As an aspiring author, you've spent countless hours pouring your heart and soul into your manuscript. You've edited and revised, and you're finally ready to submit your work to publishers in the hopes of getting published. But how do publishers choose which manuscripts to publish, and what makes a manuscript “publish-worthy?” In this article, we’ll take a look at the criteria that publishers use to evaluate manuscripts. We’ll also provide tips for meeting those criteria.
WHAT MAKES A BOOK PUBLISH-WORTHY?
First, this is a complicated question and is highly dependent on the goals of the publisher. I believe the technical answer is that every book deserves to be published, but very few books are ready to be published by the time they reach the publisher. Officially, however, a publish-worthy book is one that has a clear target audience, a unique and compelling premise, and strong writing. It must also be marketable and have the potential to sell well. Publishers are looking for books that stand out, ones that will capture readers' attention and keep them engaged.
While every book has intrinsic value, not all manuscripts meet the standards listed above, and some never will. This is where the publishing business gets tricky, because as a publisher myself, I believe that if an author writes it, someone else wants to read it. The question is, “Will enough people want to read this that my investment in the author was worth it?” Of course, this is reliant entirely on the sort of books that a publisher prefers. A publisher with an audience primarily interested in romance novels is quite unlikely to pick up a medical textbook and say, “Wow! They’re gonna love this!” The fact that publishers can be so genre specific is an excellent reason to research your options before submitting your manuscript.
CRITERIA PUBLISHERS USE TO EVALUATE MANUSCRIPTS
Being “publish-worthy” is one thing; being publishable is another. Let’s dive into the criteria publishers use to evaluate manuscripts. The first thing publishers look for is a admirably written manuscript. The writing must be concise and engaging, and free of grammatical errors. Publishers often provide editing and proofreading services as part of the process, but it’s best practice to have your manuscript edited before submission to improve it’s perception upon receipt. Publishers are also looking for manuscripts that are original and target a conspicuous substrata of readers. The manuscript (assuming we’re talking about narrative fiction) must have an obvious plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying—or intriguing—ending.
Many writers worry that if their manuscript is rejected, it simply isn’t any good. It’s important to remember, though, that publishers are businesses. In addition to seeking quality writing, they also have to evaluate manuscripts based on their marketability. They are looking for books that have the potential to sell well. This is why the book must have a target audience and be compelling enough for them to buy. Publishers are also likely to consider the author's platform, which includes their social media following, speaking engagements, and previous publications. High engagement and previous conversion data may indicate that an author has the ability to sell the book based on their reputation.
Of course, choosing whether or not to publish a manuscript also can be purely subjective. You can find numerous stories of famous novels that were rejected numerous times by publishing houses before the author (or their agent) finally found an editor willing to take a chance on the manuscript. We’re sure there are some editors out there shaking their heads at opportunities they missed.
TIPS FOR MEETING PUBLISHER CRITERIA
Now that we understand the criteria publishers use to evaluate manuscripts, let's discuss some tips for meeting those criteria.
Make Sure Your Manuscript Is Polished: It's essential to have multiple people read and edit your manuscript before submitting it to publishers. You should also research the publisher you're submitting to and ensure that your manuscript aligns with their publishing goals.
Know Your Niche: This means you should know who your book is for and tailor your writing to that audience (for example, a children’s book would use a different vocabulary level and word count than a YA novel). You should also ensure that your manuscript has a compelling premise. Publishers are looking for books that shine, the diamonds in the rough. Stories that are different and powerful have a better chance.
Elevate Your Author Brand: Increase your social media following, book speaking engagements, and submit articles or short pieces to publications and literary journals. The larger your platform, the more attractive you will be to publishers. It’s a challenging process that takes time, but itwill be well worth the effort.
The publishing industry is highly competitive, with thousands of manuscripts being submitted daily. It's essential to understand the competition and how to make your manuscript stand out. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but these three tips will help you stand out more than anything else you could do (besides being famous, of course). You can also attend writing conferences and networking events to meet publishers and agents. Publishing is a tightly-nit profession, and word spreads quickly between professionals.
MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT
It’s common to see authors make mistakes when submitting their manuscripts. The first is submitting a manuscript that is not well-written. Rejection is hard, and it doesn’t always mean that your work is bad. But there are times when we have to be honest with ourselves. Ask yourself, “How does my book compare to others in the same genre or category? Does it stand out among my peers, or is it easily lost in the crowd? Have I made every effort to polish the manuscript?” Success only comes from the desire to improve. Always have the attitude that you can do better, write more, engage more. Success follows those who persist. Ensure that your manuscript has been edited and revised multiple times before submitting it to publishers.
Another common mistake is submitting to the wrong publisher. Research the publisher you're submitting to and ensure that your manuscript aligns with their publishing goals.
Finally, be sure to follow each publisher’s guidelines for submission. Don’t submit a manuscript if the layout or font size is wrong, the file type is wrong, or some other small detail doesn’t match the submission guidelines. Make the adjustments that are necessary.. Publishers intentionally impose very specific guidelines. They want to know that the person they’re working with is able to follow instructions and take advice.
CONCLUSION: THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSEVERANCE
Getting your manuscript published can be a long and challenging process. However, by understanding the standards publishers adhere to when evaluating manuscripts and following the tips outlined in this article, you can increase your chances of success. Remember, perseverance is key in the publishing process. Keep writing, keep submitting, and don't give up on your dreams.
Thank you for spending your time here with us this week on the HIP Weekly. We appreciate your readership and look forward to seeing you again next Sunday. In the meantime, as we always say, have a positive and productive week!
Huntsville Independent Press
ABOUT HUNTSVILLE INDEPENDENT PRESS
Huntsville Independent Press is the premiere publishing imprint of the Southeast United States, and we want to help you, the author. HIP provides, at no cost to our signed authors, a better solution for the publication of your story. Our contracts are non-restrictive and offer higher royalties for our authors. No HIP advance is taken out of royalties. Your advance from us is a one-time payment for the privilege to publish your book and is not a loan. Our passionate team of editors work diligently to ensure that the uniqueness of your story is preserved through the editing process. While you’re here, feel free to look around to see if Huntsville Independent Press is the right home for your work. We are always happy to have talented authors find a publishing home here with us.