Archive for the 'Publishing a Novel' Category

Jul 18 2011

Why Do Good Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected?

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1. It was good, but not good enough.  At major publishers, publisher’s assistants reject ~995 out of every 1000 unsolicited submissions and pass on the remaining 5 to their bosses for further consideration.  Of those five, maybe 1-3 will be offered contracts.  If you had to reject 995 out of 1000 prospective works, you’d almost certainly have to eliminate many good manuscripts and some very good ones in favor of great and/or highly-marketable manuscripts.  Publishers don’t have enough money to publish all (or even most) of their good submissions.

 

2. It didn’t make enough of an impact on readers.  Publishing is a high-risk industry.  You need to convince publishing professionals to put themselves on the line for you.  An editor that was truly impressed is much more likely to speak up on your behalf than one that felt it was merely pretty good.  Write a book so good that editors would regret letting it slip away to another publisher.

 

3. It’s not what the publisher is looking for right now.  For example, editors might pass on an otherwise publishable work if it’s too similar to something they’ve recently published.

 

4. There were elements that worked, but it’d need more rewriting before it was ready.  Depending on how well the strong elements worked, you might garner a revise-and-resubmit letter here.  “The characterization was really strong, but I found the plot hard to follow for reasons X and Y.  Could you work on that and send it back to me?”  Besides a publishing offer, a revise-and-resubmit letter is the clearest sign you’re deep along the path to publication.  Alternately, any sort of personalized rejection letter (even one that doesn’t ask you to resubmit) is somewhat encouraging.  There’s not enough time to write thousands of personalized rejection letters, so editors will only put in that extra time if they think something is working.  (Unless it’s “Plagiarizing my book and submitting it to my publisher is not the soundest career move”).

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Jul 13 2011

List of Instant Rejections

Here’s a list of submission mistakes that may be instantly fatal to your query or submission letter.

1.  You’ve submitted something in a genre or medium the publisher doesn’t handle.  If you submitted a novel without a major romantic component to Harlequin or a comic book to a novel publisher, you’re dead on arrival.

2.  You’ve submitted a story that isn’t yours.  For example, if your story bears a startling resemblance to something that’s already been published, is fan-fiction, and/or is fan-fiction with the names changed, you’re probably dead on arrival.  Note: Most publishers do not accept unsolicited submissions for preexisting series or licensed works.  When DC Comics needs a writer for Batman or Dark Horse needs somebody for Star Wars, they’ll call authors that have already published notable works.

3.  Your submission was missing something listed in the submission guidelines.  For example, if the publisher asked for illustrated comic book pages but you forgot to include them, you’re dead on arrival.

4.  You submitted a query for an incomplete novel but are an unpublished author.  Finish the novel and try again.  I have not yet encountered a publisher interested in novel submissions from unpublished authors because nobody knows how long it will take the author to finish the novel or even whether the author is capable of finishing the novel.  The publisher can wait.

4.1. You tried submitting an “idea” or a “concept.”  Sorry, but novel publishers only consider completed novels from unpublished authors*.  On the other hand, some comic book publishers will consider partially-completed series (but usually want to see at least one issue scripted).  If you’ve been professionally published, you might be able to query a proposal for a book you haven’t started yet, but even then you’d have to finish it yourself.

*Unless you’re a major celebrity, like a film star or head of state.  In that case, a publisher might be willing to ghostwrite a book for you.

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Aug 08 2010

Answering This Week’s Questions from Google

Here are some queries that brought Google users to Superhero Nation this week.

  • How do I find out if my superhero story has already been told? Keep reading superhero stories, particularly in your medium (novels, comic books/graphic novels, etc).  Authors that have only read one or two series tend to write original work that reads like fan-fiction for those series.
  • Unused superhero names? When you use a name you found on the Internet, there really isn’t any guarantee it hasn’t been used.  If it’s good enough, someone will use it.  The closest thing you have to a guarantee of originality is doing it yourself.  The second-closest is asking a friend to brainstorm ideas without posting them online.
  • How do I sell a comic I wrote?  I assume you’re trying to get professionally published, rather than self-published.  Check out Nine Surprising Facts about Writing Comic Books.  Also, when you submit to a publisher, you’ll probably include  a page-long submission letter introducing your work and why they should publish it.  When it comes time to write that, I’d recommend reading as many of the articles in the Query Letter category as possible.  How to Communicate with Editors is a good place to start.

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May 29 2010

How Long Does it Take to Get a Novel Published?

Jim Hines did a survey on how novelists break into the industry.  His ~250 respondents are skewed towards fantasy, romance and sci-fi, but I suspect that it’s not wildly different if you’re writing superhero action or historical or historical zombie, etc. Here are several main points I took away from his survey.

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Apr 28 2010

How Long Should Graphic Novels and Comic Books Be?

If you’re interested in length guidelines for graphic novels, please see this LinkedIn discussion. By the way, if you’re interested in getting published, I’d recommend getting on LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook for professionals. For example, right now I’m in discussions with other writers about how best to build up a writing platform to impress prospective publishers. I think it’s even better for comic book teams: I posted a request for feedback on a group for comic book illustrators and received feedback that was very useful and informed.

 

PS: Based on the graphic novels I’ve seen recently, I think anywhere between 132-200 pages would be publisher-friendly. However! Each publisher has its own preferred length, so check out what they’ve been publishing lately. If your length is significantly outside of the range of what they’ve published in the past few years, I think that bodes poorly for your chances there.

 

One final note: As a measure of comparison, comic books are usually 20-26 pages of content (not including ads). As always, check out what the publishers put out, but Marvel and DC usually publish at the shorter side of that, compared to Dark Horse and Image.

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Mar 22 2010

The Writing Advice I’m Reading Today

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