Friday, April 18, 2008

The Best Job in the World, or, The Slush Pile Part 2

I love to read and I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. A part of my job is to read the unsolicited manuscripts that come into Annick...and there are hundreds. There is always the possibility that the next manuscript could be the special one; the one that interests and excites you, the one you want to publish.

Having said that, each manuscript that is submitted is special because it is the result of someone’s hard work and imagination. I'd love to have the time to critique each of these submissions but unfortunately there just isn't time, so below are some thoughts that might help.

What are the ingredients of that special manuscript? First of all it's original; the author has not tried to jump on a bandwagon. Consider the series about that boy wizard. People adored it but now publishers are looking for another kind of story. No one wants to be seen as a copycat. That doesn't mean that fantasy is dead, just that it should be based on an original idea, as should any other book.

I was once asked what makes me reject a manuscript. Sometimes, the subject just doesn't fit; for example, Annick doesn't publish holiday books, so, a book on Christmas or Halloween is not one that we'd consider. (If you'd like to find out what we are interested in, check out the author guidelines on our website.) In other cases, the story may start out well but the plot may fall apart, the characters may be wooden or unbelievable, or the subject lacks originality.

I also find it hard to read a manuscript that has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. Rather than reading the story, I find myself correcting it instead. It may be out of fashion, but, spelling and grammar are two of the writer's most important tools. Check your manuscript before you send it off (and don’t just rely on spell check, it doesn't know the difference between there and their...but you should.)

And one last piece of advice; read. The best way to learn good writing is to experience it-and what an enjoyable way to learn!

Judy Diehl

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