You’ve spent months, years or even decades labouring over your manuscript, and you finally feel the time is right to have your work published.
Submitting your work to a publisher or an agent is a big decision – not one you want to take lightly. And you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle and land in the automatic rejection pile. There’s a lot more to getting your manuscript published (as you will learn from my course From Manuscript to Publication) but here are three things you should do that are often, surprisingly, overlooked.
1. Submit to the right places.
In other words, don’t submit to the wrong places. This includes the obvious, such as not sending your memoir to a romance publisher, and not sending your historical thriller to a textbook publisher. Less obvious is making sure your work is the right fit for the publisher’s list: don’t send your ground-breaking re-evaluation of Stalin to a history publisher whose list focuses exclusively on Australian history. Do your research on which publishers are the best fit for your manuscript and also find out whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts or proposals, commission works directly, or exclusively use agents to source new work – you may need to re-think your entire approach.
2. Follow the guidelines.
All publishers and agents have submission guidelines, usually available on their websites, and they aren’t all the same. Guidelines aren’t arbitrary and are designed to streamline the process. Follow these guidelines to the letter, even if it means extra work for you in sending individually tailored submissions. Have a set of submission documents ready that can be easily assembled, massaged or formatted to suit a new set of criteria. It’s a rare publisher or agent who looks at a submission that departs from their criteria.
3. Present your work at its best.
Make sure your submission documents are well-designed with legible fonts, good margins and appropriate headings. If the submission guidelines stipulate a specific style, format your work accordingly (or have someone do it for you). Don’t go overboard on design – your submission is all about the content, not your graphic design skills. Your words need to impress too, even if it’s just in a cover email or letter. If you struggle with writing a succinct synopsis, or spelling is not your forte, seek help from a professional writer or editor.
Linda Nix has twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, having worked for large and small professional and non-fiction publishers in production, editing, commissioning and marketing roles. She is currently publisher and editor at Lacuna Publishing. Linda is running From Manuscript to Publication in June, a practical, six week course designed to get you – and your manuscript – ready for publication. For details and to book, click here.