March 4th, 2010


Reading, Rejecting, Revising, Representing.

Queries read: 472
Rejected: 434    Requested: 38
Request rate: 8%
Fulls read: 26. Fulls rejected: 22

I've rejected 22 full manuscripts now, and I wanted to take a moment to give you an idea of what leads to a rejection and how I approach my stack of full manuscripts.

For starters, I'll give every book a minimum of 10%. That means, generally, 25-30 pages. If I've requested your full, I've already decided you're a good writer and I like the concept. You've got 25 pages to reel me in.

Unfortunately, the majority of them don't click into place. Here are some of the reasons I've rejected manuscripts thus far:

*Lack of tension in the plot--- felt too "day in the life" after the opening pages.

* Character in the first chapter seemed like a different person than the character I read about two chapters later-- and I much preferred his attitude in the first chapter.

* read a full hundred pages and while I liked the voice, the story just wasn't getting off the ground.

* Love interest was too mary-sue  for me to fall for hiim

* revolving POV that deflated the tension. If you're going to revolve between characters, make sure you have a really good reason for it. Had two of these this week. One made sense, one I wasn't so sure of.

*backstory dump. It was humorous for several pages, but after two chapters the mansucript was still "filling me in" on the background and not moving the story forward.

*a historical with a "teaching" tone. I really, really love historicals. But you MUST stay in your character's POV, not write little asides that are going to teach the reader about history. Like, say you're in 1815 and you're going to give someone Laudanum for a sickness. Don't turn and tell me, Laudanum is an opiate, often used for....." because your character already knows that. Just like you aren't going to stop and explain to someone what aspirin is. You just use it.

*I can put it down and I don't think about it when I'm not reading it. This one is the most common and the hardest to explain to a writer. I try my best to provide concrete feedback, and yet sometimes I can't. I know the writer has done the right thing and has obvious skill. But I'm not drawn into the world so much that I'm thinking about it constantly. I only sign projects that I'll be thinking about while driving or cooking. If I'm stirring my noodles with one hand and leaning over to read my kindle at the same time, you've got a good shot with me.

Why is it so important that I fall head over heels in love? Becuase I'll read your work at least two or three times before I ever send it to an editor. The first time, to see if I want to sign you. The second, to gather my revision notes. The third, to review your changes and complete line edits. if your MS is in exceptionally good shape, I may suggest the changes right off, and then read and do line edits after you've attempted them. But if it needs a little more work/attention, I'll need to mark up the manuscript and provide you with bigger feedback before you can get to work.

And if your work doesn't sell on the first round, we may gather the editor feedback and go through it again. Prada & Prejudice went to 26 editors over the course of 18 months and was eventually in its 9th draft when it sold.

If I'm going to read your book 9 times, I damn well better love it. :-)

What have I loved so far? A rather diverse group. One is a boy adventure set in Egypt. One is a historical from the 1920s. One is a much older historical with a fairy-tale like quality to it, and the fourth is a gritty, mature urban fantasy. With each project, the characters and their story stayed on my mind even when I wasn't reading.

So, I hope this was, in some way, helpful.

Good luck to those of you in the query trenches!


  • Current Mood
    awake awake