Polish Your Manuscript Ready for Submission

I hope 2018 is off to a great start for you! From the beginning, straight to the end, following on from the last post on motivation, here’s my advice on getting your manuscript ready for submission. This article was originally written for Writers & Artists, but it received such a good response, I thought I’d share it with readers here…

BookofRevengecoverPublishing is one of the most competitive industries in the world, so when you send your manuscript out on submission, you need to make sure it is as polished as possible. You also need to provide an insight into you as an author. A publisher or agent will be looking for talent, but they also need to know that you are professional, that you are dedicated to your writing, and that you will be agreeable to work with. Although the manuscript is ultimately yours, a published book requires collaborative effort and so when an agent or publisher reads your submission, they will be considering all of these aspects. Here are a few practical things to look for before you send out your manuscript, to give it the best possible chance of success.

Manuscript

You’ve redrafted and redrafted your manuscript and are too close to see any glaring mistakes; here are some common editorial issues to look out for, so you can really polish your manuscript before you hit send.

One Line Pitch

Reducing your manuscript into one line is challenging, but it gives you focus. It also functions in two useful ways; it provides you with a succinct description of your book for your cover letter, and it also serves as a reference point for your own writing. When you reread your manuscript, does it match your one liner? If not, something is wrong – it could be a simple fix or another rewrite, but if alarm bells are ringing, give your manuscript more time.

Read Out Your Dialogue

This sounds obvious but there is no better way to know whether your dialogue is working than to read it aloud. If any dialogue is tricky to say or sounds out of place, it needs more work. This is slow and time consuming, but essential: flabby or unconvincing dialogue pops off the page and can really let a good story down.

Pacing

Look out for sections that slow the action down or cause distraction, such as unnecessary descriptions or information dumping. Are your chapters fluid and do they end in a way that makes you want to read on? The middle section of a manuscript is typically where pace suffers before editorial input – see if you can tighten and prune before hitting send.

Capitalise on Emotion

Every story takes a reader on an emotional journey – so what do you want your readers to feel? Do you want them to be blubbing, splitting their sides laughing or too scared to read on but too hooked not to? Once you have your story, your characters, your redrafted manuscript, reread to see whether you have managed to evoke the desired emotions. If it’s not working for you, it won’t work for your reader either.

Logistics

When you submit your book, it’s not just about your manuscript – you also need to make sure that you are sending desirable material to the right people, in the right way.

Choose Wisely

Is the agent or publisher you are approaching even interested in your genre or the age group you are writing for? This may sound like an obvious question, but despite the wealth of information available online, publishers and agents are constantly bombarded with manuscripts that don’t fit their criteria. It may seem time consuming to check every detail, but submitting work that is not relevant to an agent or publisher will result in instant rejection. Save embarrassment and unnecessary heartache by doing your research.

Presentation is Important

Have you studied and adhered to the submission guidelines requested by the publisher or agent you are approaching? Each will have their own way of working and their own requirements and it is important you follow these exactly. Agents and editors are extremely busy, so they expect to receive manuscripts in the format requested; submissions that do not meet the requirements may go unread. Make sure that you double-check everything on the submissions page of the website before you hit send.

Be Patient

Although it might be tempting to send your manuscript on submission because you’re hungry to get published, sending it out too early will be detrimental to your chances of success. You only have one opportunity to submit your book to a publisher or agent, so don’t send it anywhere until you are completely sure that you have made every improvements possible.

Remember

Literature is subjective and so not every agent or publisher is going to like what you send – they have to be behind it 100% to be able to take you on. So if someone takes time to give you feedback, read their suggestions objectively and see what you can learn. Everyone experiences rejection in the publishing industry, so try not to let it dampen your spirits. I’d love to hear all about your progress – and I guarantee, if you dedicate your time, if you strive to become better at your craft, if you write your stories with heart and keep going, you will make progress.

Keep writing, keep improving and never give up! 

Best Ever Reader Feedback!

Many people ask what it’s like to be an author, and I always say that the best bit is meeting the readers. Of course I adore the writing side; coming up with an idea, beating it into shape, then fine tuning it with the help on an editor or two. But once the book is in the public sphere, I also love the social side; literary festivals, interviews, radio, events in schools/libraries/bookshops.

Although it is also slightly terrifying, nothing beats getting feedback on your book. Whether it’s a review online (see goodreads and amazon) or it’s a person in front of you, telling you their thoughts about your book, meeting people that have enjoyed your work is an incredible feeling. And so, I thought I’d share some of the feedback… (keep going to see the video at the end!)

Bronagh

Huge thanks to Bronagh for adding me in her school magazine!

And huge thanks also to the girls and boys that filled out feedback sheets after the UNESCO Citywide Read events. Here are some of the comments I’ve received so far – they make me chuckle SO MUCH I had to share!

Question: Did you enjoy the event?

‘Yes, it was a very scary story and it was good to meet the author’.

‘Yes, it was very good. It was good to meet the author. Her book was awesome’.

‘Yes, it was funny’.

‘Yes, it was the best’.

‘Yes, it was a great book and I can’t wait to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I enjoyed today so much. We enjoyed it a lot and had fun. I hope we come again soon’.

‘Yes, it was fun. She was funny’.

‘Yes, she’s so kind and happy’.

‘Yes 🙂  She likes death’.

‘Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing. I love it sooooooo much’.

‘Yes!!!! 🙂 I think she’s funny because she likes death :-p . It was a great book!!’

‘Yep!! The Book of Learning is my favourite book! I can’t wait for the second one to come out!!!

‘Yes, for sure. I hope more will be coming from her soon’.

‘Yes, it was amazing. I can’t wait for the next books. It was so good, and it was spooky. She is really nice and funny’.

‘Yes I thought it was great, I learned a lot about writing. I am going to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I liked it, I’d say 10 out of 10’.

‘Yes, so much. It was good 10/10 and I hope that we do it again J’.

‘Yes, a lot. The ghost stories are creepy and really cool’.

‘Yeah it was great. I haven’t finished the book yet but it was great as far as I read. It was just so good and I’d say the next book will be even better’.

‘Yes!! I really liked the book and Elizabeth is really nice’.

‘Yes, I thought it was amazing and I was so sad when I heard that the second one isn’t out yet’.

‘Yes, I thought it was really good and interesting’.

‘Yes, I really enjoyed the book and the talk. She was nice’.

‘Yes, I liked it and mark it 10/10’.

‘Yes it was great. It was excellent to meet the author and her book was amazing’.

My favourite quote from a review:

“I loved this book so much that I made Lego figures of Zach and Ebony, and I don’t usually mix up my Lego figures! My mind was racing when I was reading this book, trying to piece together the clues, but I had to read to figure it out.” (Mia, aged 12)

And here’s a real treat – a surprise rat rap from Pied Piper of Hamlyn