Open Submissions, Lessons Learned
RDSP opened for submissions for the first time in six years this September. We weren't sure what to expect but based on our previous experience figured we were in for a lot of easy declines: fan fiction, typo-riddled first pages, works that weren't novels, weren't in our word-length range, weren't in English. Instead we got lots of great novels from MFA graduates, professors, agents, foreign rights reps and plenty of authors with previous publishing deals. We'd expected lots of unpublished authors, and did get some of those, but they weren't the majority. And it was not easy to turn down many of the submissions.
We did not advertise being open in many places, just an announcement in our newsletter, on our blog and Facebook page. We were only open for 99 days and we received 93 submissions. While this wasn't completely overwhelming it does average about one submission a day. We had the help of an awesome volunteer but still have a backlog of submissions to get through. SInce most of our days are taken up with layout, editing, correspondence, processing orders, record keeping and promoting for the press it doesn't leave a lot of time for reading and certainly not enough time to read one submission per day! We an probably release 12 books a year max but are more comfortable at 8-10. Many of the slots were already filled with books we'd already agreed to release. So we had to let a lot of great submissions go.
Here are a few points that struck me as we went through the process:
-With so many great books to choose from publishers are not looking for a reason to accept your work, they're looking for a reason to reject it, so make sure to have several people go over it for mistakes, especially the first 10-20 pages.
-If your work is rejected it doesn't mean that it was not good enough. There are lots of reasons why a publisher turns down a book, and many of them have to do with the publisher's situation (how many books they can accept, the style/theme of the other books they're releasing that year etc.)
-I don't know about if this is a trend with other publishers but I really like to know as much about an author as possible before offering them a contract. Meeting authors is ideal but since this isn't always possible I like to check them out on the web. So, if you're on Twitter, Facebook, have a blog or a website include those with your submission. I was surprised at how few people included that. (Although I'd only recommend that if you use those things in a professional capacity as an author).