9 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Submitting Your Manuscript To An Agent Or Publisher

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You’ve perfected your manuscript as much as you can. You’ve shown it to your mum, and she loves it. The time is right to send your baby out in to the world. But what last minute checks should you be carrying out before sending your manuscript out to the publishing world?

Today, I’m taking a step out of my editorial shoes, and sharing with you nine of the broader questions that you should be asking yourself when preparing to submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher.

1.       Where do I see my book on the shelf?

What genre does your novel fit into? What other authors would you place your book next to?

It is are important to know and note in a covering letter to an agent or publication where your book fits on the market, and to illustrate that there is indeed a space on the market for your book at all.

2. Why have I written this book?

What are the motives behind you book, and how do you want it to make readers feel? Why do YOU love your book?

You need to be passionate and aware about why your book is important if you’re going to convince others to understand it, and feel the way you want them to. To badly paraphrase RuPaul, ‘If you can’t love it yourself, how in the hell are you going to get somebody else to love it?’

3.       Why should it be published now?

Why should your book be published now, as opposed to a year ago, or a year from now? What makes your story relevant and important to the world today?

Imagine the front page of your book and think about what you like the summarising reviews of your book to say. If now is not the right time to publish, don’t be afraid to be patient and come back to it.

4.       Why is this publisher/agent right for me?

Have they represented other authors that you admire? Or are they renowned in their field for publishing books in your genre? How compatible do you think your work would be? It is important to remember that this relationship is a two way street, and it is worth doing the extra research if you find somebody fantastic who will fight for your work as much as you.

5. Why am I right for this publisher/agent?

How will your manuscript stand out from the crowd? How will your book compliment and further an agent’s/a publisher’s list?

As well as being compatible to you, you need to be compatible with and agent or publisher, so really focus on how your book can benefit a publisher or agent in your covering letter, as well as how a publisher or agent can benefit you.

6. Can I pitch my book in one sentence?

Can you capture the essence of your book to one sentence? Publishers and agents sort through thousands of submissions a year, so it’s important to ensure that you can deliver a snappy, catchy sales handle that will help your submission stand out, and tell a publisher/agent quickly why they should support your book.

If you can’t reduce your pitch to a few lines, you may be trying to tackle too much in one book, or a publisher or agent may not be right for you.

7. Do I understand an agent’s/a publisher’s manuscript submission policy?

This is hugely important, but surprisingly, something that many people ignore. First impressions count, so you must make sure that the agent or publisher that you are approaching IS OPEN to submissions. Unsolicited submission likely to be rejected or ignored, and understandably so.

If an agent or publisher has specific guidelines for submissions (for example, for word count, formatting, or method of submission), they have stipulated these for a reason, and it is a matter of courtesy to respect them.

8. Am I willing to work with an editor, and am I prepared to make drastic changes to my manuscript if advised to by a publisher or an agent?

You need to be prepared to receive critical feedback and recommendations from a publisher or agent, as it is highly likely that there will be some areas of your work that will need to be tweaked to improve quality, or in some cases, to make it more “marketable”. Do not be offended if this happens to you – remember, the publishing world is a business. Be prepared to accept criticism where it adds to your work, but also be prepared to fight for your book when needed.

Unlike working with a freelance book editor, who works for you, an in-house editor works for a publisher, and will edit your work on behalf of the publisher. The conditions of a publishing deal may rely on extensive changes to you book, so you need to ask yourself before approaching a publisher: am I willing to change my work?

9. can I afford to invest in some professional support?

Many publishers nowadays recommend submitting your manuscript to an editorial service before reaching out to a publisher or agent, so is worth investigating whether you can invest in feedback from a professional reader, or editorial services to strengthen your manuscript before submission.

Not only will your manuscript benefit greatly from professional editing and critique, but your submission to an agent or publisher will be stronger if you can illustrate that you have received and acted upon professional feedback that you have received for your manuscript. Having your manuscript professionally handled pre-submission will not only boost your skills and confidence, but an editor’s critiques will allow you to develop your manuscript into a more mature piece of work. In short, the more polished your manuscript is pre-submission, the greater chance your submission has of being a success.

In order to give your manuscript the best chance of success, I strongly advise seeking a substantive or, where your manuscript is developed enough, a line and copy-edit before submitting to an agent or publisher. Killing Darling offers a selection of affordable substantive, line and copy-editing services to help you take your manuscript to the next level. Get in touch today to find out how you can improve your manuscript today.

Chloe Murphy