Friday, April 20, 2007

Sifting through Submissions

Friday afternoons are often when I devote some time to our fiction submit email box, looking for good proposals for Heartsongs. Unfortunately that means sending rejections, too. I really don’t do it to ruin anyone’s weekend. Maybe it's just me, but I’d much rather receive bad news on a Friday and then do something fun over the weekend to make myself feel better. :)

Anyway, I get so many submissions that, unfortunately, the first thing I’m looking for is a reason to reject so that I can narrow down the choices. Here are some things that make for an almost instant rejection:
  • The author is obviously not familiar with Heartsong or our guidelines.
  • The proposal does not include one or more of the following: cover letter, chapter synopsis, and first three chapters.
  • The cover letter is poorly written.
  • The story is over the maximum Heartsong word count of 50,000 words.
  • The story is not set in the U.S. or is set in a state that is already taken. (But occasionally if the proposal sounds really great, I’ll take a second look to use for future or as a “wildcard” slot.)
  • The first few chapters are full of too much narrative and backstory and not enough action, dialogue, etc. to draw my attention.
  • The story seems more like women’s fiction, romantic suspense, or some other genre than straight inspirational romance.
  • The proposal is for a multiple-book series about the same hero/heroine. (Each individual Heartsong should have its own hero/heroine with their story clearly ended in one book.)
  • The story is a historical that takes place after World War II.
  • The story is contemporary but is “dated” by a specific current event (For example, I wouldn’t want to see a hero/heroine falling in love in the aftermath of specific natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina.)
  • The story is set in the future.
  • The story does not have a clear inspirational message.
  • The story sounds too much like other proposals or other Heartsongs we’ve done. (“There’s nothing new under the sun” but there can always be a new twist and something unique about characters, setting, and/or plot events.)
And on a brighter note, here are some things that draw my attention and make me want to dig deeper into a proposal:

  • The cover letter mentions if the author has met and talked with me about the story at a writer’s conference, and I've asked him/her to send the proposal.
  • The cover letter briefly mentions the author’s writing experience, published works, membership in organizations such as ACFW, etc.
  • The cover letter briefly tells me why the author is qualified and/or passionate about writing on the subject matter in the story.
  • The proposal includes a blurb (pretend you’re writing your own back cover copy) that “sells” the book to me.
  • The hero and/or heroine have unique occupations or plot events.
  • The story is built around little-known facts or events from history or around unique geographical locations.
I don’t have time to offer specific critiques of proposals that I reject. If you’ve received a rejection for your Heartsong proposal and weren’t sure why, hopefully this information has helped explain it. Please learn from it and continue honing your skills. Then maybe one day I’ll be requesting your full manuscript and eventually sending you a Heartsong contract!

1 comment:

Mary Connealy said...

These are great, solid, common sense directions for protential Heartsong authors, JoAnne. Thanks