Tips for Writers: Submitting Your Manuscript

After a year of revising and rewriting and rereading my manuscript, I've finally come to the point that I feel it is ready to be submitted to the requesting houses. As I gathered everything together, and researched the "How-to's" I realized there wasn't enough content on the web to guide a new writer. So here are some things I did and learned from fellow writers.
(As always, take any advice you find useful and shuck the rest)

*Read the submission guidelines for the publishing house or literary agent.
This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but it's very important. I found one literary agent wanted an author bio and information about how I could help market the book. Another literary agent didn't request as much information. The publishing house I targeted only requested a cover letter, in which I included a short blurb about me and my writing accomplishments.

*Don't forget the synopsis!
And, pay attention to the submission guidelines on the length of the synopsis. I found one Agent who preferred a 5-6 page synopsis, others didn't specify. I've been told a synopsis less than 10 pages is good.

The main points you want to place in your synopsis include introducing the characters and giving a clear picture of your storyline, in which the goal, motivation, and conflict of the characters and the manuscript is concise. This is giving the big picture of the story, with important elements highlighted in a small package.

*Securing the Manuscript
It is my understanding we are not to bind our manuscripts. The houses want them loose. I did, however, wrap one large rubber band around the pages to be sure they didn't get tossed about in shipping. The rubber bands that worked well for my manuscript were the OfficeMax 1/4lb 114g size 117. Perfect for a book of approximately 250 pages.

I also mailed the package using the USPS Tyvek envelope. It's thin, but durable. The manuscript fits nicely in there with room to spare.

I was advised to mail the manuscript "Media Mail." Unfortunately, the post office has other ideas. They informed me the manuscript didn't qualify as "Media Mail" unless it was bound. Meaning, the book had to have a spine of sorts. Fine. At this point in my career, I don't know the difference. I mailed mine priority. It was approximately $10 with delivery confirmation.

*Give yourself plenty of time to prepare the package
I'm talking to those of you who have children and are trying to do 15 things at once. Do not do this when you are preparing your manuscript to mail. Get up early if you have to, or stay up late. Proofread your work. Proofread your cover letter, bio, synopsis, mailing label. Write REQUESTED MANUSCRIPT on the envelope if the editor/agent requested your manuscript. AND, put which conference you attended where said manuscript was discussed. Slow down, take your time. Proof it once more...The point is, when you hurry, you forget things. Which leads me to my next point...

I had been working on this book for a year to get it to a perfect stage to mail to an editor. Well, the day I was to mail the book, I had not finished printing it, I was out of paper and ink. I took the children where they needed to go, because I still had to go to work that day. I ran to OfficeMax, to the post office and then back home again to print the manuscript. My printer took so long, preparing the manuscript went from one hour to two. I still forgot to include the SASE(Self Addressed Stamped Envelope). Drat!

What this means is if the editor rejects it, I'll never know. The SASE is how the houses let you know they are not interested in your work. If they're interested, they call you.


I leave you with one more piece of advice. Do your research. Get How-To books on submitting your manuscript. The font, the size and quality of paper used, all matter. It's like showing up at a job interview in Corporate America dressed in ripped jeans and a T-shirt. Don't give them a reason to put your book aside. This submission is your chance to shine with the publishing world. You want them to be directed to the beautiful and interesting words you've put on that page, not to the editorial blunders you overlooked.

Good luck, and happy writing...


Rebecca Lynn said…
I just submitted mine to Harlequin on Saturday. It was a great process and experience. I've got my cover letter pinned up in front of my desk, reminding me to pray about it every day.

I'm excited to hear back, one way or the other. I hope, at least, if she rejects it, that she gives me a couple of notes. :-)

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