It’s here. Your big day.
The day when you take your beautiful self and your brilliant manuscript to the next level.
It sounds far scarier than it is because, remember, this series has you well-prepared.
In our Extreme Manuscript Makeover Introduction, you enjoyed a fleeting moment of excitement as you ‘finished’ your book. But it wasn’t until you worked through Bare It All , Tone It Up, Get Polished and Phone A Friend, that your manuscript was truly in good enough shape for submission.
All that’s left to do now is breathe deeply and take the plunge. You’re about to go on the biggest date of your life — a date with a literary agent or publisher.
Extreme Manuscript Makeover: Your Dream Date
Where and how you submit your manuscript will depend on what kind of book you’ve written. A children’s picture book will have a different process to an adult novel or a non-fiction book.
Will you look for an agent first, or submit directly to a publisher? How should you go about this?
Here are the basic things you’ll need to consider about each method:
A literary agent is an industry insider who, ideally, has worked with many different authors and helped them achieve publication. A reputable agent should have a website detailing who they are, their education and experience, past representation successes, submission guidelines, and any other important information.
There are many excellent reasons to submit your manuscript to an agency. A literary agent will:
- Make additional suggestions to your manuscript based on their experience of the book market and current needs
- Help you connect with otherwise untouchable publishers
- Find the best publishers to suit the type of book you’ve written
- Negotiate the best book deal on your behalf, should you be accepted
- Act as a moderator during the acquisition and editing processes
- Not charge you any kind of fees, but rather take a percentage of your royalty profits upon acceptance
A few cautions include:
- Finding an agent to represent you can be extremely difficult for those with no prior publishing history
- Not all agents are created equal. Do your research to ensure you submit only to those with excellent credentials and experience
- Many don’t work with children’s picture books
- Often, busy agents are obliged to go for long periods of time without accepting submissions, limiting the number of potential representatives at any given time
- Securing an agent is not a guarantee of publication
- If you are unable to find an agent, you’ll need to consider the strength of your manuscript and a possible second revision
Don’t be fooled into thinking a strong manuscript doesn’t need representation. A book with an agent behind it will always take precedence over one without.
There are, undoubtedly, those one-in-a-million success stories of first-time authors being picked up by big-name publishers . When hearing these stories, it can be tempting to imagine you can bypass the agent process and go directly to a publishing house with an ‘unsolicited submission.’
If you choose this avenue, be aware of the following:
- Large publishers often explicitly state on their websites that they don’t accept unsolicited submissions
- If your unsolicited submission is kept, it will be put in a ‘slushpile,’ along with hundreds of others like it
- Slushpiles are often read by interns or freelance editors hired specifically to weed through them
- Generally, you can expect to receive a form rejection letter (i.e. “Dear Author, we regret …”), as opposed to a personalized letter
- Many publishers who do accept unsolicited submissions only send a response if they are interested in seeing more of your manuscript
- You may be advised to wait more than 6 months for feedback and then get no response at all
- If you are rejected by many publishing houses and then try to get an agent, you may have already exhausted several avenues for submission. Agents won’t be keen to work with you, as a result.
- You should never pay a publishing house for any of their services
That’s not to say you should never submit directly to a publisher. Here are a few reasons why you might be justified in this course of action:
- Unsolicited manuscripts at small independent publishers may be read directly by an in-house editor
- Your manuscript is on a specialized subject, and you’ve found a small publishing house that deals in that area
- Your manuscript is a children’s picture book
The Submission Package
Whether you’re sending your manuscript to a literary agent or directly to a publisher, be scrupulous in these areas:
- Visit the agent’s or publisher’s website and find their submission guidelines for key information
- Research their background and what kind of books they represent to avoid submitting to a dead-end
- Follow submission guidelines exactly. If they ask you to query first, do it. If they say they want to see the first 3 chapters, don’t send them more or less, or 3 chapters that aren’t the first ones.
- Watch out for individual formatting preferences. They may have strict rules about margins, spacing, pagination, etc.
- Print your manuscript and other documents on good quality paper using a laser printer
- Write a professional and concise cover letter
- Use only strong envelopes for the manuscript, and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of the submission
- For more tips on the submission process, see 7 Foolproof Ways To Get Your Book Rejected
Go On, Get Out There
You’ve got the manuscript. You’ve got the know-how. You know where you want to go, and you know how you’re going to get there.
Best of luck with your book. I hope this day is everything you hoped for, and more. And if you aren’t successful this time around, don’t give up.
There are plenty of other fish in the sea.