Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rejection: Knowledge is Power

I have heard it said often that small presses—Ebook, royalty-paying publishers, in particular—will publish anything that comes across the transom. The proof for this is in the pudding (so the elusive “they” will say): Sub-par releases, under-average cover art, poor editing. These are the gripes. Because of this, I decided to analyze seriously our own submissions and titles to see if this viewpoint held water, or was all wet (Oh, and BTW, clichés and IM abbrev’s are OK in a blog entry—but not in a manuscript unless your character is going electronic ). Here’s what I found: Several of our titles have received glowing reviews—and not just from “Miss Jane Doe’s Blog that nobody ever heard of,” but, awards such as four stars from Romantic Times Magazine, reader’s and/or editors’ choice awards, and the like. Our covers have won The New Covey Award, the Dirk A. Wolf, and others. Our books have won Eppies, and other well-recognized contests—and our rejection rate on submissions exceeds fifty-two percent across the entire company. If the proof is in the pudding, The Wild Rose Press is stirring up some pretty rich chocolate—lots of cacao and not much artificial flavour.

But, you may say, “That sounds very sweet; how about giving us some meat and potatoes data.” OK. Generalities won’t cut it. Here are the bare-bones numbers on my own stats: Sixty percent rejection to forty percent acceptance. However, of the forty percent I do contract, more than half of those (fifty-four percent) are from authors who have published with us before (sometimes with another line; most often, someone I’ve personally contracted). So what does that mean? It means, if you’re a new author querying me for the first time, you only have an eighteen percent chance of me offering you a contract. To illustrate, it means that for every one hundred manuscripts I see, sixty get rejected and forty get contracted—but of the forty which get contracted, twenty-two are return authors, and only eighteen are new to TWRP. Eighteen out of one hundred. Does that sound discouraging? Don’t let it be. Just think of it this way: Every one of the twenty-two I contract as return authors, were once first-time authors. What this information should tell you is this: I don’t contract everything that comes across my desk, so if you’re serious about your career opportunities with The Wild Rose Press, send me your best work, not that first draft you wrote fifteen years ago and haven’t looked at since.

I take my job as an editor very seriously. It’s my reputation on the line, as well as the company’s and yours as the author. I don’t want to disappoint readers. I want them to pick up your book and be awed, moved to laughter or tears—or both in the span of a few chapters. I want them to talk to their friends—not about how poor TWRP books are, but how they’ve found a keeper, a must-read—how they can’t wait for the sequel or the next new release from Author A at TWRP. That’s what’s best for you—and me. What this should also tell you is, when you get that contract offer, don’t write it off as something trivial—and don’t let your friends, either. TWRP may be a small press, but I certainly don’t offer contracts to everyone.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rejection rate at larger houses is much higher than what I’ve described here. That’s because they see more manuscripts, yet unfortunately, that doesn’t mean more good submissions. I can understand their dilemma. I’ve been with TWRP for quite some time now, and I’ve seen the tide of submissions ebb and flow. It would be nice if the more submissions we saw, the more contracts we issued, but that’s just not the case. It’s usually the other way round: The more submissions, the higher the rejection rate. This is a sad reality.

But, that brings me to a very important point, which I know I’ve made before: if I reject your manuscript, but give you an offer to resubmit, I’m not trying to be nice. Just like you, I lead a busy life, and I don’t want to see a manuscript multiple times if I know it is too far away from publication quality. I only offer to look at a manuscript an additional time if I see some promise in it. So, please, take me up on my offer. Incorporate my suggestions. Resubmit. As I write this, I can think of several manuscripts I’ve contracted which were initially rejected, but came back to me well edited and polished to contract quality. I love it when that happens!

Rhonda recently put out a note asking for more submissions. We are always looking for great stories. In White Rose, I’d like to see some Miniature length and Rosebud length really great inspirational stories—stories in which Christian people struggle with their faith, but still rely on God. Emotionally driven stories with a strong romance and a strong Christian principle. These stories can be contemporary or historical.

In English Tea, I’d like to see any-length traditional regencies, and stories with a gothic flavour. I’d also like to see medievals which feature feisty heroines and courageous knight-types where chivalry is celebrated and women can be strong but still feminine.

Our rejection rate may seem discouraging, but don’t let it be. I’m shooting for a hundred percent contract rate, so send me a terrific read. If you do, I’ll send you a contract, and together, we'll grow.

Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
White Rose & English Tea Rose


Mary Ricksen said...

I am thrilled to have had my first book published with TWRP. I think that this publisher will be and is, on the way to being one of the best and most respected ones around.
It is with great pride that I tell people, that I have just published with TWRP. Can you beat that!

Debra St. John said...

Wow! Reading this makes me ever-so-honored that my first mansucript was accepted by Wild Rose. Eighteen percent...I am staggered. I did go through several rounds of edits (one before a contract was offered) before publication. The editors here at TWRP really know their stuff, and it shows. I am so proud to be a rose!

Colleen Love said...

I completely agree with Mary and Debra. I am so very proud to be part of this company. TWRP may be a small press, but good things come in small packages. With the way the company is run, I can see it running competition against the bigger houses in the near future! I am very proud to be here and love, LOVE my editors!


Anonymous said...

Great write up, Nicola! I'm proud to say that I'm a TWRP author. I was rejected by you all once, but that didn't stop me :)

Nicola said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies. You're a testament to perseverance and committment.

Mary, I totally agree w/ you. I think TWRP is on it's way up. :)

kmdaughters said...

We're honored that you invited us to resubmit Jewel of the Adriatic after initial rejection and gave us the opportunity to re-work it to publish-ready quality. The thrill of publishing our first book with TWRP as a result is our daily blessing! And working with you to accomplish that was simply wonderful. Not only did your editorial skill guide us in creating a better book, your cover art is gorgeous. So we can testify that TWRP does reject manuscripts that aren't up to your standards of excellence - BUT you gave us the invaluable second chance to turn writers in TWRP authors! We've already said thank you, but we're so proud to be White Roses, we'll say it again!

Brenda J Weaver said...

Well I have to put my two cents worth in here. I have to say that I am also honored and proud to be a TWRP Rose! I have two contracts with you yet you rejected one of my other manuscripts...still baffles me on that one but thats ok...I will find a home again for it else where. I've been told I should never keep all my eggs in one basket and though I don't really agree with that phrase it looks like I'm going to have to comply with it. I really think TWRP is a fantastic publisher with wonderful editors, artist and a great marketing department! One of the best that I've seen in a small press. Kudos to you all.