your manuscript to a publisher is your first step in the art of selling
One in five manuscripts
end up in the slush pile within two minutes, and it can remain there
for a good six months. If you want to give your manuscript every
chance of being read, here are some dos and don’ts.
Do a little research on publishers—the
kind of books they publish, whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts
and when. It’s okay to call them and ask about their submission
Besides your manuscript, you should enclose
a list of contents and a one-page synopsis. Also include a brief
resume highlighting your past and present writing projects. Be sure
to include your contact details in your cover letter.
Do make sure your manuscript is as 'clean' as possible. (Your cover letter too.) Editors have a particularly strong opinion of manuscripts with sloppy grammar and spelling.
Keep a copy of your manuscript! This is particularly
pertinent when you are submitting unsolicited work—publishers
are not obliged to return your submission and will not be responsible
for lost manuscripts.
Finally, it is acceptable to submit one manuscript
to more than one publisher at a time. You may choose to disclose
this info in your cover letter but if you do, it may spur some publishers
to respond to your proposal earlier.
If you do not receive an acknowledgement
of receipt of your manuscript from the publisher between 7-10 days
after you dropped it in the post, call/e-mail and ask. It may be
helpful to send your package via registered mail—it’s
easier to track if it’s lost!
Nowadays, submission by e-mail is increasingly
acceptable, but do take care that the files you send are not infected
with virus. If the files are big in size, it may be helpful to break
them up into several smaller files.
The time it takes to review a manuscript
varies greatly from one publisher to another, depends on the time
of year, publishing schedule, no. of editors in the publishing house
etc. Some establishments set aside certain time of the year to read
manuscripts, e.g. in the last quarter of their financial year and
it may be worth your time to make enquiries. Manuscript review ranges
from 6 weeks to four months but this is not a strict rule.
If and when your manuscript is accepted,
the next step is to negotiate your contract.