Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Dust-off Challenge

Okay, so we are a book publisher. Yes, that is our business, and we are fairly new at it, having started this venture in January of 2009. Publishing is what we are focused on right now – publishing and selling books. But we are also authors who have banded together to help each other do what authors do – write. In our somewhat limited experience, we have seen many query packets that left much to be desired – so much, in fact, that we had to turn down books because, in our collective opinion, to make these books publishable and marketable required more time and effort and work in the form of rewriting than we were prepared to offer.

However, in the interest of providing a community service, and to give our blog more grist for the mill, we are offering a challenge, or just a fun time for all you unpublished authors out there who have not yet been able to figure out why you can’t get your books published by a traditional publisher. Or maybe you just haven’t worked up the courage yet to ignore the ‘no unsolicited manuscripts’ warning most publishers post, and just send the darn thing, hoping someone will take pity on you and publish your book. Or perhaps you’re hoping to self-publish and haven’t yet worked up the courage to go through with that somewhat daunting process. Whatever the case, we are offering to give a free critical analysis of your query packet. Here is our challenge to you...

Send us your tired, your poor, your hungry... (No, wait, that’s from the Statue of Liberty inscription, isn’t it?) Never mind that. Dust off that FINISHED MANUSCRIPT and send us your would-be / could-be query. No obligation, no strings attached – except a disclaimer agreement to allow us to critique your query on our blog. We will post your query letter and synopsis in whole or in part, plus our take on your 25 pages, giving you detailed advice regarding how we think you might improve your work and your query approach.

We get plenty of queries to keep us out of the bars at night. And we do provide a critique privately for most queries we receive, but we also figured that a public critique might benefit writers out there who are having a hard time figuring out how to make their query packets (and their manuscripts) the best they can be. We hope to do one of these every week on our blog, and we invite you to participate by sending us your query packet (for finished manuscripts only) to our general email address...

Please send the following via email:

SUBJECT LINE: Dust-off Challenge

QUERY LETTER: Include in body of email and tell us in your best words why we should publish your book. Don’t ramble, make your query letter short and sweet, no more than two regular pages if on 8.5x11 paper. Tell us the following:

  • Your name (and pseudonym if applicable)
  • Your email address
  • Your real address
  • Your phone number
  • Your book title
  • The genre of your book
  • The number of electronic words of your book
  • A brief description of your self-marketing plans, including URLs to your web site, Facebook page, Twitter profile, etc.
  • List any relevant previous publishing/writing experience or education or professional affiliation.
  • DON’T FORGET to include a statement of permission for us to use your first name and writing query packet in part or in whole on our blog.

ATTACHMENTS: As an attachment to the email please include the following in one file either WORD or OPEN OFFICE or RTF...

  • A two-page synopsis of your story including major characters, major story arcs, and ending
  • The first 25 pages of your novel or first chapter as close to 25 pages as you can get
WE WILL email you back with a queue number, giving you an idea of what week your query critique will appear in our blog. We will use first names only and will not disclose any private information. However, if we find your writing style and story interesting enough, we may ask you to submit your entire manuscript for review for publication. You of course are not obligated in any way to respond to such a request – but you might be excited if we offered you a publishing contract, right?

And that’s the extent of the DUST-OFF CHALLENGE. So figuratively dust off your book languishing in your sock drawer, and let us take a look. If nothing else, just taking another look at it yourself may give you the incentive to follow through and get it in shape to publish! And maybe that will be all the push you need to become a published author.

Let the emails begin!



  1. I am hoping to see more science fiction queries. Science fiction can be difficult to write. Penumbra Publishing gives authors a fair and honest look, although I do not see how they find the time. I am glad to hear the many queries received keep them out of the bars, now.

    When I first queried Penumbra I was given a courtesy (and tough) edit before any decisions were made. That is a lot more personalized than the form replies most publishers issue.

    Good luck all, and keep writing.

  2. Thank you for your honesty, Walt. But just to keep it real, all we have is an opinion. Just because we say no doesn't mean everyone else will. Getting published is difficult. Finishing a book is difficult. But anyone who learns (and does) what it takes to keep going will eventually succeed. Walter Knight is proof of that. Thanks again, Walt!

  3. Tempting. Very tempting. So, why am I terrified? Rejection - humiliation - the list goes on. Pure and simple. I seriously must work on that ...

    Much food for thought, however.

  4. Hi Wendy, you are talking about the courage to follow your dream. Forget rejection and humiliation. Everyone has to deal with that stuff. Some deal with it by getting mad. Others by crawling away and hiding, accepting the seeming affirmation of their own inadequacy. But those who want to succeed keep going, keep pushing, keep trying, keep learning, keep improving. They keep at it. The only authors who aren't published are those who gave up. So, don't give up. Put on your Kevlar vest and hit the SEND button. We are not doing this to humiliate or even make fun of anyone. We are just hoping to give an honest opinion the recipient will find helpful in making meaningful changes to improve writing style or query approach. This is a win-win situation. We get to share your work, and you get some free feedback. What's better than that?


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