I can’t wait to see the equeries come into Port Yonder Press next month. To help you know what we’re specifically looking for, here are a few tips that may better navigate you past the slush editors and, ultimately, me. I’m far less fastidious about the initial query (though do please follow the guidelines on our website) than about the writing and storyline itself. So without further ado …
Genres – let me elaborate on those listed on the PYP website without relying on Wiki definitions. I’ve included both book and movie references, for ease of understanding my personal preferences:
Slipstream - to me, these are those stories which defy classification, aren’t cut & dry fantasy or sf, but may incorporate light aspects of either of them. Someone once mentioned a story wherein a person turned into a chair at the end. This is not my definition of slipstream. Instead, the story should be based in believable reality, even if this reality is “between realities.” It will contain minor “happenings” that can’t be explained. No aliens or new planets or dragons or that sort of thing. A book I’ve started that uses such is called The Universe in Miniature in Miniature. I’ve not yet finished the book so can’t give an overall impression but the first few stories were very good. If you take out the aliens from X-Files, that’s kinda the idea: weird happenings in very normal settings, and the normal settings occupy the bulk of the story. My personal definition of slipstream.
Spy Thrillers & Suspense - think Bourne Identity, Supremacy & Ultimatum. Think Mission Impossible w/Tom Cruise. Think Hopscotch, the old movie with Walter Matthau. Those are my favorites.
Speculative Fiction (SF, Fantasy, Steampunk, etc. NO Horror) – Most people probably know what most of these are and can list favorite authors/movies from each group. For fantasy and science fiction, think Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss), Eragon, LoTR, Narnia, etc. Think Hunger Games, I Am Legend, I Robot, Dollhouse, Firefly, Serenity, Doctor Who, Fallen Skies, etc. Even think The Blob, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Journey to the Moon, Jules Verne & Ray Bradbury material, Last Days of Planet Earth, The Day of the Triffids, Them, etc. And though I generally don’t care for zombie stuff since it’s so often cheesily done, I do enjoy The Walking Dead series. Primeval, the series, is a favorite, in part because of the interpersonal relationships and British humor mixed together so well.
Literary Fiction in a number of genres, in fact, any of the above or below with a slightly literary feel is even more desired than mainstream/commercial manuscripts at Port Yonder Press.
Mashups (a mix of genres) – this simply means that there are a few great stories that happen along which defy description. Please don’t be afraid to send these to us, and mention in your query that it’s a mashup of whichever genres. This will surely pique my interest.
Creative Nonfiction – Anne Dillard is my absolute favorite, as some of you know. If you’ve read and enjoy her work, and write with the same sort of attention to creativity and depth of thought, I would love to see it.
Contemporary Poetry Collection – This will generally be non-rhyming and very contemporary, visceral, beautiful.
Westerns (unique twist or mashup) – Got a western/sf mashup? Got a western/steampunk mix? I’d love to see it.
Women’s Fiction (strong storyline, strong characters, preferably cross-genre and very unique; slightly *literary) – Port Yonder Press wants to encourage authors to pen books of the heart, those novels few publishers will touch. This is true with women’s fiction / gentle romance too. (Absolutely NO erotica.) I’d love to see something different, and I’m not sure I can define it better than that. I can say that I adore the Anne of Green Gables books, and anything with a precious/precocious main character, paragraphs of beautiful description, the usual run-ins with annoying and endearing and near-eccentric people such as we find in those books will be a sure hit with me personally.
Young Adult Fiction – The Hunger Games trilogy would be my default choice for this category. In other words, something that’s cleanly done and engaging, compelling and real, readable.
Select Nonfiction – Got a book about how to get published in a specific genre and have the credentials to show you know what you’re talking about? Please, let me see it. Or, something else as different and unique to who you are.
We’re not currently seeking anything for our Christian imprints, so try very hard to think “crossover” when you think of submitting to PYP. If your work is stellar in writing style and storyline, I may make an exception, but it will be a rare one. Please make sure your work is up to snuff before sending, especially if it’s overtly Christian work.
NO novellas, though short story collections will be considered.
Writing style: I generally prefer “gentle literary” to mainstream/commercial, simply because of the beauty of the description, the wording, and the overall feel of the piece. Though Lucy Maud Montgomery was considered somewhat of a hack by a few critics in her time, I consider her work lovely and representative of that “slightly literary” feel I’d love to see. Of course, I’d love to see mainstream too, but it should be right up there with clear, non-clunky word flow. Bad writing is bad writing, no matter what it’s called.
I have several posts I’ve put together in the last year about writing flow, how to improve it, how to deal with “filter words,” etc., and many times I’ve given examples of actual PYP projects. Look under the Editing and Actual Editing Examples categories to see what I’m referring to.
Take your time: You have until February 28th at midnight Central Time to get your equery to me, and even longer to prepare your manuscript, though if I like what you have to offer in the equery, I will ask to see the first few chapters and possibly a detailed chapter summary immediately. But as for the entire manuscript, if I request it, please take your time with it so it’ll be as ready as can be. If it’s not quite ready on February 1st, considering waiting to send the query until later in the month.
If you have questions at all, I’ll be glad to answer them here.