Guidelines for submitting manuscripts
Submission requirements vary according to the type of material (fiction, nonfiction, short story, etc…) and according to each publishing house’s specific requirements. Specific submission specifications can most often be found on a publisher’s website.
Steps to follow when submitting your manuscript
- Finish your manuscript. An unpublished writer will have very little luck in sending in a query letter and book proposal without having a complete manuscript available. Generally, only well established writers will have a chance at signing a publishing deal without a completed manuscript. It is important that your manuscript be as polished as it can be, so edit and reread it prior to sending your work out to potential publishers.
- Know your market. Prior to sending out your manuscript establish who your target audience will be and what your market is. This will allow you to identify the publishing houses that will best suit your needs and increase your chances of being published. Generally, publishers specialize or focus on certain types of material; doing some research ahead of time will keep you informed and save you from wasting your time with the wrong publishing house. There are many research avenues that a writer may follow to find the best possible publisher. Check local bookstores and libraries for publisher’s book; check internet sources for listings and publisher’s websites; or read industry magazines, these can give you a unique prospective on what is happening in the literary world.
- Assemble your submission package. Once you have established a list of publishing houses that will best suit your needs, it is time to begin to build your submission package. Again, not all publishers ask for the same requirements in submitting manuscripts therefore it is very important to check their requirements. For non-fiction works a typical submission package will include:
- A written proposal/letter of query
- Sample chapters from your manuscript, preferably this will not include the introductory, first or last chapter of your work
- For works of fiction, a completed manuscript is often acceptable and a literary proposal is not required. However, for submissions without representation from an agent a book proposal can help to grab the attention of an editor.
- Package your manuscript. You want your manuscript to arrive in the best shape possible a good way to do this is to send it in the box your printer paper comes in and filling in any open spaces with crumpled paper. If you do not have a box available then a padded envelope (large enough to contain your manuscript without folding it) or wrapping your manuscript in two sheets of heavy brown paper, making sure that the package is secured and sealed. Enclosed with your manuscript should be enough postage in stamps for the return of the manuscript by registered mail. Your manuscript should be sent by mail and addressed to the proper editor. The reviewing process can take a long time. Most often you will not receive an immediate response to your submissions. Expect at least two to three weeks for responses to proposals and letters of query and six to eight weeks for manuscript replies. Generally, publishers will send acknowledgment of receiving your manuscript within three weeks. Do not expect a full critique of your manuscript. If your work is rejected most publishers will provide only brief comments on why it was not accepted.
- Remember to always retain a copy of your manuscript. Although manuscripts are generally not lost, it is known to have happened so protect your work. Have both backup hard copies and electronic copies of your work. The last thing a writer wants to do is lose their completed manuscript.