If you’re looking to submit to a publisher, you’ll want to know the five most common mistakes authors make when submitting and our tips on how to avoid them. We’ve recently released an episode of Mirror World News on this very topic so I’ll just leave that at the bottom of this blog post for you!
The number 1 mistake authors make when submitting is…
- Ignoring the submission guidelines
I can’t stress this enough: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!
If the publisher has provided guidelines on their submissions page, those guidelines are there to help you! Often, the guidelines will tell you exactly what the publisher wants to see and how they would like it delivered to them. If the publisher asks for a query and a synopsis, send both! If they want three chapters of your manuscript, send three chapters. Don’t send the whole manuscript, or an arbitrary number of pages or words, just give them what they have asked to see. Following the submissions guidelines is an easy thing to get right and trust me, a publisher appreciates when the directions they’ve given are followed.
Typically the guidelines are found on the publisher’s website and are clearly labelled as ‘submissions guidelines’ or ‘how to submit’. Its definitely worth finding and following these instructions, as not following the guidelines can lead to any of the other common mistakes found below.
- Submitting the Wrong Genre
Typically publishing houses have one or more genres that they specialize in. Most often, the genres that the publisher specializes in or is looking to specialize in will be listed with their submissions guidelines. If not, this information can easily be found by doing a little research on the publisher or looking at what other types of books the publisher has already published. If your book doesn’t look like it fits with the other books the publisher has published, then it’s less likely the publisher will take an interest in your manuscript. If the publisher states they are looking for action-packed science fiction, for example, they definitely won’t want to see your sweet contemporary romance, or your story about vampires and werewolves.
The trick to avoiding this mistake is to research the publishing house before submitting, follow the guidelines provided, and find publishing houses that publish the genres that you write in.
- Omitting important details
The publisher needs to know certain facts about your manuscript to know if it is something they are interested in. Omitting important details like the genre of your manuscript, the word count, the target market, or even your background as an author, can hurt your chances because it creates a scenario where the publisher has to guess. The publisher could contact you to fill in the blanks for them, but more often than not they do not have the time to do this. Not knowing the word count, or not having the genre spelt out for them might not be a deal-breaker, but for every guess the publisher has to make, it becomes harder and harder for a decision to be made regarding your manuscript. This could result in delays, or for the publisher deciding to pass on your book simply because they can’t tell if it is worth the risk.
- Leaving out key plot points
We’ve talked about synopsis writing before, but another common mistake authors make when submitting is not including the entirety of their plot in their synopsis. The whole purpose behind requesting a synopsis is so that the publisher can see at a glance what the arc of your story is and this includes the ending! Make sure to include your major characters, setting, key plot points, climax and conclusion in your synopsis without simply listing them. If you need help doing this, please see this episode of Mirror World News.
- Failing to ‘hook’ the reader
In your query letter, your synopsis and your sample chapters, it is crucial to ‘hook’ your reader. Your main goal when preparing your submission package should be to capture the publisher’s interest. You have three main chances to do this.
In your query: What is it about your manuscript that makes it interesting or different? What would make someone want to read it? Distill this down to a simple statement if you can and include it in your query letter. If you’re having trouble with this, try pitching your manuscript to a friend or family member. What can you tell them about the story that would make them want to read it?
In your synopsis: A synopsis is a summary, but you’re still telling a story. Try to hit the highlights of your manuscript in an engaging way. If you’re finding this difficult, practice by writing the blurb that you would want to appear on the back of your book, then flesh it out by revealing all the plot points and most importantly, the ending.
In your sample chapters: I’ve written a whole blog post on this topic alone, but here are the highlights. Make your opening line count, start where the story picks up and gets interesting, avoid bogging the reader down with too much information all at once and make your writing as engaging and active as you can.
That’s it! And now, you can listen to Adam discuss this topic on Mirror World News! Be sure to like, subscribe and comment if there are any other topics you want us to cover on the blog or on Mirror World News! Thanks!