Wednesday, April 10, 2013

SUBMISSIONS WANTED! An interview with Editor Kathy Rygg from knowonder!

Happy Wednesday, indeed!

Today, I'll get straight to the point after just one piece of business:

Rate Your Story has received a huge influx of submissions in the last 10 days. We're running a bit behind, and so Rate Your Story closing to submissions for now.

But, when one door closes, another opens:

We've got a guest editor on the blog who is actively seeking submissions!

Please welcome editor Kathy Rygg!

Kathy Sattem Rygg is a children’s book author and Editor-in-Chief of the children’s publication knowonder! ( She earned her degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including McGraw-Hill’s business publication division in New York City. She was also the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE, with her husband and two children.

Miranda Paul: Thanks for taking time out of your busy editorial schedule to pop in and tell us more about knowonder! and your latest call for submissions. Can you tell us more about the knowonder! story?

Kathy Rygg: Knowonder! began as a publisher of daily short stories for kids as a way to promote reading at home. We have been through a lot of changes as we try to compete in the publishing market, but our core belief that daily reading content is necessary to drive literacy remains our mission and purpose. We are currently expanding our product offering. In addition to our short story collections we will include reading content that promotes literacy for infants as well as chapter books for beginning readers (grade 1-3). You can download a free copy of one of our short story collections:

Miranda Paul: I've noticed that knowonder! has one of the most lengthy and detailed submission guidelines out there. I, personally, find detailed submission guidelines to be helpful. Why do you provide such detailed guidelines for writers? Do you think it helps you receive a higher percentage of appropriate submissions? Which submission guideline is most often ignored?

Kathy Rygg: Knowonder’s! literacy program is unique. We focus on read-aloud short stories because they are proven to improve listening skills, concentration, and vocabulary in children beginning at a very early age. Read aloud stories need to be exciting with lots of literary devices such as alliteration, crisp vocabulary, and effortless dialogue. The guidelines help drive our decisions for acceptance. 

When a child enjoys hearing a story, it encourages him/her to want to read on their own. So our short story collections are a great step-up resource to chapter books. This is why we are adding chapter books to our reading content, so that as soon as a child is ready to step up to the next level, we have reading content for them. Knowonder! wants to grow with our audience.

In addition to content guidelines, we obviously have format guidelines. These make it easier to edit and upload stories into the various programs we use for the finished digital and print publications. Unfortunately, many submissions don’t follow the format guidelines, which adds time to the editing process. So it is important to follow the formatting. 

Miranda Paul: About how many submissions do you receive in a month?

Kathy Rygg: For short stories we receive about 150-200 submissions a month, and our editorial team reads every single one. We will do the same for our chapter book submissions.

Miranda Paul: Let's get to the heart of what we do here at Rate Your Story—help authors avoid rejection. In your opinion, what are three things that might get a manuscript rejected pretty quickly?

Kathy Rygg: If the story starts out too slow—we should know the premise in the first couple of paragraphs. Remember, kids have short attention spans. We also want the main character to be a child (or animal), not usually an adult (unless the child or animal is working with an adult). Third, the main character has to solve a problem—that is at the core of every good story.

Miranda Paul: Great advice. Also at the core of what we do is help writers get acceptances. So. . .What are three things that help a manuscript get an acceptance from knowonder!?

Kathy Rygg: Imagination goes a long way. We like creative, fun concepts because we know kids like them too. We also want the story to have action. The characters need to do a lot of things—kids are busy bodies! Third, I love a good last line. Something witty, funny, or a way to tie back to the beginning of the story.

Miranda Paul: Thanks. Now, even more specifically—What kinds of stories are your favorite to publish?

Kathy Rygg: I like writing stories with some humor in them and I love reading humorous stories too. I want to see kids smile and laugh while they read. Or hear them simply say, “that’s cool.” 

Miranda Paul: What is knowonder! looking to publish right now? 

Kathy Rygg: We are actively seeking children’s chapter book submissions for kids ages 7-9. We are looking for the same type of exciting, adventure-filled stories that we do with our short stories, but we want these to be 10,000-15,000 words in length. Here is the link to our submissions page:

Miranda Paul: Thanks for that specific info. Can you also tell us what knowonder! ISN'T looking for right now?

Kathy Rygg: We are currently closed to short story submissions, but will reopen later in the year. Authors can subscribe to our email author notification at this link:  

Miranda Paul: Some of our readers may not be familiar with knowonder! yet. In terms of traditional vs. self-publishing vs. independent vs. digital vs. flat-fee vs. all kinds of new-age publishing options, where does knowonder! fit? 

Kathy Rygg: Knowonder! is a hybrid—for short stories we pay either $25 (for stories 500-999 words) or $50 (for stories 1000 words and up). For chapter books, we have a royalty sharing program that will be competitive with industry standards. Our short story collections are available as digital and print formats (through Amazon) and our chapter books will be available in both formats as well.

Miranda Paul: What sorts of authors do you look to publish, and what is their role in the process?

Kathy Rygg: We publish both new and seasoned authors. However, we absolutely want authors who can market their own work. Nobody can do this alone, and the more we can help each other network and promote, the better off everyone will be.

We also want to work with authors who aren’t afraid of revision. We often ask for revisions of short stories and try to provide direction. That will be even more important with chapter books. 

Miranda Paul: From an editor's point of view, what is one thing you'd like to share with authors that they may not know about your job or this industry?

Kathy Rygg: I’m an author too! I’m constantly working on my craft, I have a critique group, and my work has been declined plenty of times. It makes turning down stories really difficult because I know how hard authors have worked on them. The children’s writing market is really competitive, and every publication is looking for something slightly different. Don’t give up—keep working on your stories and submitting them multiple places. 

Miranda Paul: I didn't know you wrote as well! How great to have an editor who knows the flipside of the submission game.

Kathy Rygg: I also want authors to know that I’m completely approachable—the entire knowonder! team is, in fact. If you have a question about something before you submit, just shoot me an email: I try to be very prompt in responding!

Miranda Paul: Ok, then! Since you're approachable, here come the "fun" questions. What was your favorite book as a child?

Kathy Rygg: My favorite book was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I loved the creativity behind the premise that little people lived in the walls of houses borrowing things. I was thrilled when the book was made into an animated movie and I took my kids to see the live stage production of it a year ago. To this day, whenever I misplace something, I always say “The Borrowers must have taken it!”

Miranda Paul: If you were stranded on a desert island with only two knowonder! stories, which ones would they be?

Kathy Rygg: The first would be “Kabungo” by our staff writer Rolli that appears in our Volume 2 collection of short stories. He has written several Kabungo stories, and I have fallen in love with this crazy cave-girl. The adventures she goes on are fun and laugh-out-loud humorous. 

The second story would be “Just Plain Sarah Jane” by Nancy Julien Kopp that is in our Volume 3 collection. It’s a quieter story, but it’s well written with a wonderful, unexpected feel-good ending. It’s a nice reminder that good things do happen. 

Miranda Paul: Next crazy question is. . .Where are the wild things?

Kathy Rygg: They are living under my roof and they are ages 6 & 9!

Miranda Paul: [for the record, I told Kathy to make up any question she wanted and then answer it.]

Kathy Rygg: What do you like best about living in Omaha, Nebraska?

I was born and raised here, but I didn’t appreciate it fully until I moved away. My husband and I came back to be near family, and it’s the best decision we ever made! Omaha is a great city—it’s right in the middle of the Midwest, people are friendly, and we truly have the best beef in the country! We actually have more restaurants per capita than any other city in the U.S. And since we don’t have an NFL team, we do go a little crazy for our Husker football, but it’s worth it!

Miranda Paul: Thank you so much, Kathy, for visiting! Rate Your Story really appreciates your time to let us know a little more about knowonder! and what your house is looking to publish. I know many of our readers are actively working on chapter books and stories for your audience. I'll remind them of that submissions link at

Have a great rest of the week, everyone! Comments are open.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Does the Slush Pile Look Like? Part 2

Happy Wednesday!

Last week, I did some analytics on the Rate Your Story slush pile. (In case you missed that post, click here.)

I also made an offer, and got 14 responses, many of which went to SPAM mail. (Another reason why you should always politely follow up with agents and/or editors).

If you remember from last week, my offer was good to the first 15 respondents.  That means there's one spot left for a critique from Miranda!! Who will be the lucky one to contact me first? You, I hope! Email Miranda if you'd like in on the offer.

But now, to today's post, I'd like to share a little more of what the slush pile looks like.

Rated 8-10 – approx. 10%

Rated a 5-7 – approx. 40%

Rated a 3-4 – approx. 29%

Rated a 2 - approx. 12%

Rated a 1 – approx. 2%

No Rating or Uncertain Rating: 7%

(P.S. Miranda tried very hard to make this a pretty chart/graphic in her new spreadsheet program, but gave up after 30 minutes. She cites the early morning hour as her downfall on this one.)

Now, let's remember a little bit about what the rating scale means:

1= a volunteer judge saw it as completely submission ready. That means that among nearly 800 manuscripts, our judges were ecstatic about exactly 15. If our judges were editors, that would probably translate to a "read-on-Wednesday, make-an-offer-by-Friday" sort of response.

5 = a volunteer judge saw it as better than average, but still needing work.

7 = a volunteer judge decided that your overall idea had merit (so don't throw it out!) but the MS needed a lot of revision.

10 = a volunteer judge decided that the current MS should be considered as practice and you'll need to re-envision a completely new story or concept.

Now that I've said that, remember:

Our volunteer judges, like agents and editors, are SUBJECTIVE. 

You could submit the exact same manuscript twice to Rate Your Story and get two different ratings. I've had particular volunteer judges pass on rating manuscripts because they had a fear of the subject matter or had just read three other manuscripts about talking dogs, farm animals, etc. Don't take ratings from RYS personal. We're doing our best to help you (for free), and give you a dose of what's really out there.

Now, if you've scored a 5 or higher on any MS, go do a dance like this: 

Or this:

Your work is already better than average. It stands out. It's probably being read in its entirety if you're actively submitting it. Use that to fuel you during the revision process and get it from the "good" pile to the "GREAT" pile.

But dancing isn't just for 5s and better. If you've scored a 7 or higher on any MS, go do a dance, like this:

Your work has merit! There is hope! DO NOT THROW IT AWAY. All is not lost, and you've got some direction to help that story find its way into print. Listen carefully to feedback, but save something from the original. Play around with the manuscript. You can always revert back to an older draft. Who knows what you'll find when you revise.

And if you've scored an 8, 9, or 10 on a MS, you also must do a dance, like this:

You've successfully avoided a possible rejection! Hooray! You've been given a chance to re-envision your story before it was too late, and gotten a fresh and professional eye to give you direction on making stronger choices.

Since many editors and agents have a "no means no forever" policy, you often only get one shot in today's tough market. Our service has helped offer you insight on whether or not your MS is ready for that one shot. We're that friend holding your finger back from (or pushing it towards) the send button.

And, when you get those offers, we're here, dancing with you!

(Oddly, this is what Miranda and the RYS crew really look like when we dance. . .)

Have a great day! 

(P.S. Miranda's really already dancing because we got great news from an RYS submitter this week. Plus she's so excited for what's up next week, she might even post it early. . .)