I’m by no means the authority on submission or the submissions process, but I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts and advice about submitting. The process known as submission is important to a writer for a lot of reasons–it’s the step before acceptance.
- Learn what standard format is. The most popular example of standard format is the William Shunn Proper Manuscript Format you’ll find here. Not all publishers will ask for standard format, but many still do. Read through the entire example else you’ll miss something.
- Understand how to read submission guidelines. Each publisher has a set and each one is different. Some guidelines are spelled out very clearly. Others, not so much. As a matter of fact I’ve read guidelines which read more like an instruction manual for an airplane engine. You just have to read through them and take notes as you read (for the tougher ones). The information you’ll want to look for is as follows:
*Format– If the publisher doesn’t tell you how they want your manuscript to be formatted, use standard format. Otherwise, they’ll tell you how to space, which fonts to use (or not use), and what sort of headers and footers to use or avoid, as well as any number of odd requests they may have. Trust me when I tell you that no matter how weird it sounds to you, their instructions always have a reason behind them.
*Deadline for sending your submission.
*Email address to send your work to.
*How to send the submission–This includes whether or not you need to send a cover letter and a synopsis and whether or not to send your entire manuscript or just three chapters or so. Also, they will mention what to write in the subject line of your email.
*Return times–This is the amount of time in which it takes this particular publisher to get back to you.
*Do they take simultaneous and/or multiple submissions?
Simultaneous submissions— When you send the same manuscript to many different publishers.
Multiple Submissions— When you send the same publisher more than one of your manuscripts.
3. Decide how you want to submit your work. What I mean is this–a lot of authors like to make a spreadsheet to track each story they write through its submission process. You’ll make a list of the publishers you wish to submit to, write down the date submitted, the date accepted or rejected, and sometimes other notes. When you’re working on your method of tracking (or lack of one), figure out if you’d rather send out to one publisher at a time or many. There are publishers out there who don’t mind simultaneous submissions, but there are others who would prefer that you only send to them and not submit elsewhere until you’ve gotten a rejection from the first. If you’ve sent a submission simultaneously and a publisher sends you an acceptance letter that you will be signing a contract for, it’s also considered polite to send a withdraw letter to anyone else you’ve submitted to.
4. Once you’ve send out your manuscript, you’re going to start getting rejection letters. Dry those tears up. Shake it off, Taylor Swift, because the rest of the world is very unlikely to be sympathetic. It comes with the territory of being a writer. Keep going.
5. With rejection, comes criticism (sometimes). Don’t get your panties in a wad if an editor doesn’t send you any sort of a critique. Sometimes they’re just too busy. They’re people too, ya know. They have jobs and lives beyond your manuscript. With that said, sometimes editors DO send a critique or some sort of advice. Take it with a grain of salt. Pay attention to what they say, though. If you get more than one rejection letter from editors who give you pointers that mirror each other, you should listen. Remember, they don’t have to tell you ANYTHING. They could just give you a no and call it a day.
6. Eventually, you might get an acceptance letter. When you do, read the fine print. Read everything they send you in your contract. If you have an agent, LISTEN to what they have to say. Sign on the dotted line ONLY if you’re happy with the terms. If you’re not happy with the terms, don’t sign anything just yet because you’re probably not likely to get any happier once that book goes into print. You can negotiate.
If you need help, here’s an article about negotiating a contract you might find helpful. Maybe. Do some Googling if you must.
There is a lot of information on the web about submitting, but I hope I’ve helped at least one new writer. Confusion ensues when the submission process comes into view. I imagine a lot of Nanowrimo first timers are panicking about now as the time to submit looms. No need for panic, though. It’s a part of being a writer. Not a fun part, but a part nonetheless.
If I’ve missed something or you feel like adding to this, please do so in the comments.
Happy Writing, folks. And, happy submitting, too!