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.


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