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!


  1. Oh dear. (Shakes head, sadly). RYS should not be your personal critique group. I think you get the most value when you only submit MSS that have been through your critique group multiple times and have been spit-shined and polished. Then, and only then, should you send it to RYS to test the waters one last time before submitting.

    1. Amen, Kirsten! You will go far with that professional attitude.

  2. What a great post. Well said. Read the guidelines till your eyes fall out. Then pick up your eyeballs, pop them back in, check ONCE MORE and hit submit.

  3. Excellent post! I assumed people used RYS as a final test to see if their manuscript was ready for the big time. Apparently I assumed wrong. I hope submitters will take this post to heart, and make the slush less mucky for you!

  4. Oh my! Submitters, please look at the profiles of the volunteer judges. These are rock stars in the business. They are giving their time, energy and wisdom to help aspiring writers learn this craft. They deserve to be treated with the utmost professional courtesy, and should only be reading your best, polished, properly formatted work.
    - Cathy

  5. LOVE this post! I have been dying to submit to RYS for a year now, but never have because I'M NOT READY. But I will be in about three months, if all goes well. It really is all about having patience with yourself AND having the self-knowledge and awareness to know when it's your time. AND about research, people! With the hundreds of thousands of resources out there about how to write a query letter, there is NO EXCUSE for not getting it right.

    Good for you, Miranda and RYS team. Thanks so much for all you do, and for this refreshing dose of common sense.

  6. I both giggled and held my breath nervously reading this, afraid I had committed any of those crimes. I'm breathing a sigh of relief that I haven't (that I know of). LOL!

    I've only heard of RYS recently and want to express my gratitude for the service you offer! This is one of shiniest examples of writer-altruism. :)

  7. Great post. I have sent stories to you and I am so grateful for your site. My picture books have been edited, critiqued, and rewritten many times before I submit. Let's hope others read this post and do the same.

  8. Tough love is good stuff, Miranda and Team! I imagine it feels a lot worse than my spouse or teens leaving tissues in their jeans and dirty socks balled up, and expecting nicely folded clothes to put on in the morning. Don't dis' the helping hand! At this time I'd also like to apologize for all the not-really-ready work I've sent in - with tissues in the pockets!

  9. RYS--the last stop before sending to publishers! Recently I got a #3 with helpful comments which I implemented before sending to an agent. He requested I tweak the ending and resend, and did I have others? That's what RYS has done for me! Thanks for being the pit crew before my MS heads out into The Race. I won't abuse you by sending a jalopy into your pit! :-)

  10. If you can't sell yourself, you can't sell a manuscript.

  11. Being a newbie, I appreciate all the advice,(although I have to admit some of these sound a little comical). I'm bound to break one of these rules, I'm like that;)

  12. Geesh, if you don't put your best out there, what would you even do with an RYS 8? You would just say "oh that makes sense because the story wasn't ready." No, no, no. There is nothing as good as the heartbreak of a 8 because you thought you had done your best, but now you see you have some work to do. Well, I suppose the joy of a RYS 2 or 3 is just slightly better than the heartbreak of an 8...

  13. Hi RYS team!

    I, also, wish to add my apologies for all those 'let their names remain unnamed' manuscript submitters who:
    Don't follow the rules
    Don't have patience
    Don't respect the fact that you are all pros who are generously giving your time and expertise

    I've submitted to you twice...once last year and once this year...each time after having run the ms by both of my critique groups and numerous revisions.:) They've been returned with awesome comments and helpful advice and I am very grateful to all of you.


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