Writing At The Pit Face

I often get emails about how to submit correctly to publishers and agents. The guidelines for most publishers and agents is easily attained, usually on their websites - or in offline Writer's Guides at your library.

The most fundamental issue here is that you shouldn't even consider submitting a manuscript UNLESS you've read those guidelines. Never think that you can shirk this primary consideration!

In general terms though, the majority of guidelines go like this:

1. Double spaced 12pt Times New Roman or 10pt Courier.

2. At least one inch all around the text, left justified.

3. Title, name and page number in the top right corner, on every page.

4. No clips, staples, tape, or bindings of any kind.

5. One title page with your word count beneath your name and all your contact details in the bottom left hand corner.

Your cover letter should be short - one page at most - around three paragraphs. Mention the recipient first and why you're submitting to him/her. Then mention - briefly - your book premise and lastly introduce yourself - again very briefly.

Your bio should usually include your recent credits - those within the last five years. Your synopsis should ideally be only one or two single spaced pages.

Check first to find the recipient's name - and whether they want extra material like your marketing plans (an increasingly important consideration to many publishers.)

Many publishers still ask for a return SAE but many writers now just tell the publisher to recycle the MS. Note: some publishers now specify double sided MSS - in a bid to look green.

But what of submitting online?

Again you'll need to consult the website's guidelines.

Most want your manuscript in WORD or rtf - following exactly the same five points above. In essence an electronic version of your offline submission.

Some publishers, usually ezines and web content providers, will be okay with MSS in the body of an email. But check first.

Most pertinent though - speaking from personal experience - your manuscript should be as perfect as you can get it. Error free in other words, especially with regard to punctuation, spelling, grammar and basic formatting. (BTW, this means you.) Nothing turns off a potential publisher or agent more than badly presented work.

It's curious. In just the last two weeks I have had the good fortune to come into contact with three career authors with numerous books published. Good on them, right?

What may surprise you is that none of them had good news to share with me.

Despite having their books published through large traditional publishers with worldwide distribution, all of the three were having problems with their publishers.

The general gist was this:

Whatever the reason - perhaps the global downturn in B list book sales - their publishers were expressing reluctance to accept their latest book, even if it was part of an ongoing series.

We all like to think that when we're published, that's it. We've made it and the hard work is over, riches will follow and our place in history is ensured.

Actually this is a long way from the truth.

Unless your first book sells millions or at least hundreds of thousands, (which is very, very rare) it's going to be just as hard to get your next book published as it is for the wannabe. Harder sometimes because if you already have a deal, agents and publishers can be loathe to take you and your work on when they know your publisher is having second thoughts about you!

It's not simply about being a good writer either.

Alas, it's down to book sales. The marketing departments are often the ones who decide an author's fate in these profit driven times. And being dropped from your publishing deal can be just as much a possibility as having your next book accepted it seems.

Sobering stuff indeed.

So don't go around with the false notion that published authors are the lucky ones who've got it made for life.

This is often not the case.

The need to improve - and become more commercial - is just as important for published authors as it is for the rest of us.

Career writing requires dedication and a strong willingness to commit to constant self improvement.

Getting published should never be your end goal.

In many ways it's just the beginning. 

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell







         Sherlock Holmes        

Your Success is My Concern
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