Submission Tips from an Insider’s Perspective

Submitting your manuscript or query letter to a publisher is a trying task. The dread of a possible rejection, combined with the hope of acceptance, creates a whirlwind of anticipation and anxiety that can leave you feeling confused and uncertain about whether or not you’re putting your best literary foot forward.

During my day job, I review hundreds of manuscripts and proposals each year and, as such, I’d like to share some essential tips for sending your project to a publisher for evaluation:

First, make sure your project fits. Each press has an established mission, as well as a forecast of books they’d like to publish in the future. If your project is not something that they’d normally publish, you’re wasting your time and postage. More importantly, your book will sell more copies if it is placed with a press that specializes in your genre.

To avoid sending your work to an inappropriate press, spend time examining the publisher’s website. Read their mission statement and FAQ to collect information regarding what types of books they’re currently interested in contracting.

Second, while you’re checking out the website, look for submission guidelines. The quality of your work should make it stand out – not the formatting. Many presses refuse to evaluate projects that do not match their established guidelines. The result? Your manuscript may be returned (or – worse – tossed into the recycling bin!) without so much as flipping the first page. Generally, presses want hard-copy submissions that are single-sided, typed in 12-point Times New Roman Font, and – if you include the manuscript or sample chapters – double-spaced.

Third, don’t be a pest. Typically, the press’ editorial assistants will let you know when to expect a response. Don’t call or email regarding your project’s status until that time is up. The acquisitions editor that is reviewing your proposal knows you’re excited, but they need time to look it over themselves, coordinate an outside review, and crunch the
numbers before making a final decision.

Fourth, in the event that you are rejected, do not burn bridges. Instead, thank the editor who made the decision for the time necessary to conduct a thorough review and ask if they can recommend an alternative publisher. Your gratitude and positive outlook will undoubtedly encourage the editor to take the time to lend you a hand.

Seeking a publisher is daunting, but – if you keep these tips in mind – your journey should be less trying.

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