Sample Submission Review Rubric

To help ensure objective reviewing of applicants who are new to the Press/don’t qualify to apply as “returners,” we anonymously code all writing samples that applicants submit and distribute each sample to three separate readers, who rate it using the following rubric. The version that we use is organized a little differently, but all the information/content on our rubric is the same. We rate works in 9 categories on a scale from 0 to 4; you can receive a half-point, so there are a total of 9 possible scores you can receive in each category (0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4 are all possible ratings). 0 should be interpreted as “the least appropriate a submission could be” and 4 as “the most appropriate a submission could be.” A story we consider “average” in terms of appropriateness as a submission would get 2s across the board.

We also rate the inclusion of tags on a simple no/sort of/yes scale, worth 0 points, 0.5 points, and 1 point respectively. This adds to the total points that can be earned.

The minimum number of points a submission can receive is 0, the maximum is 38.

The lists provided for each category indicate what sub-topics we’ve assigned to each overarching category, give guidance to reviewers to help them track story features, and provide additional criteria to use when setting their numerical rating. There is no one-to-one point value conversion on list items, so don’t read this as “if you get 3 ‘thumbs downs’ you’ll get a 1,” and note that we will NOT be forcing results to a bell-curve. Instead, we’ll do statistical standardizing based on the averages each reviewer gives, to account for reviewers who may grade more or less strictly.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Rubric Categories

Plot

0: What plot?

1: Plot is under-developed or hard to understand.

2: Plot is existent—by the time a reader has finished they can say, “this is where the characters started, and by the end of the submission, here is how they’ve changed.”

3: Plot is interesting, easy to follow, and unfolds in a logical fashion.

4: Plot is excellent and draws the reader in. The submission feels complete—though knowing more would be nice, because the best stories feel like enough yet leave the reader wanting more!

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Elements of the submission seem more like plot devices (“I need this for the plot to work, so poof it exists!”).
  • 👎 Infodumping.
  • 👎 Submission broke suspension of disbelief.
  • 👎 Submission has no plot—nothing changes.
  • 👎 Submission is difficult/impossible to understand without fandom-specific knowledge.
  • 👎 This is an outline instead of a narrative.

Pacing

0: The sequence of events is indecipherable.

1: The pacing is difficult to follow or major events are skipped.

2: The pacing is adequate, and the events portrayed are effective at conveying the narrative.

3: Pacing is strong and engaging.

4: The pacing is ideal. All aspects of the submission are given the time “on screen” that they need to contribute to the narrative as a whole.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 It’s difficult to tell what’s happening and in what order.
  • 👎 Important events are glossed over.
  • 👎 Unimportant events are dwelled on.

Characters

0: Characters are undeveloped. Their behavior is inconsistent, or they have no identifiable characteristics. If there are multiple characters, they seem interchangeable or generic.

1: Characters are two dimensional, make illogical decisions, or are presented confusingly. A reader would struggle to say more than one defining characteristic of each of the characters.

2: Characters are defined, distinct from each other, and described enough for a reader to have a basic idea of their appearance and characteristics.

3: Characters are well developed. Their behavior is consistent, their characterization makes sense, and their interactions are interesting. The reader has a good idea of their physical appearance and mannerisms.

4: If this character walked into the room the reader is in right now, the reader would recognize them instantly and have an idea how they’d react to different situations.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Characters are generic/interchangeable.
  • 👎 Characters aren’t described.
  • 👎 Characters know things they couldn’t know without a point-of-view switch.
  • 👎 Characters relate to each other in ways that don’t seem plausible—trust or mistrust too quickly, react out of proportion to events, etc.
  • 👎 Dialogue tone or language doesn’t match the characters’ presented personality.
  • 👎 Illogical or inconsistent characterization.
  • 👎 It’s difficult to tell who is speaking or who is doing what.

Setting

0: The setting doesn’t exist. Events take place in an endless expanse of blankness. These events could literally have happened anywhere.

1: The setting is described in only a vague sense. Characters don’t relate to their locations, or perhaps the setting merely feels like “window dressing” and is functionally irrelevant.

2: The setting is detailed enough to be relevant to the narrative. The characters engage with the setting in ways that make sense, and the setting is changed by the actions of the characters.

3: The setting is an integrated aspect of the narrative that enhances it and helps make the submission more engaging.

4: The setting is vibrant, visceral, and significant. The reader would very much like to visit…or, if it sounds horrible, the reader would very very much like to not visit.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Elements of the worldbuilding are illogical, can’t be explained, couldn’t actually be done, or otherwise don’t make sense.
  • 👎 Irrelevant aspects of the setting are emphasized or dwelled on in the narrative.
  • 👎 The submission has no setting or minimal setting.
  • 👎 Whether described or not, the setting is irrelevant—if the characters were moved elsewhere the narrative wouldn’t be affected.

Description

0: Descriptions are minimal, repetitive, or irrelevant.

1: Descriptions give some idea of what’s happening but are inadequate. Alternatively, some descriptions are thorough (even over-thorough) while others are omitted completely.

2: Descriptions paint a general enough image for the reader to visualize events.

3: Descriptions are vivid and thorough without interfering with the flow of the narrative.

4: The reader felt like they were there, and the various aspects of the submission—characters, setting, items, etc.—are wonderfully described.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Descriptions give incorrect or confusing impressions of places, characters, or actions.
  • 👎 Descriptions focus only on one or two senses without engaging the others.
  • 👎 Locations and/or objects characters interact with are inadequately described.
  • 👎 Narrative continuity is interrupted for extensive and/or irrelevant descriptions.

Word Usage

0: Word usage is basic and opportunities to use language to enhance the narrative are missed. Words are misused.

1: Word usage is inappropriate to some degree—maybe incorrect words are used, or the words chosen don’t fit with the nature of the setting, causing the language to seem stilted or incongruous.

2: Word choices are clear and ensure the submission is understandable.

3: Word usage is strong—appropriate words are used to clearly convey complex concepts, as appropriate depending on the narrative choices and character point of view.

4: Word choice is ideal. This author not only has a thesaurus but knows how to use it correctly.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Dialogue seems unnatural, unrealistic, stilted, or inappropriate to the setting.
  • 👎 Inconsistent spelling of in-verse words/setting-dependent vocabulary/names.
  • 👎 Narrative and word choices detract from the emotions/sensations the author tries to evoke.
  • 👎 Overuse of weasel words (such as though, just, really, still).
  • 👎 Repetitious sentence structures or word choices.
  • 👎 Words are used incorrectly.

Technical Aspects

0: The technical aspects of this submission are poor enough that the narrative is difficult to follow.

1: The technical aspects of this submission are weak, which at times make the narrative difficult to follow, but the overall gist of events can still be understood.

2: The technical aspects of this submission are basic but don’t hinder the reader’s ability to follow events. There are some grammatical issues but nothing ruinous. The narrative is readable.

3: The technical aspects of this submission are clean and the author clearly understands English grammar and usage, though a few errors slipped through.

4: On a technically level, this is flawless. Wow.

Bullet Points:

  • 👎 Author didn’t follow the submission rules.
  • 👎 Awkward/confusing phrasing.
  • 👎 Formatting detracts from the clarity and readability of the submission.
  • 👎 Punctuation is misused or missing.
  • 👎 Sentence structure issues (fragments, run-ons, etc.)
  • 👎 Tense changes.
  • 👎 The submission is mismatched with the tone/style of the anthology.
  • 👎 Typos.

Reviewer’s Subjective Point Addition: Writing Sample Submission

0: “I’m sorry, this submission isn’t a good fit for us at this time.”

1: “There’s the start of something good here, but the pieces just don’t add up.”

2: “There’s potential here—room for improvement, but there was a lot to recommend this submission. You didn’t blow me away, but you didn’t leave me at a loss, either.”

3: “This was so good. Seriously.”

4: “I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT AND I WOULDN’T CHANGE A SINGLE WORD.”

Because this is a subjective measure of the reader’s reaction to the story, it doesn’t have bullet points.

Reviewer’s Subjective Point Addition: Story Pitch

0: No pitch was submitted, or the submitted pitch was off-theme or otherwise inappropriate for the proposed anthology.

1: “It’s not really doing it for me, I’m sorry.”

2: “I like this idea, I could take it or leave it.”

3: “Oh wow, there is a lot of potential here…tell me more.”

4: “I want to read this story literally right now. Where is it? Seriously. I’m begging.”

Because this is a subjective measure of the reader’s reaction to the story, it doesn’t have bullet points.

Tagging

We’ve asked that all applicants include tags for the work sample they submit and for their pitch. We’ll be giving 1 point flat to all submissions that are correctly/accurately/adequately tagged, and 0 points for submissions that aren’t appropriately tagged.

Lastly, in case you’re wondering, the actual form looks like this.

There’s also room at the bottom for the reviewer to leave positive and negative comments, if they wish to do so.