These basics to submitting a manuscript are surprisingly unknown to many aspiring writers.
Here are six tips I’ve learned while interning at publishing houses.
Keep in mind, if you send unsolicited work to any large press, it will be put into a slush pile. This is not necessarily a land of no return, but it certainly decreases your chances closer to the likes of winning the lottery.
- Know what’s selling
Have at least four comparative titles that show successful books on the market similar to your own. And no, your manuscript is not the next Fault in our Starts, Harry Potter, or Romeo and Juliet. Find relevant, relatable titles that have had significant sales. You can’t forget that the book business is just that, a business. Sell your idea; don’t rely solely on your God-given writing talent (though they’ll check how divine your writing is next).
- Be aware of the publishing house’s style
In short, don’t send your sci-fi underworld fantasy to a press that focuses on contemporary Canadian poets. You should be able to explain why your book will fit the publisher’s brand.
- Make a 100-page impression
Editors will finish about 50 to 100 pages to decide whether it is worth reading the rest of the manuscript (30 pages if the submission is a real stinker). If you can, submit the complete work—that way if the editor IS interested, there’s nothing to stop them from continuing until the end.
- Find a copyeditor
Despite your God-given writing talent, there’s always a benefit to having an objective eye go over your work. A good editor will value your opinion first and edit in a way that falls in line with the style of your book. It’s painfully evident when a work has not been thoroughly edited. Every book is a collaborative effort; be open to suggestions.
- Include the illustrations
If you are pitching a picture book, INCLUDE THE ILLUSTRATIONS. As you can imagine, pictures are a crucial element to a picture book. Don’t expect the publisher to figure that part out for you. When you send the accompanying artwork, make sure it is high-quality (no doodles on hotel napkins, please).
- Above all else, hire an agent
Admittedly, your agent should cover most of the points I’ve listed (that’s what you’re paying them for!). In a more established publishing house, your manuscript is going to fall into the hands of the slush pile unless there is an agent endorsing your work. However, if you target small or local publishing houses, they often thrive off of author submissions before they are recognized by literary agents.