If you’re an author looking for help getting published, we’re happy to offer this concise guide to best practices for manuscript submissions. Of course, every publisher is different, and it’s always a good idea to look at a particular publisher’s website and submission guidelines before submitting. This article simply outlines some basic industry standards.
Please note: while AELAQ’s members publish books across the writing spectrum, AELAQ itself is not a book publisher. We do not provide manuscript editing, analysis, or commentary, and we do not represent manuscripts on behalf of authors.
So, you’ve finished writing your book and you’re ready to start sending it to publishers. What are the next steps?
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.
- Browse the online directory of the Association of Canadian Publishers
- 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.
- Subscribe to the Writer’s Guide to Canadian Publishers, which lists publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts and specifies the kind of work they will consider (maintained by the Writers’ Union of Canada).
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.
It’s helpful if your cover letter refers to the publishing company by name and explains why you think their publishing program is a good match for your manuscript–it shows you’ve done your research and put thought into your submission.
Note in your covering letter if any parts of your manuscript have been published previously.
Most publishers will accept submissions by email, but some may prefer hard copy. Always check the submissions guidelines on the publisher’s website. If sending hard copy, 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.
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.
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.
4) 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.
Ask the publisher if they prefer hard copy or electronic submission.
Your manuscript should be double-spaced, in a 12-point font. It should be free of typographical errors–have it proofread if possible. The title should appear on the top left hand corner of each page. Pages should be numbered consecutively. 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. If submitting in hard copy, use white 8.5 x 11 paper, printed on one side of the page only. Do not staple pages or put them in a binder.