Free Advice for Writers
Manuscript Submission


The process of submitting a manuscript seems to baffle many beginning writers. It's also a bit frightening, somewhat similar to the feeling of handing your baby through a barbed wire fence to a smiling Nazi prison guard who promises "Don't worry, I'll take good care of it."

You can avoid a lot of the mistakes that beginning writers often make and give your manuscript the best chance to actually make it onto a real acquisitions editor's desk if you follow these simple steps to submit your manuscript:

1. Decide on your market
Compile any marketing information that you can
Research a potential publisher
4. Get the publisher's submission criteria
5. Get a name to address your letter to
6. Follow the publisher's submission criteria
7. Try to be patient after you have submitted
8. See number seven

Manuscript Submission: Step Three

Decide on a Publisher

"How do I find a publisher for my book?" is one of the questions I get the most and finding a publisher can be a daunting task for the novice writer. There are, literally, hundreds and hundreds of publishers to choose from. Add to that the fact that each publisher has its own unique way of accepting manuscripts and it can be information overload.

This tip focuses on finding a publisher, not signing with one. You will, of course (ahem), give yourself a much better chance to actually sign a contract if your book has been edited, its plot and characters as sharp as possible.

That aside, don't let yourself become a deer caught in the headlights. Although it seems daunting, finding the right publisher for your book is really just a matter of research and being methodical about your approach. I tend to think that is what is most daunting to authors; the artistic and creative mind sometimes gets "brain freeze" when it comes to a more scientific, methodical approach to a project.

Would you believe that religious publishers regularly receive material better suited for Playboy, while Playboy regularly receives manuscripts better suited for Sunday School? It's true. It's all a result of the author not researching the publisher they are sending to.

The place to start is the LMP. Most public libraries have a copy of the Literary Marketplace, also known as the "LMP." The LMP is the source for finding publishers. The Literary Marketplace lists all major publishers and small presses. In addition to publishers, the LMP also has listings for literary agents, editors, book printers, graphic artists, and so on. (My own listing, in case you're wondering, is in the works and should be in their online version soon.)

The best approach is to first find the publishers that publish your genre of book. For example, you have written a sure-fire bestseller suspense novel. Go to the listings by subject near the back of the book. There you will find an extensive list of publishers that publish suspense. Don't let the size of the list daunt you. It just goes to show you're up against a lot of competition but by doing the research, you'll be placing yourself ahead of all those competitors. (Are you starting to get the feeling this is business not art? You should. Writing is art, publishing is business.)

You may want to make a photocopy of the list of publishers that publish your subject matter. You can cross them off as you narrow the list.

The second step is to go to the general listing section and just start working your way down your list. In other words, start at A and work down to Z. If this seems entirely too scientific and methodical, start at Z and work your way backward or maybe at M then N then L then O then K and so on.

However you do it, you will start narrowing down your list using your own set of criteria. Perhaps you want to give each publisher a ranking of 1 to 10. Cross out publishers that don't appeal to you or that won't take your manuscript. For example, cross out those that will not take unagented books if you don't have an agent or those publishers that will not accept first-time authors. Once in the general section, you may also find that although they are listed as suspense publishers, they may not be currently accepting new suspense novels, choosing instead to work with their current stable of authors.

You will also start to get hints of the publishers' "personalities." For example, personally, I would never submit my book to publishers that never accept unagented manuscripts. That tells me that they are either so busy they will be hard to work with, they're snobbish, or they just don't have the staff to do their own reading. Not someone I would not want to do business with.

One note here is that if you can't find a publisher in the general listing, it may because they are in the small press section. Don't disregard these out of hand. Small presses may be a very good place for you to start if you have never been published. Typically, they will be more willing to take a risk on an undiscovered talent. But beware, small presses also have their own drawbacks. Because they are small, they will not have the marketing abilities or staff that the larger houses have. On the other hand, they will be more friendly and easier to work with and you will typically have more control over the final outcome of your book. I should point out, though, that the Internet is giving small presses a big shot in the arm. They are able to put their books on just like the big houses and they can build their own Web sites to promote their books.

The key, though, is to find a publisher that you are comfortable with. Listen to that still, small voice inside when you deal with them. Is there something about them on the phone that gives you a twinge of worry? Does it sound too good to be true? Make sure you're comfortable because you are establishing a relationship. Hopefully, a long relationship.

At any rate, once you have narrowed your list, it is time to approach them for their submission guidelines.

But that's the next tip.


Top of Page Home This Week's Free Tip for Writers

Contact Information
Please contact me by e-mail at: bookdr*
Make sure you replace the asterisk with an "@". (This helps avoid overloading my inbox with spam.)

This website copyright 1999-2003 Mark Anderson.