of books a publisher publishes, read a few of the popular ones, and understand how they’re the same or different from your book in quality and in content. The main questions should be, do they publish books like my book and is my book like the books they publish? The first question identifies content and the second identifies style and quality. The wrong answer to the second question is usually what gets a rejection because that’s what we look at first.

So we’ll keep our little submission form and tweak our guidelines from time to time because as many times as we have to say no, the few times we get to say yes makes it more than worth it.

And by coincidence we have a tweak . . .

 Call for Submissions

The Forever Windsor Series

Visit the guidelines page for more information

Mothers and Daughters

Back when we published our zine, Khimairal Ink, we’d get a bunch of submissions and sort through them and select the best ones for the next issue. We focused on things like was it a good story and was it well-written. Then when we had our little pile of stories, we would select an illustration for the cover and have a discussion on what our editorial introductions would be about. So we’d look at the stories again and we’d often see that most, if not all, were centered around a single theme or genre. It was as if authors had been struck to write and/or submit a short story in the same genre or about the same thing at the same time. We had a speculative fiction issue, a light and amusing issue, cheatin’ hearts issue, an enlightenment issue . . .

So fast forward a bit and we looked at our recent books and realized that several of them also follow the same theme—mothers and daughters.

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The trend started with Jericho by Ann McMan with an important secondary story between Maddie Stevenson and her estranged mother Celine.

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Then we published Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran, which is about a daughter’s discovery of a secret from her mother’s past. By coincidence, Everything by Carole Wolf also follows this theme. Yet no two books could be more different from each other. While the story of true love between the mother and a woman from her past is at the core of both books, Letters Never Sent explores the cultural and social impact on women during the 1930s through the 1950s, and Everything gives us a glimpse into the sex, drugs, and rock n roll scene of the early 1990s. Both books weave the times and settings in rich, vibrant tapestries and both have nice twists at the end as a result of the daughters’ journeys of discovery and revelation.

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The Paths of Marriage by Mala Kumar is about three generations of women, and tells the story of a young woman in India who marries and moves to the United States to make a better life for herself and her family, her daughter who is caught between cultures, and her daughter who is an out lesbian to everyone except her mother and grandmother. We are taken on a journey that begins in Chennai, India and ends up in modern day New York City as thousands of years of cultural barriers have to be torn down for these women to find what it means to be family again.

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Kid by Doreen Perrine, due out in time for the holiday season, is based on a true story about a lesbian mother fighting her ex-husband for custody of her child in the wake of the Save Our Children campaign of the seventies. Perrine gives us a story about the women who were brave enough to stand up to the system and be a part of one of the many efforts throughout the 1970s and 1980s to get the courts to change the laws that gay and lesbians were automatically unfit to have custody of their child. But at the core is the special relationship between a mother and a daughter who have spent too many years on the run and living in fear of being found and separated.

So explore the world of mothers and daughters through these entertaining and intriguing books.

Ten Years Ago . . .

Ten years ago in 2004, Claudia and I were hanging out in Portland, Oregon—Claudia was there to see a former track student, Robyn Stevens, compete in a track meet and I was working at Blackwell’s Book Services in Lake Oswego, Oregon—and decided to start a publishing company to publish the kind of books we liked to read.

claudiaandrobyn2 Photo of Robyn Stevens and Claudia taken June 14, 2014 after they participated in a racewalk race.

The first Bedazzled Ink office was rather mobile and it began each day in the quaint and always busy Starbucks in downtown Lake Oswego . . .

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and then moved to a second floor table of the equally quaint Lake Oswego Public Library for the rest of the day.

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Our first book, Dragon Drool, and the first issue of our ezine Khimairal Ink were published from that second floor table.

By coincidence, we’ll be celebrating our tenth year at the GCLS Conference in Portland, Oregon. We like both the serendipity and the symmetry of this coincidence because we embrace the paradox aspect of Zen. Paradox nudges the mind away from routine by disengaging the rational mind and letting in creativity and intuition.

Our approach to publishing mirrors aspects of Zen—we believe that neat boxes labeled “publishing company” are difficult to maintain in an industry that is ever changing and is now changing so rapidly that just keeping up with them is a challenge. So we try to avoid boxes and neat labels or anything that is resistant to creativity and intuition. The rigid parts of this business—the parts of production that involve third parties—are balanced by a freedom to fashion each book into unique creative entities. Our authors come to us mostly through serendipity. We like the organic way an amazing manuscript travels its own unique journey to our little part of the world and we love helping that manuscript along on the next leg of its journey.

We decided to take a look around and see where we were after ten years. We like the direction we’re going in, and the best way to keep striding down this wonderful path is to remold the company into something that matches where we are today and where we want to be in the future. So we split Bedazzled Ink into three divisions—BInk, Nuance, and Dragonfeather Books.

BInk focuses on . . .
• Mainstream Literary Fiction with strong female protagonists
• Mainstream Literary Lesbian Fiction, including genre fiction that transcends or exemplifies the genre.
• Literary Young Adult
• Children’s
• Nonfiction
• Special series and projects

Nuance is all about genre lesbian fiction . . .
• Action/Adventure
• Historical
• Romance
• Speculative Fiction
• Thriller

Dragonfeather Books continues to be books for kids twelve and under.

We hope you join us as we embark on our next ten years of publishing unique and wonderful books.

C.A. Casey

“When you’re writing, you’re creating something out of nothing . . . A successful piece of writing is like doing a successful piece of magic.” — Susanna Clarke