In Real Estate the motto is Location, Location, Location. In publishing it’s Books, Books, and More Books. The content we sell is books. The more content (books) you have for sale, usually, the successful you will be. (Told you I’d get back to this topic soon.)
However, there is a caveat here. It has to be good content. Good readable and sellable content. This will sound bad, but there is tons of crap out there. And I do mean tons. I have been a judge on quite a few writing contests. There are gems out there, but there are many more manuscripts that need a lot of work. I mean a lot. Most of those manuscripts are not ready yet for publishing and the right to call it a book. (Before a book is signed by a company and published it is actually called a manuscript. Only after printing/publishing is it called a book.)
In judging those contests, I have come to realize that some writers take criticism well, learning from their mistakes and making improvements on their manuscripts. These writers as they develop their craft with eventually become authors. However, there are some that do not take good advice, even common knowledge, and put it to use to improve their manuscripts.
In one such contest in which I was a judge, for three years in a row the same writer sent in an entry. The first year all three judges comment in the same respect about the first twenty-five pages (the entry amount required). All three commented about that there was no hook, the characters were flat and lifeless, and the plot did not move at all in those twenty-five pages. The second year the same writer sent in the same manuscript. Nothing was changed. Nothing, at least as far as I could tell. I was the only judge from the year before and, again, all commented on the same three items that needed improving. In the third year, I was lucky(?) to get the same manuscript entry again. Needless to say, again there was no seeming change in the pages. And again the same comments. Needless to say this person never even placed in the top ten in any of the contests.
The reason I mention this is that as a publisher, you have to get stern about the manuscripts that you read. If it isn’t so close to publication that it excites you, then it should get the ubiquitous rejection letter. Now I’m not saying be mean about it. I also try to give suggestions with my rejection letters, (I’ve been on the receiving end of rejection letters. I have a whole pile saved.) And sometimes it is just that little suggestion that can improve a questionable submission into a submission that gets a contract.
In those cases, when I can see that the writer is moving in the right direction and just needs a little help, I offer as much help as I can within limits. I would hate to have a truly budding author lose heart and stop writing.
Just remember this when you’re weeding your way through the ‘slush pile’ to find that one gem. And there are out there too. Just put on your wading boots, take a deep breath and start reading.
If you’re a writer and reading this, remember that the people who are reading your manuscripts are trying to help. And make sure that your manuscript is as polished as you can make it. Then take any suggestions seriously and remember what I wrote in my last blog. Stay tuned.