Avoid Unnecessary Rejections from Publishers
I’ve read my share of manuscript submissions over the years. Many writers do a good job putting together query letters, proposals, and submission packages. Others, however, make serious mistakes that greatly increase their chance of rejection.
There is no foolproof way of getting a manuscript into the hands of an editor, but the following five tips are ways to avoid turning editors off unnecessarily.
- Follow the publisher’s submission guidelines to a T.
- Ensure your submission is free from spelling and grammatical errors.
- Write a professional query letter.
- Submit one work at a time.
- Submit your work only if it’s a good match with the publisher.
Publishers list submission guidelines because they help editors handle submissions efficiently. Failing to follow these guidelines risks giving the impression that you have difficulty following instructions or that you are the kind of person who likes to break the rules. Neither of these will encourage a publisher or editor to work with you in what is essentially a professional relationship.
Be sure to fulfill the publisher’s expectations before sending anything. Cutting corners in this case may do more harm than good.
Editors prefer to see manuscripts that won’t require more work than necessary. Spelling errors and rudimentary grammar problems are very discouraging. If an editor reviews pages containing these, he or she may become concerned about more serious problems throughout the rest of the manuscript.
When you have only a few pages (and sometimes only one or two) to make a good first impression, make sure they’re immaculate. And don’t rely on software spell checkers and grammar checkers—they’re prone to errors. Instead, consider seeking help from others in polishing your manuscript before you send it in. A second set of eyes often does wonders.
Trying to be funny, cute, or unique in your query letter will usually backfire. Most editors will have seen it all before and are likely tired of it. Unless you have a knack for this sort of thing (i.e., you’re a brilliant comedic writer), avoid this. Trying to stand out by using any of these tactics will only distract from the purpose of your query: selling your manuscript.
Keep it concise and to the point. Be persuasive, not pushy or flashy. Putting forth a professional attitude in your query letter will tell editors that you are serious about your aspirations as an author. A good resource on this subject (and much more) is the publishing guide Writer’s Market 2016.
Unless it’s encouraged, avoid submitting multiple works. Doing so can come across as desperation or laziness, as it may seem like you’re trying to dump as much of your work as you can into an editor’s lap. Also, it divides the focus of your query, which will dilute your persuasiveness in getting either of them accepted. Focus on one work for consideration, and give it your best shot.
I’ve seen children’s books submitted to publishers who don’t publish children’s books. I’ve also seen submissions of fiction that simply don’t match the style or genre preferences of the publisher.
Submitting a manuscript that isn’t a good fit for the publisher indicates that you haven’t looked into the kinds of books they publish, and the odds of your manuscript being accepted may drop to zero. Research the publisher before submitting to them.
Artistic Merit Versus Professionalism
In a perfect world, the merits of your writing alone would sell your manuscript. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the real world. Book publishers often operate on minimal resources, in both finances and labour. As an author, it’s important for you to be professional and to look at your interactions with publishers as a form of doing business.