Thinking about sending in a manuscript for our open submissions call out? Kate Stephenson, who will be acquiring authors for the KillerReads list, shares what she is looking for in the inbox…
Characters: A great book needs believable characters with whom you want to go on a journey, and who stay with you after the story’s end. They must have emotional depth – by all means they can be flawed, troubled, angry, or dark, but they need to have something at their core that makes you care about what happens to them. Fiction is about experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes, and you can’t hope to achieve this without fully realized characters.
Voice: That almost indefinable thing that makes an author stand out from the crowd. I can’t tell you how to write or what to write – you must first write for yourself, because you are compelled to. But I want to find an assured and engaging new voice that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read a million times before. Confidence, originality, cracking dialogue, emotional punch – this is what I look for as a reader, and as an editor.
Hook: It’s crucial that you grab your potential readers’ attention with a great concept. Your book might well be completely amazing, but the hook is the thing that will make people pick it up in the first place. It’s partly our job as the publisher to convey the concept through our cover art and creative copy; but the idea must first come from you, the writer.
Pace: You must keep the pages turning. Drive the plot first and foremost, and be very wary of info dumping. If at all possible, find a way to convey necessary information through dialogue and action, rather than long explanatory passages for the reader to wade through.
Never stop reading: I think one of the best things a crime/thriller writer can do to hone their skills is to read other crime/thriller writers. Reading widely will help you grasp how to master your chosen genre, and may help you to figure out how to solve that tricky plot problem you’ve been grappling with. I find it fascinating to listen to writers talk about the books that have inspired and influenced them the most. We’ve been running a pod-cast series over the past couple of months called Writer’s Envy, where some of our authors tell us about the one book they wish they’d written and why. Definitely worth a listen if you’re interested!