Friday, July 22, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons Falstaff Books Rejects Your Work

Ever since becoming one of the main editors at Falstaff Books I've come to appreciate the difficulty of sifting through the slush pile in search for that one gem worthy of publication. I've rejected a good bit of work by now, so the reasons that I or another of Falstaff's editors reject work have become constant enough to speak on definitively, even though some of them still surprise us from time to time.

Hopefully this list helps potential Falstaff Books authors

1. Your query letter lacks

Admittedly this is a point debated in today's digital publishing world, but Falstaff Books still sees the value of a query letter in today's publishing landscape for the plain and simple reason that it reveals three very important things:

First, your query reveals that you know what story you are selling. I cannot relate how many query letters I've read that have caused me to reject work instantly, so here is some general advice: give us the protagonist and the villain, tell us about the plot, and raise the stakes immediately.

Second, your query tells Falstaff about how we go about selling you, the author. One of the biggest mistakes I see when authors submit to us is that they provide little in the way publishing history and instead try to wow us with the opinions of people we may or may not have heard of. Speaking for myself, I can't give credence at all to what a blogger or your family member had to say about an unpublished manuscript or previously self-published works when it comes to deciding whether or not it is a project that right for Falstaff. They're not the ones who will be out there selling your work at conventions or getting it distributed in bookstores. What we do want to see are your credits, self-published or traditionally released, no matter what they are. Submitting a query letter is somewhat like submitting a resume for a job--We want to know where you've been.

Third, a good query letter shows us that you did your homework. Follow this simple formula: provide in your letter a salutation, Statement Of Purpose, pitch/short synopsis, brief bio, concluding paragraph starting with "Thank you for your time and consideration", and a "Sincerely" at the end will goes a long way in demonstrating that you knew what you were doing when you submitted.

2. There's no story in the first three chapters

So the story really does need to start immediately from page 1. We will let you build to "the happening" to the end of Chapter One, Debut the plot in Chapter Two, but we need to be well into the story by Chapter Three. And if that doesn't happen you will need to rely on writing that is so captivating that we cannot ignore it. So tell us that story from the start!

3. You did not follow the guidelines

Here they are. Follow them to the letter.

4. Your submission is not right for us

We consider a ton of things at Falstaff when we get a submission. The work needs to be great, it needs to be in a place where we can provide enough time and effort for developmental and copy edits, but also time to produce a book wrap, eBook, social media posts, distribution channels, pay those involved (which we do), and then create a timeline toward a manuscript's release. If a submission has a great story but the writing needs a lot of work to get there we pass. If the writing is great but the story needs work the severity of the the development might make us turn it down as well.

I will also let you in on a little secret: the Falstaff Books website says that we take Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy, but we are publishing of it coming out right now which has made us reluctant to take more against others types of work in other genres. I would bend over backward to read about time travel, or a Sword & Planet novel, or a non-European Epic Fantasy. I would love to read a great mystery involving space aliens or a romance between two lesbian sorceress' that doesn't have a happy ending. But right now we have too much Urban and Contemporary on our plates and more coming in. And we love them. But we want to love other things, too.

5. You haven't learned the rules of writing Fiction

Join a writing group that offers critique. We don't care if it is online, among your friends, or meets every Saturday. Get writing and get better, but also get your work out there so it gets tested. Strive for publication with a great small press or The Big Five, and go try to grow your skills within magazines, e-zines, and anthologies. Keep striving for a larger vocabulary, better spelling, tighter grammar, and try out new storytelling elements to your work. Read wider, write more, submit more, and keep building momentum. One day you might crash through my screen and demand a contract, and I will be happy to give to you--but only when you've learned the rules of writing fiction.

Go learn the rules, then learn to break them.

If you have any questions, comments, or wish for me to expand further, please leave your input at the bottom of this post! Check me out at @JayRequard on Twitter, and keep striving!