Things we don’t reject books for…

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Every so often, I get either a panicked email from someone who’s submitted and are convinced their manuscript is going to be rejected for forgetting some basic information in some part of their submission, or I’ll receive a reply to a standard rejection, with the person informing me they know we must have rejected their book for XYZ reason. So I thought it would be helpful if we had a blog post highlighting some of the reasons we at Carina Press do not reject manuscripts.

1. We don’t reject manuscripts because they’re not romance.

Yes, we publish romance. But we also publish non-romance. We don’t reject a book because it didn’t have romance (or as one author said, because it wasn’t a “bodice ripper”), or because it does. We’re interested in adult genre fiction, both romance and non-romance, and a quick browse through our catalog will show you we publish both.

2. We don’t reject manuscripts because they’re not…trashy, sweet, sexy, innocent enough.

Along the same lines as #1. We’re not rejecting manuscripts left and right over here because there’s not enough sex or because there’s too much sex. We don’t have a secret sex-meter set up that uses a complex algorithm to calculate whether there’s enough sex and dings when the book hits that just-right stage. Write the heat level that fits your work. If that means there’s no sex because it’s not a romance or because it’s a sweet romance, fine by us.

3. We don’t reject manuscripts because you forgot to put your word count, genre, pen name, or some other basic information.

Trust me, this happens…all the time. If we rejected everyone based on just this, we’d only have about 10% of submissions left to look at. So take a deep breath, don’t panic, and let us evaluate your story, rather than your ability to follow directions.

4. Which leads me to…we don’t reject manuscripts because you didn’t follow directions for submitting.

But we will ask you to resubmit. We don’t look at incomplete submissions, but we don’t send a rejection either.

5. We don’t reject manuscripts because we don’t like the author (or because someone else has told us they don’t like the author).

I’m not sure I should even say this, someone out there is going to get paranoid, but it’s important to us that we like your manuscript, not necessarily that we like the author. We can read the internet as well as the next person. We know you can be abrasive, irritate your fellow authors, say unkind things and generally be a bit of a pill. If your book is good, we’re willing to overlook all that. (Caveat: this is different than someone who’s publicly made a general ass out of themselves and/or acted incredibly unprofessionally with us or with others. Yeah, we might reject a manuscript for that)

6. We don’t reject a manuscript because it falls in too many genres.

Look, we published a m/m paranormal erotic menage romance w/thriller elements. If you’ve written a good book, we’ll find a spot for it.

7. We don’t reject a manuscript because it falls in too “niche” a genre or isn’t a genre that seems hot right now or because it’s in an unusual time, place or setting.

See #6. If you’ve written a good book, we’ll find a spot for it.

8. We don’t reject a manuscript because it has a terrible title, we hate the character names or your pseudonym.

But if we acquire it, we might ask you to change those things!

9. We don’t reject a manuscript just because your previous book at another publisher didn’t do so well with readers, reviewers and sales.

But we’re going to be looking at all of the elements to see if we can figure out why that happened.

10. We don’t reject a manuscript because the characters are physically imperfect or have a handicap, aren’t beautiful or glamorous, or don’t fit some character stereotype. Or because of their background or profession.

I present Shall We Drown in Feathered Sleep by Michael Merriam as Exhibit A

11. We don’t reject a manuscript because the author doesn’t have a blog, participate in Twitter, Facebook or the social media of the month.

But if we acquire the manuscript, we will be asking you about marketing and promotion plans, and encouraging an updated, simple website.

12. We don’t reject a manuscript because of a few typos, or because the author doesn’t have a thorough grasp of grammar.

We do want a submission that’s been self edited, and maybe been looked at by a critique partner or beta reader. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just not sloppy and disrespectful in its un-edited state. And we will look for signs of learning via the editing process in future manuscripts. If you keep submitting manuscripts with the same errors always pointed out, we’ll have to talk.

13. We don’t reject a manuscript because a Harlequin imprint has rejected it.

Being rejected by a Harlequin imprint doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not “good enough”, it can simply mean it doesn’t fit that line’s guidelines and requirements. Harlequin editors have actually recommended authors send to us instead. So a rejection from a Harlequin imprint doesn’t mean a rejection from Carina.

14. We don’t reject a manuscript because it’s got bad formatting, the wrong font style or size, or is the wrong format.

If it’s the wrong format, I’ll simply ask you to resubmit. If the formatting is wonky, well, we can fix that. And font size/type is easy to change for our reading pleasure. Do we want you to use a standard format and font? Yes, please, don’t get creative. Not only is it hard on our eyes and does take a few extra minutes to change, but creative formatting can make a file too large, which makes it unwieldy to move around from email to device and back again.

15. We don’t reject a manuscript because you used first, third, second or omniscient POV.

We’ll read and publish books in any POV, as long as it’s a good book and it suits the story.

16. We don’t reject a book because you didn’t write a good synopsis

Now, with this one, I must admit that it can make it harder to acquire the book, but it doesn’t make it an automatic rejection. Harder to acquire because sometimes the acquisition team looks to the synopsis for answers during the acquisition process. Also, we use the synopsis post acquisition for marketing, cover art and cover copy, so a good synopsis does matter. But we don’t reject a manuscript based on the synopsis.

17. We don’t reject a manuscript because the editor doesn’t like the genre.

We make every effort to match manuscripts to editors, and if an editor gets a manuscript in a genre that doesn’t suit her but she sees the merit of the writing, she asks to pass it on. We have several authors who now work with two editors at Carina Press, because one editor works on one genre with them, and the other editor works on the other. Sometimes, it is about getting in front of the right editor, and we recognize that.

18. We don’t reject a manuscript because we’ve rejected one of your manuscripts before.

You might not hit on the first manuscript, or even the second or third. But we’ll keep reading your submissions as long as you keep writing them, and we might find that perfect fit for us eventually.

19. We don’t reject a manuscript because you didn’t address us by name in the query letter (or addressed us by the wrong name).

It’s hard to know how to address a query letter, when you’re not sending to a specific person. We know and we look past that. I’ve had people call me by the wrong name (ie: hello, Samantha, remember when we met at XYZ conference and we talked about your daughter?) and while it makes me laugh (and groan) it’s not cause for rejection. Do pay attention to details, but don’t stress if you realize you’ve gotten it wrong.

If you’re wondering why we do reject manuscripts, you can read one of my older posts here. At the heart of it is that we’re really quite interested in a good story. Now, will we get aggravated if you don’t follow submission guidelines and you do some of the things mentioned? You bet we will. And aggravation is not always the best frame of mind you want in an editor. But none of these things will cause us to reject a manuscript. Of course, if you combine a whole bunch of these into one submission package, like the errors, bad formatting, wrong name, terrible synopsis, we might wonder just how well you’d do when it comes time to edit–attention to detail is crucial at that stage.

At the end of the day, here’s what we ask: Write a good story. Write your very best story. Edit it. Edit again. Ask someone else to look at it. Let it sit for a few weeks, before you hit send. Look at it again. Read our submissions guidelines. Follow them. Write an informative query letter. Send your submission. And then give us time to read it and don’t follow-up until our timeframe is up or until you need to tell us someone else has offered for it and we have two weeks to give you our decision. All the while you’re waiting, be writing your next story. Your very best story. Because writing your very best story is how you don’t get rejected.

15 thoughts on “Things we don’t reject books for…”

  1. Tia Nevitt says:

    Regarding: “10. We don’t reject a manuscript because the characters are physically imperfect or have a handicap, aren’t beautiful or glamorous, or don’t fit some character stereotype. Or because of their background or profession.”

    Talia from THE SEVENFOLD SPELL could be Exhibit B. She’s downright warty.

  2. All these posts you make about submissions, and writing, they’re totally appreciated. And it’s fantastic to see an opposite spin – usually we see posts about why an MS might be rejected. It’s nice to see the reasons why it won’t get rejected. Thanks, Angela.

  3. After reading this I decided to submit an MS to you. I sent the first email without any attachments. Does the list mention not rejecting a story because the author has a senior moment and hits send too soon? :)

  4. It’s good to know that submissions are given some leeway. I know I get so nervous, I forget my own name in the seconds it takes to hit “send.”

  5. Allie says:

    This is so cool. As a reader, I am overjoyed by this information. So many good stories floating around out there will be made available to me.

  6. It’s nice to know that we won’t get rejected for the stupid mistakes we can make in our nervous rush to hit send. Thanks for the great info, Anglea!

  7. Kaylie Newell says:

    Fantastic! Love it- Maybe editors aren’t so scary after all :)

  8. Rhonda Stapleton says:

    Lillian–it totally happens. Just resend with a note saying you’re including attachments this time. Trust me, I do that even when sending docs to Angela. haha

  9. Kaily Hart says:

    Great post. Intellectually I think most people probably realize at least some of these things. It’s nice to see them all listed out!

  10. Diane Dooley says:

    “We don’t reject a manuscript because the characters are physically imperfect or have a handicap, aren’t beautiful or glamorous, or don’t fit some character stereotype.I present Shall We Drown in Feathered Sleep by Michael Merriam as Exhibit A”

    Smart move. It’s such a wonderful story.

  11. “or I’ll receive a reply to a standard rejection, with the person informing me they know we must have rejected their book for XYZ reason”

    …really?

    *Really?*

    Wow. I know I’m supposed to be a writer with thousands of words at my fingertips, but I cannot think of any that really convey my reaction to that. The Germans probably have a compound word for it, though.

  12. Whenever I hit “send” I experience an out-of-body moment, in which my body is telling my mind, “Go ahead, I dare ya,” and my mind goes, “Oh, yeah? So there!” and my mouse finger twitches involuntarily and AOL flashes “your message has been sent” on my screen and a couple of ticks go by and then, “OMG! I forgot to attach anything.” (Or something along those lines.) Carina Press is good about that!

  13. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to read this particular Blog! I am just starting out, and all I ever read is how perfect your submissions need to be to have ANY publisher look at it! The entire process would be overwhelming for any novice writer… perhaps I should send any I encounter here! Thank you for the insight.
    Amma

  14. What if you are using a program that loses the formatting every time you save in RTF? (Which means that resubmits will still be borked.)

    1. Angela James says:

      @Elizabeth Use a different program, lol? ;)

      You can save it as DOC as well, we won’t kick it out of our inbox for that. We just prefer RTF because it’s easy to forward to our reading devices. DOC is fine!

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