manuscript submission process

After months or even years writing and perfecting your manuscript, you feel ready to send it out to the wider world. You may have received great feedback from friends, family and writing colleagues but where to from here?

Your first point of contact with the publishing world will be the manuscript submission process. Either to a literary agent or a publisher or both. Now is not the time to take your eye off the ball regarding writing. You have spent valuable time researching and writing your book, take the same approach with the submission process.

It is not enough to think your work will stand on its own; it won’t. The submission process is the time to show that you are a professional writer and value what you have written enough to take the time to research each publisher’s varying guidelines. You may believe that by studying one that all submissions will be the same but this is far from the truth.

The manuscript submission process

Submitting your manuscript is your first point of contact with the publisher, and you need to be professional. They receive hundreds if not thousands of manuscript submissions and if you want yours to have even a slight chance of standing out and being read you need to be respectful of the process and follow it.

Thankfully, there are some straightforward things you can do and a few that you should definitely not do.

Starting with the what not to do:

  1. Do not send your draft as soon as you have finished it. Review it and sit on it for a few weeks. Publishers don’t expect a polished, edited manuscript but they do expect it to the best it can be.
  2. Research both the publisher and the agent to ensure they handle your genre and type of writing.
  3. Publishers do not care that your mother or Aunty Mary think you have written a masterpiece. These opinions are not relevant.
  4. Do not submit a one-line email stating here is my novel.
  5. Do not badger them for an answer.

Now, let’s look at what you should do:

  1. Carefully read the submissions guidelines. They are usually available on the agent’s or publisher’s website.
  2. Follow the submission guidelines. If they ask for three chapters, send three chapters, not the whole manuscript. If they like what they read, they will ask for more.
  3. Write a cover letter including; title, genre, word count and anything brief defining the setting. In the following one or two paragraphs include a short description of the story. Finally finishing with any other information that is relevant or what inspired you to write the story.
  4. Review all submission documents, do not send in work full of typos and grammar mistakes. This will not reflect well on your writing or your book.

Your manuscript may well be your ‘baby’, and as such you wait with anticipation to hear back but be patient, these things can take time. If they indicate a response time wait until then to contact them otherwise wait for at least 6 weeks before making contact.

To give your manuscript the best possible chance to stand out be professional, show that you value your work by taking the time to establish a business relationship through thorough research and professional behaviour.