Following the submission guidelines

Before you submit your manuscript to a publisher or a literary agent, make sure you read the submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Many acquisition editors and agents that are faced with stacks of submissions every day will just reject manuscript that don’t follow the submission guidelines—without even taking a look at the writing.

If you can’t follow the rules when it comes to the submission guidelines, the publisher or agent will assume that you’re unprofessional and won’t follow the rules later either. First impressions count, so make sure it’s a good one.

Here are some tips that will help you avoid rejection:

  • Make sure you submit your manuscript only to publishers or agents who accept the type of fiction (or nonfiction) you write. If the publisher accepts only romance novels, don’t send them your book about how to knit socks. If a publisher doesn’t publish erotica or accepts only novel-length works, sending them your sizzling hot short stories won’t do you any good either.
  • Check out the publisher’s or agent’s submission guidelines on their websites (for example, you can find our submission guidelines here). Read them very carefully and follow them to the letter.
  • Format your manuscript using the instructions in the submission guidelines. If the publisher wants “standard manuscript format,” that means one-inch margins, indented paragraphs, double-spaced, left-justified text, and 12 pt. Courier or Times New Roman.
  • Include all the materials the publisher or agent wants in your submission—but not anything else. Don’t send the complete manuscript if the publisher asks for the first three chapters. We had one author who sent us page 23-70 of her manuscript, saying “I know your submission guidelines asked for chapter 1-3, but page 23 is where it gets interesting.” If the beginning of the novel can’t capture a reader’s interest, rewrite it.
  • A cover letter shouldn’t be longer than one page and should include your name and pen name, your contact information (address, e-mail address, phone number), title of your manuscript, the story’s word count, and a brief description/teaser of your story. You might also want to list any writing awards and previously published works.
  • Most publishers request a synopsis. The required length might vary, but will usually be 2-3 pages. The synopsis is an overview of your novel with every important plot point, including the end—no teasers. Regardless of the POV and tense you use in your novel, your synopsis should always be written in third-person, present tense.
  • Everything you send out (manuscript, cover letter, synopsis, etc.) should be carefully polished and proofread. Apply the same care that you would a job application.
  • Find out if the publisher accepts electronic submissions or wants manuscript sent by snail mail. If the publisher wants electronic submissions, what format do they prefer (.doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, etc.)? Ylva Publishing accepts only electronic submissions with the manuscript attached to an e-mail, yet we’ve had manuscript sent by snail mail. One author even copied the full manuscript into the body of an e-mail!

So give your manuscript a fighting chance and keep these simple rules in mind when you’re submitting your manuscript.

Best of luck!

The Ylva Team

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