When I was at Eastercon, I had a conversation with David, my editor at Guardbridge books, about book submissions and the process from his perspective. I did a video interview on the subject for my YouTube channel, but there are a few points of advice I thought it was worth highlighting here.
- Send Your Book to the Right Publisher
Guardbridge Books publish science fiction and fantasy, usually books that have something a little bit weird or different about them. Yet, I was told that they receive quite a lot of submissions from authors of Christian fiction. I once attended a talk by another editor who talked about how the publisher she worked for, which produced educational books and text books, received loads of fiction submissions despite the fact that their website and information clearly stated they didn’t publish fiction.
If you submit a book to a publisher that doesn’t publish your type of book, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. These days, a lot of publishers accept electronic submissions, but you might also be wasting paper, printer ink, and postage if you submit your manuscript physically. When you’re sending your book out to publishers, do a little bit of research to find out what publishers are likely to be interested. Check who publishes books that are similar in style to the one you’ve written. Don’t waste time sending your book out to publishers that will never in a million years publish it.
- Read the Instructions
Pretty much all publishers have submissions guidelines on their website. These include information on how to approach them (inquiry email, sample chapters, full manuscript) as well as information on the formatting they’re looking for. Most publishers like double-spaced, left-justified, 12 point font, and things like that, but once in a while, you’ll come across a publisher that has a particular format they want to see. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t follow their guidelines.
There are similar variations when it comes to synopses. Some publishers want a 1 page synopsis, some a 2 page, or 2-3 page. Some will ask for 1000 words or 500 words. And so on. When I was sending my first novel out on submission, it felt like every publisher had their own rules for how long the synopsis should be.
You want to follow the guidelines of the publisher you’re submitting to. After all, if you can’t read their instructions, why should they trust you to write?
- Proof-read your submission
This was one that David didn’t mention in the video, but he did mention to me afterwards. The submission doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, especially since editing and proof-reading is part of the publishing process, but one thing an editor is going to do when looking at a submission is think, “How much effort is this going to take to get ready for publication?” A first page that has two or three typos in it is probably fine. A first page with two hundred is another matter entirely.
If the editor looks at your story and it seems like you don’t understand how to punctuate speech or spell common words, they’re likely to think that your book will take significant effort. If your book is absolutely mind-blowing in other ways, you might get away with it, but you are definitely stacking the odds against you. Publishers put a lot of time and effort into getting a book ready to be released into the world, and the more you can do to convince them it won’t be a trial, the more likely they are to be interested in your book.
Check out the video for the other suggestions and comments David had about the submissions process from an editor’s perspective, and good luck with your publication efforts.