Guest Blog: Submission Tips from MLR Press

Today I am thrilled to welcome Kris Jacen to the blog. Kris is Editor in Chief at MLR Press, and she's here to share some submission tips for authors.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
MLR Press was started by Laura Baumbach as an avenue to get M/M books into print. She’s faced a lot of obstacles in the almost 12 years that we’ve been around (poster being ripped down at RT; reviewers refusing to acknowledge M/M), but we’re still here. We offer the highest quality stories to readers of our genre, mainly gay fiction and erotic romance. MLR Press publishes books that span the range from historical settings to futuristic ones, and everything in between. We have new worlds, mysteries, vampires, aliens and ghosts that entertain and delight. We take readers on amazing adventures through the creative minds of a small, select group of bright, uniquely talented authors and artists.

Kris Jacen grew up just north of Boston, Massachusetts, and met her soldier in high school, but didn’t married him until almost ten years later. She moved around with him and their daughters (born in two different states thanks to the Army) for the first 19 years of their marriage (they’ll celebrate their silver anniversary in 2018) before settling in western New York. She published her first novel (Wait for Me) in November of 2017 and hasn’t run out of ideas yet. Kris never set out to be an author but something in Wait for Me, wouldn’t let her go. She has three books out currently and is working on three new ones to release before the end of 2018. Kris has been the Editor in Chief and Formatting Director for ManLoveRomance Press and its imprints since January of 2008 and has never looked back. Working with the amazing authors at MLR has allowed her both to hone her editorial skills and indulge her inner fangirl. She also acts as editor, mentor and sounding-board for newcomers, which lets her “pay-it-forward” and help authors realize their dreams.

2) What are the top things you look for in a manuscript?
The top three things I can think of, in no particular order:
Characters that grab me and won’t let go. Having characters that aren’t flat and have their own personality make reading a manuscript all that more engaging. If I don’t care about the characters, then how can I help an author tell their best story?
A unique spin to a tried-and-true story line. We all like our comfort reads—the bad boy and the nerd, the boss and the secretary, the tough military guy finding comfort with a buddy— but what if you turn it around and it’s the nerd pursuing the bad boy, or the military guy has a really soft center? Taking the “normal” story troupe and giving it new life.
World building that is true to itself. World building doesn’t have to mean sci-fi or fantasy or urban fantasy, it can mean that you’ve created your center core of characters and places and remain true to them. Set your rules and follow them. As long as you make sense of them and follow them, readers should be able to also.

3) What are the biggest turn-offs when you read a submission?
Biggest turn off is an author who doesn’t follow submission guidelines. I get it, I swear I do, your manuscript is your baby. You’ve paid with blood, sweat and tears for it. You’ve given up hours and hours and hours in which you could’ve done something else but the story wouldn’t let you. But please, I’m begging you, read the guidelines of whatever house you’re submitting your story to.
Now, I’m not talking about font size and spacing (although, I can tell you, if someone sends me a story in Comic Sans there will be an issue). I’m talking about what doesn’t that house accept; what are their no-no topics. Do they even publish what your story is about? And most importantly, what do they want you to send as your submission? Most houses would like to see a synopsis along with the manuscript in probably either .rtf or a form of Word.

4) How can an author maximise their chance of acceptance?
This would be my checklist (and it’s not our guidelines):
Follow the submission guidelines. Each house should have them on their website.
Take the time to make sure that you’ve written what you intended. Did you start off writing a cop story and end up with a teacher? Did you add in too many sub-story lines? Did you jump point-of-view in the middle of the scene?
Is the manuscript the cleanest you think it can be? Now, I’m not getting on a grammar soapbox. I’m talking about things like typos, character name consistency, setting consistency, timeline holes. I (and most any other editor) can teach you where to put a comma or how to follow grammar rules BUT (and I’ve said this many times) I CANNOT teach you how to write an engaging character or story.