Tips For Writers

So, you’ve finished writing your book and you’re ready to starting sending it to publishers. What are the next steps?

1) Research.

Before you begin to submit your manuscript to publishers, it is crucial to do some advance research. The industry is highly competitive, and publishers receive unsolicited manuscripts daily. A lot of time can be saved by finding out who publishes what, and who will accept what kind of submissions. Don’t submit your poetry manuscript to a publisher that specializes in history, and don’t submit your historical biography to a publisher that specializes in haiku. Find a good home for your manuscript by honing in on a publisher that makes books similar to yours.

Here are some ways to find out about publishers and what they do:

  • Have a look at our member publishers list. If you see one that interests you, click on its name to read more, or go directly to its website.
  • Study a particular publisher’s titles in bookstores; get a feel for what they do.
  • Attend book launches in local stores, or book fairs where publishers display their titles.
  • Request recent catalogues from publishers in order to examine titles.
  • Consult the Canadian Publishers Directory, a listing of all Canadian publishers and representatives of foreign publishers in Canada (published by Key Publishers Company, it is available to subscribers of Quill & Quire, and in many libraries).
  • Buy or borrow a copy of the Writer’s Guide to Canadian Publishers, which lists publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts and specifies the kind of work they will consider (produced and sold through the Writers’ Union of Canada).
  • Two other very useful reference books are The Book Trade in Canada (now published by Quill & Quire) and The Canadian Writer’s Market (McClelland & Stewart). The latter includes a list of Canadian literary agencies, indicating the kind of manuscripts considered and whether unsolicited manuscripts will be accepted.

2) Inquire.

Publishers normally ask that you do not submit an entire manuscript unless requested. It is better to start with a letter of inquiry. A letter of inquiry should contain:

  • A short covering letter about yourself, particularly your qualifications and publishing credits, if any;
  • An estimated word count of your manuscript;
  • A two- to four-page outline and one or two sample chapters. These selections should be formatted according to the specifications below, under “Prepare your manuscript”: edited and proofread, double-spaced, 12-point font, 8.5 x 11 white paper.

Note in your covering letter if any parts of your manuscript have been published previously.

Never send your only copy, and never send original art work or photographs unless specifically requested. Enclose a self addressed, stamped postcard for acknowledgement, and a postage paid envelope for the return of your material. Remember that publishers are under no obligation to return unsolicited material.

Yes, you can submit a letter of inquiry to more than one publisher; mention in your letter that you are sending out multiple submissions. Then you can deal with the publisher who shows interest in your manuscript.

3) Prepare your manuscript.

If a publisher responds positively to your inquiry and wants to see more of your work, hooray! Open a bottle of champagne. Then, make sure your manuscript is ready to go. There are a few simple, universally observed guidelines to follow in preparing and submitting your work.

Your manuscript should be double-spaced and printed on white 8.5 x 11 paper, printed on one side of the page only, in a 12-point font. It should be free of typographical errors (have it proofread if possible). It should have the title appear on the top left hand corner of each page. Pages should be numbered consecutively. Do not staple pages or put them in a binder. Have the title centered on the title page. Have your name, address and the international symbol for copyright (©) on the bottom right hand corner of the title page.

4) Wait.

Finally, be patient. It is not uncommon for publishers to take three months or more before responding to a submission. After three months, feel free to send an email inquiring after the status of your submission.