So you’ve finished that manuscript. You’ve popped the champagne and celebrated, and now you’re ready to move on to the next step–publication.
I’ve said this before on Vast Imaginations, and I’ll say it again. Writing is an Art; Publishing is a business. So here’s some tips for making your art shine in the business world.
1. Thou Shalt Put on Thy Business Hat. Submitting isn’t the time for touchy feely with your agents and editors of choice. It’s time to show you’re more than just a hobbyist , that you’re a professional. You need a top notch query letter that sells your story and you as a writer, and a gripping synopsis (you might even need a couple as submission requirements differ between companies. See Commandment #4). No pink stationary. No loopy fonts. No GIFs. You wouldn’t do that on a professional curriculum vitae, would you?
2. Thou Shalt Not Submit Thy First Draft or Thy Second Draft. Some people are under the impression that you vomit your story into a Word document and send that steaming bag to a publisher or agent and the editor will take care of editing it. Wrong. This is not how it works. You want your manuscript to be as close to publishable quality as you can possibly get it. When I first started querying Enslavement, I sent out my fifth draft. After rejection after rejection, I realized the manuscript wasn’t ready. I spent the next four years on roughly 20 more drafts. It’s now published–after I bled for it.
3. Thou Shalt Do Thy Research. This covers several areas. First, You need to know your manuscript inside and out, and it is up to you to determine what its target age group is and what genre it falls under. People, we have Google. These answers are easy to come by. When you submit, you need to make it easy for the editor/agent to determine your novel’s classification. And no, it doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you don’t have a target audience, your manuscript is not ready for submission.
Second, there are hosts of people out there ready to take advantage of new writers with promises of money, publication, and fame. Do your research. Editors and Predators is great site for doing a background check on agents and editors. Use it. And as with everything else in life–if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Third, agents/editors represent/work with specific literary areas. You need to do your research and only submit to those professionals that represent your type of work. This is where knowing how to classify your novel comes in. It is a waste of your time and theirs, to submit high fantasy to someone who does not accept genre fiction. They will not say, “Oh, wow, this one is so good that I’ll make an exception.” Not going to happen.
4. Thou Shalt Read the Submission Guidelines. This seems simple, but it’s often missed. Submission packages are not one-size-fits-all. Each agent and publisher will have their own set of guidelines, ignoring them will result in a rejection. Why? If you can’t follow simple guidelines, why would they want to work with you on something as complex as a novel? Read them. Follow them. No matter how weird they sound.
5. Thou Shalt Query Widely. This is a tough business. It’s not if you get rejection, it’s when. Be prepared because they will flow in like water through a ruptured damn. The key is to keep going. Every editor/agent has different tastes, different contacts, different holes in their lists. What one hates, another may love. It’s highly subjective, so keep going until you find someone who loves your work.
By following these commandments you give your manuscript the best possible chance of acceptance.
Do you have your own set of submission commandments? If so post them in the comments to help other writers. Have a question? Post them. This is a safe place to ask and get some answers before you wade into the deep waters of publishing.
For more about the submission process see:
Top Six Reasons Why Giving Birth is More Fun Than Querying my Novel
My Submission Sabatical
Melinda Friesen writes novels for MG, YA and NA readers. Her first YA dystopian/sci-fi novel, Enslavement, has been met with fantastic reviews. Find it on Amazon. She is currently editing the sequel to Enslavement and querying her MG adventure fantasy, Snodgaard and the Mustache of Power.