Wednesday, February 27, 2013

3 Ways to Get Your Manuscript Rejected—Before it even gets read

Art by the lovely Julie Rowan-Zoch

Today's post is all about honesty, folks.
Don't hate us.

From this side of the slush pile, it can get ugly. 

Not only do the submissions pile up LIGHTNING FAST,

CAPTION: These are only the submissions from the last four days that we haven't even opened yet. Since we reopened a week ago, we've read/rated/opened about 50 others.

But sometimes, we shake our heads at what's written in the email body, or scratch our heads about what's on the first page of the manuscript.

Among some recent submissions, we're going to anonymously share 5 ways in which I think our writers would have earned themselves rejections if they weren't just "practicing" with our site:

1) Ignore the submission guidelines.
See that submissions snippet above? That's a snapshot of our email filter notification, which catches any emails sent to us with the word SUBMISSION in the subject line. If you submit a story to RYS that says "Query" or just the title of your piece, it DOES NOT GO IN THE FOLDER TO BE RATED AND READ. (And when you inquire about it three weeks later, we're going to try and write the nicest response. Or we might ignore your follow-up, too, because you've made extra work for us, twice.)

Furthermore, attach your document as an approved file type. No, we can't read dinosaur .wps files or strange binary files with funny characters. Again, your email will be ignored (although sometimes Miranda tries and be as kind as she can and send a note that you're not in compliance...but an editor might not be so nice).

2) Send your submission, like, 10 times in three days. And overload our inbox with messages checking on it.
We have an auto-responder. But sometimes, that doesn't work because of email spam filters. Or if you've already sent us a message that day or with the same header, you might not get one. Instead of freaking out that it didn't send, and hitting submit one, two, or ten more times (the record here at RYS is actually 12 times...), just be patient and see if you get a response within 14 days. Or, if you can't wait that long, send a very polite, very brief note explaining that you aren't sure if your submission was received.

Secondly, if you're re-submitting a revised manuscript that has already been read and rated, it's professional not to send it back the same day we've returned your critique. This actually happens all the time:

"Dear Judges, Thank you so much for these comments I got this morning!
I revised it quickly and I'm resubmitting it to see what you think of it this time."

First of all, that shows you aren't a patient person. This business requires patience and craft. Secondly, the judge who gets it this time probably didn't see it the first time, but they might have. Think about whether or not you've really changed enough and let the feedback resonate!

However, if you're checking on the status of a submission like this wonderful writer:

"I have not yet received a response to the email below, except for the auto-response. 
You all may be swamped at this time. 
Could you please check for me or put me back
in the queue to receive a rating?  Thank you."

We would be more than happy to check on it for you. You are loved.

3) Tell us how much your writing sucks before we even read it.
Pardon our language and brutal honesty, but this has been happening a LOT lately. In your cover letter or pitch to an editor, are you really going to introduce yourself and your book like these writers?

Dear Editor, “This story has been rejected by XXX because they didn't feel it was appropriate for XXX...."

Dear Editor, I wrote a few pages of a possible story (obviously not finished)...”

Dear Editor, "I am a XX-year old mother of three children and I live in XXX. I write children's picture books, always in a rhyming format (it seems to be a completely useless compulsion I have - to write in rhyme).

I have spent the past ten years trying (intermittently) to have at least one of my stories published, but have not yet been successful. Perhaps I am not being persistent enough, or maybe I am kidding myself. Either way, I am ready to let an impartial professional be the judge!"

(Our thought on that last one: how can the judge be "impartial" now, with that introduction?!)

We realize that you use Rate Your Story as a way to practice or rehearse how you're going to actually send a submission out to an editor. But performers and athletes, especially, know how important it is to practice the way you'd like to perform. Take RYS seriously; we certainly are!!

Now...Miranda's heading back to the slush, both outside and inside, on another wet, sloppy, mix-of-snow-and-rain day in WI.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RYS Welcomes New Volunteer Judge Ella Kennen

Today is a great Wednesday indeed!

We've got a new volunteer judge on board at RYS. And that means we're going to be re-opening for submissions. Please welcome:


About Ella Kennen:
Freelance writer and editor Ella Kennen has authored a sci-fi storybook series and children's ebook. Ella has also published over a hundred pieces, including over two dozen articles and stories for children in magazines such as Girl's Life, Appleseeds, Boy's Quest, SuperTeacherWorksheets, Knowonder!, and more. A staff editor for Musa Publishing's mystery and science fiction imprints, Ella obsesses about structural issues like plot, pacing, and characterization, but is also a mean line-editor.
Here are some links to Ella's relevant publications:
The Reluctant Caterpillar, MeeGenius, 2012:
Amazing Tales series, 2012-13:

We are super excited to have Ella on board as an RYS judge. (Miranda can actually attest to her awesome critique skills—she was one of the many critique partners who helped shape the first book Miranda sold.)

Now.....another double-dose of great news! Not only are we re-open to submissions, we're keeping our critique rating service free (for the time being, anyway)!


There are some new guidelines, however, and we encourage you all to read them carefully on our submissions page. The most significant change is the "one at a time" policy. Simplified, it means you can send one MS at a time to Rate Your Story, and you may send another once yours has been read, rated, and returned to you.

(Just to clarify, you may still submit revisions of the same manuscript up to a total of three times. After you've had the same MS rated three times, however, we ask that you seek out a professional critique or find critique partners who can help you further with it.)

Speaking of getting outside help, and learning more about the craft and self-editing, we've heard that RYS Judge Mira Reisberg also has a few spots left open in her next course at the Picture Book Academy! (Those spots fill up fast, so click here to learn more.)

If you illustrate picture books for children (or write them, but don't illustrate) you will want to take this course. Here's what Miranda had to say about it:

"I took Mira's course mostly for the one-on-one Skype critique time, which was fabulous. But there were SO many valuable nuggets of information in the highly interactive and time-flexible course that new authors, published authors, and writers who don't illustrate, like me, could take from it. One particular lesson on pacing and structure provided me the perfect idea for a manuscript I had been struggling with for some time. Her suggestion made revision easy and fruitful. 'Attending' PBA was well worth my investment."

Lastly, we'll leave the blog post with a reminder to read the terms of submission at the bottom of the submissions page. While your manuscript will never be shared online, as we value privacy, we reserve the right to share pitches, any news in your cover letter or email body, or other part of your submission that may be helpful to other writers (similar to websites such as QueryShark, etc.). If we choose to do so, we will do so anonymously.

Have a great day! We look forward to your submissions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RYS Update

Hello everyone!

Happy Wednesday from Rate Your Story. I know you are all anxiously awaiting news about submissions. By the end of the day today, all submissions prior to Jan. 22 should be returned. Our inbox is clear!

What does this mean?

While we want to re-open to submissions right away, we have to make some adjustments so that we don't continue to be bombarded with manuscripts and have to close every three to six weeks again. We also recognize that we still need at least one more new volunteer judge.

Next week, we plan to re-open submissions with modified guidelines—namely, a "one at a time" rule. While we realize that many of you are sitting on dozens of manuscripts, we're asking that you submit one story at a time to Rate Your Story, and when that one is returned to you, you may submit another.

We are SO glad that so many of you use our free service. We love providing feedback that is helping you on your path to publication. We do recognize, however, that we may need to continue to make adjustments, and we welcome your feedback. Would you pay an annual member fee to use Rate Your Story? Would you still use our service if our average responses time was six weeks instead of two? If we partnered with agents or editors, would you participate in contests? Let us know.

Next week, we'll also announce the identity of our newest volunteer judge!

So, hang tight for another week and we'll have a post for you on Wednesday the 20th officially letting you know when submissions re-open. (Anything sent to RYS before then will be deleted, sorry!)

Comments welcomed!