Medusa's Muse is starting to receive submissions from writers on a regular basis now, which makes me realize I really need to decide EXACTLY how to deal with them. So far, we've received just a few now and then, usually via a polite, but not very professional, email. One has peaked my curiosity, but I'm not sure we can even take on any more projects right now. So, how do I manage a steadily growing slush pile?
It's weird being in this position. I have written two novels and numerous short stories, as well as four plays, and from all that work I've received over seventy rejection letters. I've only been published once. Hip Mama magazine, 2001. I know how much a rejection letter hurts. I've been pummelled to the point I don't want to send out any more work. Ever! Now here I am, looking at a writer's work, trying to decide if I like it or not.
To like or not to like is a completely subjective thing. But I need to set up certain guidelines for myself when reading someone's query so that I can create the rules for how I want submissions sent. What am I looking for in a manuscript? What excites me? What annoys me? It's kind of like asking yourself what you like in a mate. My turn-on's are a well crafted, polished manuscript full of passion and honesty, and a sense of humor. Turn-off's are cleverness for cleverness' sake, poor spelling and grammar, and anything smelling of elitism. Translation: send me something that is beautiful and honest, but save the rhetoric. Write from the heart, not the ego.
Transforming Chaos into Art. That is the Medusa's Muse mission. What that means for a writer is that we like stories about people who have overcome some kind of challenge and have grown from it. If that person can craft a story around that challenge, whether fiction or non-fiction, then we're interested. It doesn't have to be a tragedy or an illness. Write about your love of baseball or dogs, just as long as it inspired a transformation in your, or the character's, life.
Do not send genre fiction such as Sci Fi or Romance, and please no Poetry. I like to read them, in fact I'm a huge Steam Punk fan, but I don't publish those books.
Now, the how to send a query part. I only accept queries via email. That is because the editor lives in Boston and the only way she and I can work together on a project is through email. If you send it to me in the regular mail, I'll just send it back. Send a query letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, in the body of an email. No attachments. Your email should explain who you are, what your book is about, how long it is, how it fits with the Medusa's Muse mission, and if you've ever been published before. Don't worry if you haven't been, it's just nice to know. I don't care if you have an MFA or not, I only care if you can write. A well crafted query letter will show me that you are professional and know how to write a book. A rambling, disorganized email tells me you're not quite ready to work with a publisher, so really take your time with the letter. Look up examples of query letters. Have a friend help; sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can really help. I'll post a sample query later.
If your query grabs us, we'll ask for the first chapter and a synopsis. The first chapter shows us your writing ability and tells me if you can write a book that grabs a reader from page one. The synopsis shows us what your book is about and helps us see if it is a good fit for Medusa. Please finish your book before submitting. Half written books are not accepted. And send us your BEST work. Writing is a time consuming art that takes energy and focus. Take that time. It's worth it.
Can I take on any more projects? For now, we'll take query letters any time. There may come a point when we'll have to close the reading period and only accept queries at certain times of the year. We already have two projects (possibly a third) that will take up the next year, so any other book will have to wait until 2010.
I love discovering new, talented writers. It's the judging part I don't like very much.