6 Submission Mistakes

The hard work isn’t over when you type “The End” on your final draft, nor does it finish after months of editing.

If you’re a writer who wants to see your manuscript published traditionally, you’ll need to work on a submission package for agents and publishers. If you want to give your MS the best chance of standing out in the slush pile, that should include avoiding these 6 submission mistakes.

Not Checking It Every time You Submit

You might think it’s over the top to double-check a submission before hitting send if you’ve read it a million times and know for sure it’s correct, but you know what? That’s what the typos want you to think.

Those little gremlins are always there, tricking your eyes. I sent off three submissions last week, and on the third one, I still found a typo even though I was positive the two I’d already sent were clean.

You might have read your query fifty times, and you may know the first chapter so well you can recite it line-for-line in your sleep, but read it again before you hit send. One. More. Time.

Thinking Good Enough Is Good Enough

Unfortunately, I have fallen into this trap. I had an MS I was mostly happy with but one I knew (deep down and smothered in denial) still needed work. Foolishly I believed it wouldn’t matter and that an agent/publisher would see the potential. But guess what? They don’t have time for potential when their inboxes are full of manuscripts better than good enough.

Please make sure your MS is as good as you can get it. If you have any doubt, or you know it still needs something more, hold it back until you are one hundred percent happy with it.

Not Giving It To Others To Read

When I made my first submission back in 2015, the only other person who had read my MS was a line editor I’d hired to correct the grammar and eliminate typos. I thought that was all I needed. Wrong. So wrong.

That MS was rejected at various points during 2015, 2016, and 2017. I spent 2018 re-writing it and having it beta read by seven talented writers who all helped me to see what worked and what didn’t. The result was a stronger MS character and plot-wise. You may have to write the MS alone, but please don’t send it out having been the only person who’s read it. You’re too close to it and need the help of fresh eyes.

Submitting To Every Agent/Publisher You Can Find

You’ve written a speculative YA book about witches? You’ve found an agent who likes speculative YA books? That’s great, ear-mark them for submission, but also research first. Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, horror, utopian and dystopian, supernatural fiction and more. A peek at the agent’s wish-list or their twitter account might clue you into the fact they only want to read speculative YA that involves vampires and they aren’t looking for witches. In that case, sending your MS to them will likely result in your shiny submission being swapped for a shiny rejection.

The same goes for sending your book to just any agent or publisher. Research first and submit to agents/publishers who are actively looking for manuscripts that sound like yours. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it gives better odds.

Ignoring Submission Guidelines

When you get into the submission game, you’ll notice some guidelines are standard. Most will ask for a query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters.

This submission round I’ve had to prepare:

  • The first five pages.
  • The first ten pages.
  • The first thirty pages.
  • The first three chapters.
  • The ending chapter.
  • A one-page synopsis.
  • A three-paragraph synopsis.
  • A one-sentence writer bio.
  • A cover letter.
  • Pages pasted into the body of the email.
  • Pages attached as separate word documents.

While most were asked for in the standard size 12 Times New Roman font, double spaced, with 1-inch margins, one publisher asked for 1.5 spacing and a header containing my name, email address, genre, and word count.

The point is, every place has their own submission guidelines so always check and don’t assume you can send them a standard submission package. Find out what they want specifically and always tailor your documents to every submission.

Not Celebrating

You finished writing a book. You’re putting that book out in the world where other people will read it. Yes, they’ll be judging it and rejecting it, but the takeaway is that you’re putting it out there! Regardless of whether that snags you a book deal or a rejection, celebrate! Buy yourself something nice, indulge in a treat, eat at your favorite restaurant. Just mark the milestone.

Will all of this mean no rejection? Not at all! Will it sting less when you’ve done your best? Nope! It’ll hurt more. But as long as you’re sending out your best, that’s what you can control. It’s the only thing you have control of, so control the heck out of it, and put your best submission forward.

— K.M. Allan

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

56 thoughts on “6 Submission Mistakes

  1. A perfect reminder for us all. One of the most important things I learned was submission guidelines. It is so important that we follow every rule. I sometimes wonder if they are testing us to see how close we pay attention.

    Good stuff as always. Thanks…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post, Kate. I will certainly be taking a lot of this on board before my next round of submissions.Thank you for sharing so honestly the mistakes that you’ve made…I have made these myself, and it’s not always easy to admit. But your honesty means that we can all learn and submit stronger! Best of luck with all yours too…<3

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patty

    Reblogged this on Campbells World and commented:
    Good morning to all.
    Although this post is speaking to traditional publishing some of these tips are good for any type of submissions.
    I cannot tell you how many submissions I have to reject each week because people don’t…
    * check and recheck their work
    * Follow guidelines
    * pay attention to detail.
    It slows down the process and sets you up to fail.
    Read this post and aim to do better in your writing in 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo Elizabeth Pinto

    As a selfI’m a self-published author who supports her writing habit proofreading textbooks. I couldn’t agree with your advice more strongly. Two thumbs up, especially about the typos! Also, words such as two, too, and to will trip you up every time, even if you know their differences well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your posts are always do detailed and thoughtful. While I’m not going traditionally published, much of this applies to self publishing too. Such as rechecking the work… I still find typos no matter how often I check. And using betas. I can always spot a book that was not read by cps or betas. Thanks for sharing your insight

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post, K.M.! I’m definitely bookmarking it for March when I hopefully start querying! Also, that’s crazy you’ve had to prepare so many different versions of your story, especially the last chapter? I think when it comes to querying, messing up an agent’s guidelines is probably instant death, even if we have the best intentions. It’s a nice reminder to slow down and take our time while submitting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Madeline. Yeah it was crazy the different guidelines I came across this time. I don’t remember it being that varied a few years ago. Apparently the place that asked for the last chapter likes the see how the MS ends. I guess to make sure it just as strong or stronger than the first three chapters, or to see if you know how to craft a whole story 🤷🏻‍♀️.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing post.
    I continually made the error of not double spacing my sample pages when pasting it in an agents email. Cringe.
    It’s all a huge learning curve, following an agents guidelines is essential. Iwon’t make the same mistake again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rainy. It’s the worst when you’ve hit send and then realised you made a mistake. If Twitter has taught me anything, it’s that agents are people too, so it helps me to remember that when I’ve sent off a sub and later noticed a typo 😅.

      Liked by 1 person

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