And here’s how to give it to us, just the way we want it…
Too dirty? Not dirty enough…!
Our acquisitions process is a bit different from traditional print publishers, so I thought I’d give you a run-down. You know the deal on your end. Here’s how it looks on mine:
1. All books submitted to Escape go through me, Kate, the Managing Editor. I read every submission that comes through, and make the decision on all of Escape’s titles.
2. I can’t always tell a book I’m going to accept from the get-go, but I’m pretty good at telling ones I’m not. I’m going to do another blog post on the main reasons I’ll reject a manuscript later, so watch out for that.
3. Digital publishing moves fast. Consider our publishing turnaround of four months, compared to more than a year with traditional print publishers. This means that the bar to publication may actually be higher in digital publishing, because we don’t have the luxury of time for multiple rounds of edits. So in order to be considered, a story must not require any major structural edits, and must be near-publishable as it is.
4. When reading a submission, I’m looking for a few things: consistency of character, believability of plot, realistic development of romance, good pacing over the course of the story. But I’m also looking for that undefinable spark, that feeling you get when you are invested in a character and a story, that bubble of anticipation that sits just below your ribs when you know you’re reading something special. I want to be delighted.
5. I’m also on the lookout for stories that surprise me or change the way I look at romance novels. We’re actively seeking risky manuscripts, so I want ‘different’, in terms of characters, setting, time periods, narration, style. I want to be surprised by a manuscript, and invited to take some chances.
6. Once I’ve read a submission, I’ll do one of three things: accept, request a full, or reject. If I reject, I’ll make quick notes as to why, and include those in the rejection letter. Occasionally, if a manuscript is close, or if it is one that I believe in, I will ask the author to make structural edits or changes, and then resubmit. This gives the manuscript a second chance, and I will read it again, as if I hadn’t seen it before. If I accept, I send an acceptance email through, and then celebrate with the new Escape Artist!
What does this mean for you? My advice is this: edit, polish, edit. Find a beta reader who will give it to you straight, even if the news isn’t good. Listen to that beta reader, but also to your own instincts. Write. Write some more. Write more again. It’s the only way to get good at it. Take risks and make unpopular choices, but be true to your story. Even if it doesn’t get accepted, writing the right story is better than catering to whims and trends. Take all advice with a grain of salt. Except the editing and polishing. That part is gold.