Submitting manuscripts to prospective publishers and agents is part of the process for writers who want to be published authors. Like many necessary things in the world, it can be a bitter pill to swallow.
I’ve been submitting flash fiction to a fun magazine recently. It’s a non-paying online market. You can see my latest accepted story, if you’re interested.
It’s been fun to get back in the groove of turning in polished manuscripts on a deadline.
But the downside isn’t a steep one in the flash fiction market.
It was a different story with the book publisher submission I sent out into the world.
To Submit or Not
Many considerations play into where and when to submit an article, short story, or book.
The publisher I’ve been stalking since they arrived on the scene a few years ago runs a unique program. They’re specifically interested in publishing new or undiscovered authors.
Why? Because their model pairs a successful author (lead author) with new writers (draft author). The lead author works closely with the draft author from story conception, through planning and into writing the first draft.
In exchange for this mentorship, the draft author shares the byline with the lead author. And the lead author invites the draft author to write stories in an established story world where they’ve successfully published multiple books.
Unfortunately for me, they have only been open to romance stories before now.
Not so for season nine. If this model sounds interesting, check out the publisher here.
But still. Do I want to give up my writing process to adopt the prescribed one? Will it affect my creativity as it has in the past?
Or do I want to break into this genre badly enough that I’m willing to sacrifice my status quo? On the other side of this new process, I will have published in my dream genre and learned how to do it well along the way.
The submission process varies. This is why writers must research their publisher or agent before they send in a submission.
Sometimes publishers or agents want a synopsis and twenty pages. Other times, they only want the synopsis and a query letter that spells out the writer’s expertise on the subject.
In all cases, their requirements are clearly listed on a submissions page. Many publishers use an online form to collect submissions.
Sometimes, there are formatting requirements for the manuscript pages. Make sure to search for the submission guidelines and then follow them to the last letter.
This publisher holds auditions. They require an author to answer three questions, submit a writing resume and submit a 1,500 to 2,000-word writing sample.
The auditions are blind, meaning my name is nowhere on the manuscript pages. This ensures writing is read through an unbiased lens (as the owners of the company are writing teachers at their own academy so they work with many beginning writers and would recognize those names).
Since the process for this submission is unique, it serves as a perfect example for why research about requirements is essential before you submit your work.
While I don’t pretend to know your pain points when you’re preparing and submitting work, I’m all too familiar with mine.
Pain Point #1: the sample pages
No work is ever finished. I can go back to something that went through three edits and has been published for years and find things I would change.
But if we’re going to submit our work and land a publishing contract, we have to let our sample pages be “good enough.”
What’s most important is that your unique style and strong writing voice shine through. If those things resonate, you can expect a callback.
And if they don’t? Do you truly want to change what makes your writing different to satisfy a publisher?
Pain Point #2: the waiting
I know this one kills writers. I cope with it by working on other projects, but I still end up checking my inbox too frequently.
I’ve been published multiple times in the past eight years, but the churning stomach and wondering have never stopped plaguing me while I’m waiting to hear back from a publisher.
Larger companies and agencies will often say “if you haven’t heard back in three to six months consider it a pass.” What? I’m going to stew and wonder for half a year and I won’t even get a rejection letter from you?
I wish I was making this up.
At least the publisher I submitted to this time has a specific timeline listed on their website. I know exactly when they will offer contracts.
I’ve also submitted to them before and they reply to every submission. The gentle rejection email they sent last time let me down as easily as possible.
But I knew. There was no wondering after that point.
Regardless of the pain of submitting, I continue to do it because I have a dream. And that dream requires a publisher who believes in my story as much as I do.
What are your pain points when you submit work?