There are no set in stone rules that all publishing companies follow when it comes to receiving manuscripts. I have read a lot of different “rules” and “tips” on manuscript submission, so think of these more as guidelines to follow when you are preparing to send your manuscript.

  • Do your research. Get to know the publishers that you wish to send your manuscript to. Beware of niche publishers. If you are sending it to small, independent houses, read their mission statements, and be sure that your book fits into it. It may sound obvious, but don’t send your romance novel to a company that only publishes historical non-fiction (okay, that was excessive but you get the idea).
  • Learn everything that you can about your subject. Read books in the same and similar subjects and get a feel for how other authors handle it. See if you can do better. Get ideas, but be creative. Remember, a publisher is not going to want to publish a book that’s already out there.
  • Along the same lines, get to know your target market. If your book is going to be a bestseller, you are going to have to sell it to someone (and anyone is different from someone). If your book doesn’t have a target market, give it one. A publisher is also not going to want a book that is hard to market.
  • Have your manuscript proofread. If you can’t afford a professional proofreader, get at least one other person to look at it and identify spelling and grammar mistakes. This is so important, if this was a numbered list, this tip would be number one. Get other authors to look it over for content as well, especially continuity. Making sure your writing is in top shape is the best way to prove that you are a professional.
  • Find out what format the publisher would prefer to receive your submission in. Follow their guidelines for submission. Some publishers prefer digital copies, others prefer hardcopies. This is important to make sure your manuscript doesn’t wind up in the trash (or the “Recycle Bin”).
  • Send a professional cover letter, along with the synopsis and several sample chapters. It is not always a necessity to have finished the book before you send out your sample for submission, but it is a good idea.
  • Don’t be afraid to self promote! If you can’t sell your book to a publisher, you won’t be able to sell it to audiences. This is a key tip-off to the publisher. Here’s why:
  • The author is the publisher’s best marketing tool. You have to be willing to help market your book, so do not even try to get published unless you are willing to do so.
  • Be prepared to wait. It may take 4-6 weeks for a response (or more, or less, depending on the publisher and their current volume of submissions), so be patient. If you haven’t heard back in a reasonable amount of time, follow-up.
  • And I will end this list on the one universal rule, yes rule, not a guideline, in getting published. Don’t be discouraged. Probability says you will receive more no’s than yes’s, and just because this happens doesn’t mean your subject or your writing is bad–just not what the publisher is looking for at the time.

Alicia Castaneda, Managing Editor

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