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.
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