Book Submissions Are Open

by | Jun 2, 2016 | Behind the Scenes

submissionsBook submissions are open. You can submit through Submittable during the month of June.

This year I am doing things differently. Instead of sending a manuscript, I’m just asking that writers fill out a short questionnaire about their book. I’ll request manuscripts from those entries that seem most fitting for Publishing Genius. I expect I won’t request more than a handful, even though I’ll be tempted by many more.

I believe accepting submissions this way allows for more transparency in my process for considering books. As a writer myself, I know I get excited when I send someone a manuscript, somehow expecting that they’ll read it carefully and send me a response that matches their considered opinion of the book.

But that’s not actually how it works. In the past I have disqualified most manuscripts after reading barely a few pages, simply because I have some vague idea of what the PGP catalog needs and because I can only really focus on a few that arrive “over the transom.” So even when a manuscript is perfect, even when it grabs me from the first sentence, I decline it unread 99% of the time. It’s hard to line up to my “vague idea.”

(About this “vague idea” thing … you might wonder why I don’t just hone it from the start and then pre-filter the number of submissions by carefully detailing what I’m looking for. In fact I always feel a little guilty for not doing this, but even though 99% of the submissions end up being declined, I still rely on them for helping me understand my aesthetic in context of what writers are coming up with. Most of the books I’ve published actually weren’t within my “vague idea,” but something about them aligned with it. For instance, Jarod Roselló sent a comic book and I published it, not having any idea that was what I wanted to do. This selfishness is a big reason why I’m so grateful to everyone who sends their work. And related to that, I don’t have the problems other publishers seem to encounter where the submissions are completely inappropriate for their press; the majority of submissions I receive are fitting, and excellent.)

So this year I put together a few questions that I think will help me learn more than random cover letters and an overwhelming cloud of manuscripts I can’t actually read. Not being a data scientist I don’t know if these are the best questions to ask, but they are, I think, what I’m most interested in. Here’s my rationale for each of the 10 questions:

1-3: Name, Book Title, and Genre

Well, that’s pretty straightforward. I expect I’ll get some unique answers in the “Genre” field. That’s cool I guess. I do hope, though, that people don’t go too far outside the box with any of their answers.

4. Book Description

I limited this to 45 words, which I know is extremely painful. I believe that writers should have a painfully short synopsis for their book, and there’s something wrong if they can’t dig that out. People should also remember that this doesn’t have to stand for the whole book. If what they include here is interesting, we’ll start a conversation.

5. Objective

This question is probably the most important of the bunch. Again I limit the answer to 45 words because I want to know what’s the most important reason people should read the book. There’s no one correct answer. I’m committed to social justice, but I also think entertainment is important, and beauty for its own sake too.

6. Book Length

I ask about this for budgetary reasons.

7. Favorite Part

How can anyone choose one favorite part of their book? I don’t know! I just want people to have an opportunity to show me a representative sample of what their writing is like.

8. Another Favorite

Here I’m hoping to learn where the writer is coming from, who they consider their forebears or their friends.

9. Bio

No response is required here, because all the other questions tell me what I think I need to know. However, if I were trying to get published, there are certainly things I’d like a press to know about me, like my publication history or how I make a living helping people publish books (and therefore know how things work) or how I attended or taught a seminar and so on.

10. Website

I just like checking out author websites so I hope people will include theirs here. This also isn’t required.

Thanks for reading this. If you’re interested, I welcome your entry at our Submittable page or your feedback in the comments. How do you feel when you send off your manuscript?