ForbiddenFiction.com Submission Process
Evaluating the Submission:
With any publisher, the submissions process may feel like busy work, but it isn't. It's the first test of whether or not you will actually pay attention to detail, communicate well, and follow direction. Like a resume or job interview, it's one of the ways the publisher can evaluate your abilities.
When a story comes in through submissions, it's routed immediately to both the primary office of ForbiddenFiction.com and to our Senior Editor. The submission is then logged into the submissions queue – a spreadsheet where we track the status of every submission. This hopefully keeps us from losing anyone amongst the many. (A reason submissions, even from authors we already work with, all go through the same email is so that we can keep the record clear.)
The first thing we look at is whether or not the author has followed the submissions process correctly. There is nothing arbitrary in the list of requirements. Most of them are based on previous incidents that taught us what we must have up front in order to evaluate the story and draw up a contract.
The ability of the writer to follow the Submissions Guidelines is also a way we evaluate whether or not the writer is serious enough about what they are doing to take up our time evaluating their work. Someone who dashes off the submission without bothering to read the requirements may be equally sloppy in their writing. If they can't follow the simple instructions given on the web site, it may be too difficult to work them through the process of edits and production. One of our most annoying problems are when someone submits their work and then afterwards refuses to do things as simple as setting up their account on the site or answering questions needed to produce their work.
We have an extensive Writer's FAQ that explains how being an author with ForbiddenFiction.com works. The authors who don't take the time to read it before submitting are wasting both their time and ours. We can usually tell pretty quickly who has and who has not read it. They annoy us with questions we have already answered in the FAQ or become upset when they realize that we do some things differently from most publishing models out there. We are not really interested in working with authors who are not willing to work within our business model.
Evaluating the Story:
One of the primary goals of ForbiddenFiction.com is to produce both erotic and well written stories. We believe there is a lot of explicit fiction out there, but most of it is poorly written or lacks editing. Editing, that process of reading and re-reading writing to find the ways to make it shine, is a critical part of the literary process. It's more than proof-reading. It's a process of looking at story structure, characterization, narrative point of view, internal consistency and logic, fact checking, language use, grammar, and so on. At ForbiddenFiction.com, your story will go though at least three editorial readers before it goes into production.
Many publishers relegate submission reading to a junior member of the staff (or an intern). We have reversed that process. It's a complicated process to decide what does and does not work for our site, so only senior staff evaluate stories at ForbiddenFiction.com.
We evaluate stories using the following basic criteria:
- Plot --Is it a story? Plot is a story arc of conflict and resolution. A narrative does not make a story. A scene of people having sex is not necessarily a story. Does it have a plot and characters who tell us a story? Is there tension to be resolved? Does it have a resolution? Will readers like the characters or concept enough to see it through? For more on the topic, see the Wikipedia entry on plot.)
- Sexy -- Is it erotic? Which means that it must have both sex in it and be arousing. It amazes us how many people can describe sex in ways that are less arousing that reading stereo instructions. One key to tell you whether it's erotic -- Is one or more of the characters involved in the story sexually aroused and has the writer conveyed that to the reader?
- Craft -- How well written is it? Does the writer describe the action and emotions so that we feel we are there? Or are they just summing it up? The old expression "show, don't tell" is even more critical in erotic writing.
- Skill -- Does the writer have a good grasp of language, grammar, punctuation, etc.? We expect to do some polishing, but if we have to fix every line, it won't be worth our time.
- Originality -- Is it interesting? Is there something original or different about this story? Do the characters pull you in? Is the situation unusual? How is this one different from every other story about sex?
The truth is that some fiction is exciting to the writer, but not to readers. We see it as akin to why it can be fun to watch the slides of your vacation. It's usually only fun for those who were on the vacation because the slides bring up memories for them. The only time it’s fun for others is when the vacationer fills in those slides by telling interesting stories that the pictures are illustrating. It's the experiences that matter for the original vacationer, but the story that matters to the viewer.
It's unusual to find a story that doesn't need work in at least one of these areas. To be honest, there are very few stories out there that will not need some editing. The judgment call for the submissions editor at this point is a balance. Is the story interesting enough to outweigh the amount of work we will have to put into it to help resolve its flaws? This judgment can mean we look at other factors too. If we have worked with the writer before, we will probably know their strengths and weaknesses in the editorial process. If not, we look to what we do know about the writer.
- Do we think the writer has the drive, interest and skill to make the needed changes?
- How difficult will working with them be?
- Have they been published before and with whom?
- Are they from an online community where they have been using fan editors (betas)?
- Is there anything in their cover letter that shows they have a history of taking direction and following through?
- What other aspects of the author will be an asset to us as a publisher?
- Do they have a reader base already?
- Do they know how to use social media like that which our site is modeled upon?
- If we take the time to help them develop their work, will it bring us more?
Reading submissions can be an arduous task. It can also be very exciting. You never know when you open a file if what you are about to read is going to make you wish you had brain-bleach or make you so excited you can't stop babbling about it. Most stories fall somewhere in the middle and require a lot of thoughtful evaluation. Regardless of the outcome, we are always aware that there is an element of trust involved that we must honor. Like a BDSM relationship, the submissive is someone to be respected for their willingness to show vulnerability and trust. We honor writers who take the chance to put their work out there.
First, we thank them for their submission. This may seem like a platitude but it isn't. We honor that sending a story to a publisher can be emotionally risky for the author and trusting us to handle it with respect is important.
Whether or not they like to admit it, almost all editors have different types of rejection letters. At the moment, ours usually fall into these categories:
- "Your submission does not meet our criteria." – Examples of types we've seen include:"Your submission does not meet our needs." – This mostly likely meant it failed the list of five story-evaluation criteria given above.
- Wasn't erotic fiction. (No sex involved or sex was mentioned but not detailed.)
- Was non-fiction. (We only contract for fiction.)
- Was poetry. (Again, we currently only contract for fiction. We may in the future look at poetry but not at this time.)
- "In its current form, we can't accept your submission." – This means that in some ways it did interest us but didn't pass the five criteria. We may venture to give feedback here. For example, the piece might be very erotic but missing a story. Giving feedback is a hard one. We've had mixed responses from this approach, from "thank you, that was helpful" to insulting comments about our lack of taste. It is this second group of authors who contribute to making editors leery of giving feedback with rejections. (And to mitigate similar results in the future, we keep an internal list of authors we will never read again.)
- "We are considering your story for acceptance, but would need to know if your willing to work with us to do extensive rewrites." – This is our most risky option. We don't want the author to think the story is perfect as is and we don't have a record with them to tell us if they are good at rewriting. This is a way to test that. It means risking our time and the authors without knowing if both sides will end up happy at the end. We are most likely to make this offer if there was something original or particularly interesting about the story.