A moment ago, over on my author website, KatMHawthorne, I wrote a blog post about what an author should do in certain situations when submitting their work to agencies or publishers. I promised to write a corresponding post here, to discuss the other end of the submission process. So here you have it: the submission process from the editor's point of view.
When a new submission is received at BookFish Books LLC, the first thing I like to do, of course, is to read the query letter. As we've discussed on this website before, query letters are an author's first chance to impress or otherwise "hook" an editor. If the story sounds interesting when summed up in a paragraph or two on a query letter, that's a great sign. Less important, at least to me, is the author's bio paragraph. We all have to start somewhere, so if an author has no other publications to his or her name, I am not going to be too upset.
From there, I personally like to just get right into the story. Actually, maybe that is a bit misrepresentative---I like to read the first three chapters. I say that it's misrepresentative because at this stage, I am not terribly concerned about the story at large. When I read those first few pages, what I am most interested in is the quality of the writing.
What I mean when I say "the quality of the writing," is the author's voice. Sure, I notice grammar and punctuation errors and such things (I can't help it!), but those issues are secondary to the way the author tells the story. Author voice is the most important thing to me.
If I like the quality of the writing, I will then move on to the synopsis. Oftentimes, these are very mechanically written (we really MUST do a posting in the near future about synopsis writing), and that is fine. By the time I get to the synopsis, if I get there at all, I will already know that the author has the chops to write the story well.
Occasionally, as I've said in other postings, an author will start their story in the wrong place. It doesn't happen too often, but sometimes, if the synopsis is interesting, and the writing quality is good but dull, I will ask to see more pages to find out if perhaps the dull bit can be hacked off (insert a cheesy simile about cutting a diamond from the rough here). It's rare that this happens, but a great synopsis can sometimes sway me to request more pages.
If, however, I've read the query and liked the sum-up, I've read the sample chapters and have found the writing to be awesome, and I've read the synopsis and found the plot intriguing, I will ask for pages.
Sometimes, authors spend so much time polishing their sample chapters in preparation for submission, they forget to beautify the rest of the manuscript. When this happens, it's obvious. Some things can be edited, but many things cannot. Make sure, before you submit, that your entire manuscript is how you want it to be. The full manuscript phase is where most submissions get the axe.
After we've read the fulls, all of the editors discuss and vote on each of the submissions we receive at BookFish. Deciding whether or not to take on a manuscript is a heady decision that is not taken lightly. We want good books.
I hope this has been helpful, though I realize it's a bit vague. If you have any specific questions, please ask. Otherwise, get writing. I hope to see your work in my inbox.