Writer, Undercover: Four Submission Tips

1262_BookWritingIn the past few months as an editorial intern at Henery Press, I’ve reviewed more than forty manuscripts submitted for publication. This is particularly educational because it coincides with my own efforts to become published.

Here’s what the writer in me has learned about submitting for publication:

1. Edit the first pages RUTHLESSLY. Your first three to five pages are like a first date. Appearance counts. Chemistry matters. Your plot might be brilliant, the characters witty, and the dialogue sharp. But allowing careless mistakes (typos, misspellings, grammar issues) in your opening pages is like going on a first date with broccoli in your teeth. Editors are slightly OCD by nature, and we have trouble getting past the broccoli.

2. Make the FIRST LINE clear and simple. Your first line should not be complex. Please don’t try to blow readers away with your best descriptive writing, or the most eloquent, or the most anything. The first line is there for one purpose – to make us read the second line.

3. Establish a CLEAR HOOK w/ character and plot. I don’t know how it works at other publishers, but at Henery we have weekly submission deadlines on Fridays. By Thursday when I open up those files, I’ve already accomplished a variety of editorial tasks. Perhaps I’ve written a blog post or two. At home my kids need help with homework, the puppy tore up something again, and we’ve stacked laundry so high we could vault off the piles to the nearest piece of furniture.

My point? By Friday, I’m tired. And I’m probably not the only one in publishing who feels this way. So when I sit down with a batch of manuscripts, like most readers I want to escape into a fictional world that holds my attention. Without a clear hook, my mind will wander right on to the next manuscript. Unanswered questions and tight writing, along with an emotional connection to the main character will keep us reading.

4. And for the love of all things literary, check the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Publishers have vastly different requirements for editorial submissions. Even editors at the same publishing house may differ in what they want. Take time to research submission guidelines, often found on the publisher’s website. Pay close attention to genre and subgenre. Study the types of books the publisher represents, and target your submissions to publishers that most closely match your writing style. Go the extra mile and follow the publisher (and even the editor) on Twitter and Facebook. You’ll get a good idea of what they want in a book submission, and you’ll be that much closer to publication.

It’s not brain surgery, but you would be surprised how often writers ignore a publisher’s preferences.

(This is part three of a six-part series. Stay tuned…)

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  1. #1 by Mr. Atheist on February 26, 2013 - 10:59 pm

    I love that you follow your own advice. I finished this blog wanting more! Thanks for the tips!


    • #2 by annaldavis on February 27, 2013 - 3:26 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it, thanks for reading!


  2. #3 by Larry Who on February 26, 2013 - 10:59 pm

    Now, when I write a comment here, I check it over more than usual. I don’t want my broccoli stained teeth showing too early on our date. Okay, I’m ready for the next part.


    • #4 by annaldavis on February 27, 2013 - 3:32 pm

      Larry, I’m not that picky with comments, emails, or any kind of personal correspondence. Just manuscripts. So eat your broccoli without worry, it’s good for you!


  3. #5 by linneann on February 27, 2013 - 12:06 am

    I love the simplicity of this advice. I look forward to the rest of this series.


    • #6 by annaldavis on February 27, 2013 - 3:36 pm

      Thanks linneann! If you’re like me, sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to achieve, especially with writing. I can’t even tell you many times I’ve reviewed my first few pages to make them more clear, and how muddled my head can become just trying to reach these simple steps.


      • #7 by linneann on February 27, 2013 - 4:08 pm

        I know what you mean. I have to fight against wanting to fit too much into one sentence. I haven’t noticed that in your writing. It always reads very fluidly.


        • #8 by annaldavis on February 28, 2013 - 2:27 pm

          You should see it before I switch into editor mode! Thank you for the sweet words :-)


  4. #9 by Mark on February 27, 2013 - 3:47 am

    slightly OCD!?


    • #10 by annaldavis on February 27, 2013 - 3:42 pm

      Mark, probably more than slightly. It’s an occupational hazard.


  5. #11 by Ryan Brooks on February 27, 2013 - 12:12 pm

    Good article, very informative for we indie writers. Knowledge – absorbed. :)


  6. #13 by memyselfandkids.com on February 28, 2013 - 3:34 am

    Again worthwhile and helpful tips. Thanks.


    • #14 by annaldavis on February 28, 2013 - 2:35 pm

      I appreciate it, and I’m glad you are reading along!


      • #15 by memyselfandkids.com on February 28, 2013 - 4:59 pm

        Definitely. As I said, I am really enjoying the series and taking mental notes for when I send something out.


  7. #16 by April Bradley on July 19, 2013 - 2:35 am

    Thanks for lifting the editorial veil and providing tips! Sometimes it’s difficult to pull back and write like a reader. On to you next compelling post! :)


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