Manuscripts are unwieldy, but the real reason for that time ratio is that most of them are a fast reject. Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections:
- Author is functionally illiterate.
- Author has submitted some variety of literature we don’t publish: poetry, religious revelation, political rant, illustrated fanfic, etc.
- Author has a serious neurochemical disorder, puts all important words into capital letters, and would type out to the margins if MSWord would let him.
- Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language. Parts of speech are not what they should be. Confusion-of-motion problems inadvertently generate hideous images. Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.
- Author can write basic sentences, but not string them together in any way that adds up to paragraphs.
- Author has a moderate neurochemical disorder and can’t tell when he or she has changed the subject. This greatly facilitates composition, but is hard on comprehension.
- Author can write passable paragraphs, and has a sufficiently functional plot that readers would notice if you shuffled the chapters into a different order. However, the story and the manner of its telling are alike hackneyed, dull, and pointless.
(At this point, you have eliminated 60-75% of your submissions. Almost all the reading-and-thinking time will be spent on the remaining fraction.)
- It’s nice that the author is working on his/her problems, but the process would be better served by seeing a shrink than by writing novels.
- Nobody but the author is ever going to care about this dull, flaccid, underperforming book.
- The book has an engaging plot. Trouble is, it’s not the author’s, and everybody’s already seen that movie/read that book/collected that comic.
(You have now eliminated 95-99% of the submissions.)
- Someone could publish this book, but we don’t see why it should be us.
- Author is talented, but has written the wrong book.
- It’s a good book, but the house isn’t going to get behind it, so if you buy it, it’ll just get lost in the shuffle.
- Buy this book.