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Submitting manuscripts to a publisher

Professional editing can do something you cannot do for yourself: see your manuscript through the eyes of an editor.

Acquisition editors are busy people. They always have more manuscripts to review than they have time to review them. Although they are all committed to identifying excellent manuscripts, they often conceive of their job as plowing through the slush pile (that is to say, unsolicited manuscripts; which is to say, your manuscript) as quickly as possible, so that they can devote more time to those few that show the most promise. That means they are looking for any excuse to stop reading your manuscript and so move onto the next.

Don't give them any excuse to stop reading your submission.

Developmental editing can identify the problems of character, plot, setting, pacing, flaws in logic, and so on that are difficult for the originator to recognize, but which will leap out at the acquisition editor and send your manuscript into the "Not for us" pile. Careful copy editing can similarly eliminate minor errors that are next to impossible for you to catch in your own work, but which quickly accumulate in the mind of the acquisition editor into a "No". Even if your manuscript is good enough to keep the editor reading through to the end of the first three chapters (which, along with a synopsis, is all you are permitted to submit), the editor won't send for the rest of your manuscript if everything isn't perfect. They get enough polished manuscripts, they don't need to work with even a diamond in the rough.

What many people fail to realize is that successful writing is all about revision. It is human nature to be proud of our first drafts, and to hope that that draft is 'good enough'. But 'good enough' seldom is. A development editor can push you to dig deeper, write better, and move past 'good enough' to true 'excellence'.

Even the most promising early drafts have less chance of being published than one that has already been edited and revised. Well, which would you choose in the editor's shoes: a draft that they now have to spend time and energy to edit; or one that has already been edited for them? The problem is, you only get one shot at the editor: once an editor has rejected your manuscript, that's it. Make sure your manuscript is as refined and polished as possible before you submit it for publication.

SFeditor.ca can also review cover letters, manuscript format and synopses to ensure these are to professional standard. The wrong covering letter can put editors off before they even pick up your manuscript; poor formatting screams 'amateur', as does an overlong or imprecise synopsis. In the competition for the few publishing spots available, impression management matters. (See boxed link, below left.)


Pitching your Manuscript

Sandra Kasturi, Co-Publisher ChiZine, provides sound advice on cover letters, formatting and synopses, in this interview with Jim Harrington.

Understanding Publishing
    A brief overview of how publishing works and what to expect.

Last updated August 20, 2010