Manuscript Submission Policy - 2014

General considerations

Rafka Press accepts queries from Catholic authors. Send a query letter and a synopsis of the manuscript to manuscripts@rafkapress.com.

A brief synopsis of the book can be a general overview of the plot that will be no more than about 2 to 10 percent of the size of the book. For example, if the book is 200 pages, the plot synopsis would be around four to twenty pages in length.

We are interested in works of Catholic fiction that lead to a strong moral conclusion, and ties elements of specifically Catholic faith in with the story. We are especially interested in books for 9 to 12-year-olds. Regarding children's literature for younger readers, such as picture books, at this time we are only accepting manuscripts that already have illustrations.

We are not interested in works that stretch Catholic doctrine to a point of incredulity (some examples: feminine angels; angels with pixie qualities; syncretism; the modern charismatic movement; Protestant-style spirituality that ignores the sacraments; and so on.)

We are also only interested in works that are faithful to Catholic practice and teaching from before Vatican II. Readers from 1948 (or 1848) should recognize your manuscript as Catholic.

Many new Catholic writers attempt to write for too broad an audience. They end up writing a Christian book, but nothing in it is specifically Catholic. It would be far better to put in devotions to Mary, the Eucharist, and so on, to narrow the audience so the work is more relevant to Catholic readers. This is a niche market and while demand for books is shrinking overall, there is still a devoted group of Catholic readers in the English-speaking world.

Specific considerations

If your manuscript is within the genre and the audience outlined above, we next look for Catholicism, readability, and salability.

Catholicism: The manuscript must be a Catholic work; if literature, the Catholic Faith must be at least covertly permeated throughout the work. There must be absolutely no doctrinal deficiencies in the work.

Readability: This involves more than grammar. “Readable” means the story has to flow. All the conflicts must be resolved after the climax (in the falling action and conclusion). What is the point of the story? There should be some moral to it. And — this is the part many would-be Catholic authors miss — the setting must be there. Many manuscripts are plot-heavy but don't pull the reader in with the five senses. What did the restaurant smell like? Was it a cloudy day or clear? Did the characters wipe sweat from their brows or shiver from the cold? Build up suspense if it's a mystery book.

The characters should also be consistent. A melancholic character should be consistently melancholic.

Salability: The manuscript may be fantastic, but if no one will buy it, the publisher can't invest in it. There must be a Catholic market for the work. Authors need to do a little of this research on their own and include their findings in their query letters. (“Parents will buy my book because ...” or “There is already a growing number of self-help books, and my manuscript fills a void ...”) The work also must be timeless: We do not plan on pulling books off our site after only 18 months! We publish titles that will be fresh twenty years from now. (We won't publish something on the current President, nor anything on the stock market or the current state of the Church.)

The next step

Please allow three to four months to process your query. After that time you may be contacted, asking to see the entire manuscript. Allow six months for the manuscript to be sufficiently reviewed and the target market analyzed. At that point, the author will be contacted. Most manuscripts will not be published due to the financial constraints of our company. We have no debt, and very little overhead, but neither do we possess a large pool of resources. It takes time and an enormous amount of money to raise funds for another publishing project.

The author should also realize we simply do not have the same broad distribution channels as the major Catholic publishers that have been around for decades. Rafka Press is growing but is still young and small.

Advice for first-time authors

The best advice is to not submit your manuscript yet. Go over it one more time:

Fiction: Add more setting and proofread it for grammar.

Self-help: Add a few more anecdotes and proofread it for grammar.

A documentary or spiritual book: Add more quotes from the Saints (please note: Martin Luther King and Vince Lombardi are not saints, and never will be) and proofread it for grammar.

Next: Have your spouse proofread it. (The other gender's viewpoint will give your book better balance.)

Then: Have another person, possibly a priest, review it for you and give his or her opinion along with some editing notes.

Next: Ask around and see if others are interested in your work. Find out if there is a market for your book. Submit a few articles to Catholic periodicals to get your name established.

Finally: Make online backups! (Email the manuscript to yourself so it's on your ISP's server as a backup.) Then, submit a query letter and a synopsis, and perhaps a sample chapter. Continue submitting articles and other writings to establish your name and credibility.