Most authors can only imagine receiving an explanation as to why a publishing company rejected a manuscript -- never mind a several-page constructive critique including suggestions for improvement or other possible outlets for their work.
But that's exactly what they get from Round Hill-based Moms In Print.
"You don't just get a rejection letter; you get ideas about where to go," said Robin Seidman, 44, of Atlanta, who submitted a manuscript that was not accepted. "It's nice to get feedback. It was another rejection letter, but it was very helpful."
Moms In Print was launched in January. Although all authors must be moms, the book submissions range from true parenting stories and children's books to novels and suggestions for hosting a cheap party.
The point, said Tara Paterson, the company's founder, is to act as a motivator and enabler for moms.
The company has lofty ambitions -- with one title on the shelves, it plans to publish at least another by the end of the year and a third title next February. At least three of the nine editors read every manuscript and provide feedback in the form of a three- to six-page letter, all within 40 to 60 days. This is no small task for a company that has received more than 70 manuscripts since its inception and twice that number of inquiries.
"We promise everyone who submits that we'll respond with a detailed review," said senior editor Terry Doherty. "Without fail, we find some type of recommendation for the mom."
Doherty said Seidman's manuscript of short stories, "Confessions of a Soccer Mom," was well-written, but just not a "book." She suggested syndicating the stories or selling them individually to magazines and Web sites.
"Their feedback really propelled me to the next step," Seidman said. "Because of their support, I sent one of my stories into a competition and won."
Moms In Print's first book, "Misadventures of Moms and Disasters of Dads," by Kerri Charette, hit the shelves in May.
Charette's compilation of short stories about humorous parenting mishaps, written by contributors from around the world, was rejected by numerous publishers before she came upon Moms In Print.
"I had been put off by so many other publishers and agents -- I wasn't anyone to them," said Charette, 34, a mother of five in Ludyard, Conn. "Moms wasn't looking for authors with a huge platform."
Charette, who taught school for 10 years, built her relationship with Moms In Print over the Internet -- like many other authors working with the company. Her manuscript was accepted and published without a face-to-face meeting with Paterson or Doherty.
"Misadventures of Moms and Disasters of Dads," which includes personal stories involving toilet training, laundry and serving dinner, among other parenting duties, had a first printing of 1,100 copies. About 800 have been sold, at $13.95 a copy.
Charette has moved on to the second title in a five-book series, a deal made by the author and the company following the success of the first title. The second "Misadventures" book has garnered wider interest, and Charette said she has even gotten some interest from celebrity parents in making literary contributions.
But Paterson said the company doesn't discriminate against regular moms, many of whom have never been published.
"Unless you know someone or you're a celebrity, (most publishers) won't even look at your book," Paterson said.
The company recently accepted the manuscript of a first-time author. "Driving Through the Zoo," a children's book by Natisha LaPierre, a 34-year-old mother of two young boys in Rochester, N.Y., is in the editing process now. Paterson said she hopes to begin promoting the title this summer. The book focuses on a little girl who is at the zoo with her family and the trials they encounter -- such as monkeys jumping on the car.
"It seems like they are doing a lot more hand-holding than most publishers, which is great for my first book," LaPierre said. "I don't know how they had time to do all this, honestly."
Time is something Paterson, Doherty and other employees balance wisely. All of the company's three paid employees and eight volunteers have jobs outside Mom's In Print -- and devote time to families.
Three years ago, Paterson also founded JFM Enterprises and Justformom.com, also businesses focusing on mothers that she now heads. Doherty read a story about Paterson in The Washington Post in July 2003 and was inspired to launch Reading Tub, a free Web site that profiles children's books, including reviews from parents who have read the books at least three times to their children. Doherty wrote Paterson a thank you letter following the launch, and Paterson replied with a description of her idea for Moms In Print and an invitation to Doherty to join.
The two hope to grow Moms In Print into an even bigger enterprise, once they get rolling and the amount of funding grows. They plan to launch a magazine in 2005 or 2006, and hope to hold writing contests in the near future.
The company has a sales partnership with Amazon.com and is working on other distribution relationships. Its Web site, momsinprint.com, boasts a 25 percent royalty for the author, compared to what Paterson says is anywhere from 2 percent to 10 percent at larger publishing houses. While the company does not give writers a cash advance, it does pay all marketing and distribution costs.
But, with their feedback, Paterson and Doherty also try to keep the whole publishing process in perspective for potential writers.
"It doesn't mean you're going to be the next John Grisham or Mary Higgins Clark," Doherty said. "We make sure it's realistic in terms of their expectations of the process and the outcome. We don't want to feed a fantasy perspective."