Congratulations—you’ve finished your draft! Now that you have a finished draft, the excitement of receiving a book contract or agent representation can seem like the very next step. But it isn’t quite that simple; there are still several steps between your finished draft and a submission-ready document.
Of course, we recognize that many writers second-guess themselves along the journey to publication, and we’ve been there. As author Katherine Turner has told us many times, it can be difficult to know when you’re done.
Every time you read your manuscript, you’ll find a typo or something you could have worded differently or even events you could have changed. For this reason, going through your manuscript repeatedly is a good idea, but at some point, you will do more harm than good, and you need to be able to step away. There are infinite ways you could change your manuscript until you have a completely different book, but you need to stay true to the story you have. When in doubt, you can step away for several weeks or months and then come back with a fresh perspective and see if the story you have is ready.Katherine Turner
Remember—you want to submit your best work, but no one is expecting perfection because it simply doesn’t exist. With that in mind, we’ve put together a short checklist you can reference to make sure your manuscript is in the best possible condition prior to submission.
Is your manuscript complete? While some publishers will offer a contract for an idea, typically this is only offered to proven authors—that is, authors who have already submitted and published successful books before. If you’re an aspiring author, make sure you have a completed manuscript to show agents and acquisitions editors.
Have you received feedback on your story from a third party? Feedback can come in many forms and at various stages, such as from alpha and/or beta readers, editors, and even peer review partners. We strongly encourage every author to consult a professional third party during the self-editing stages; having a second (or even third and fourth) set of eyes on your manuscript can help you catch things you may have missed, simply because no one knows your story as well as you do. When agents and acquisitions editors read it, you’re less likely to receive a form rejection if they aren’t the only other eyes to ever review your work.
Has your manuscript been edited and proofread? As you can see throughout our editing tips series, there’s a variety of professionals who may be able to help you improve and strengthen your manuscript. While we believe that not every writer necessarily must work with every kind of editor, having it professionally edited—at some stage—and proofread is essential.
Is your manuscript in a genre the entity you’re querying publishes? At Josha, we only consider certain genres. For example, under no circumstances will we consider formula fiction, fan fiction, or erotica; if we receive a query in one of those genres, we will automatically reject it no matter how spectacularly it’s written. This is common for agents and publishers alike. Make sure that the agent or publisher you’re querying has experience publishing your manuscript’s genre and that they are currently reviewing submissions in that genre.
Is your manuscript formatted according to the submission requirements? While there are a few industry standards for submissions, some agents and publishers may vary. Before submitting, check for the submissions guidelines on the agent or publisher’s website and make sure yours matches what they require. At Josha, if we receive an improperly formatted submission, we will return it and ask that the author resubmit it once it matches our requirements.
Do you have a query letter that contains all the required information and has been edited and proofread? Like everyone, agents and editors are busy people; make sure that your query letter is professional, easy to read, and error-free in an effort to be respectful of their time. Your manuscript is more likely to be considered in detail if the way you introduce yourself—and your work—is polished.
Do you understand the submissions process? Reviewing submissions is a time-consuming process, but that’s a good thing; it’s crucial that every manuscript receive equal, careful consideration at every stage. Likewise, it’s important to remember that a request for a partial or full manuscript for the agent or editor to review is not a guarantee that it will be accepted. Understand that agents and editors are decision-makers for the sake of a business, not on a personal level, and that a rejection of your manuscript is never a rejection of you.
Once you can confidently say “yes” to all of the above questions, congratulations—it’s time to submit your query! If you’re an author who is hoping to be accepted through Josha, make sure you check out our books, submissions status, and review our submissions FAQs on our website. If our submissions are closed, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to know as soon as they’re open again.
Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about books, stories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.
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