Today’s extract from Get Published is from around the middle of the book. This answers the question I get asked most often by aspiring authors: what do publishers really want from authors?
What publishers really want (apart from a proposal)
Believe me, I WANT to love every submission I read. But the bitter truth is that I despair. I read the submissions and I see novelists who could turn out to be great but who will be rejected by me – and probably everyone else – because they were impatient. I read other submissions that are truly awful. I read a lot that are just tepid.
So what do publishers really want?
• More: More humour, more tears, more emotion, more sensuality, MORE OF EVERYTHING!
• A professional submission: Don’t send it in until it’s ready to be sent. Check the spelling. No, the editor will not fix it for you. If your manuscript isn’t ‘clean’, you won’t get that far.
• Something that’s great to read: By the same token, quit worrying about your font and your margin spacing. Is your manuscript compelling and remarkable to read? Is there magic on the page?
• No follow-up calls a week after posting: Sometimes mail doesn’t get opened right away. Most publishers and literary agents get 2 metres of mail a week. It might take 3-6 months for them to get round to you. After that, you might politely ask if they’ve received it and how far your manuscript is from the top of the pile.
• Courtesy: It is really attractive when writers are polite in their communication with my company. This is perhaps particularly true in the case of literary agents. Agents are like talent scouts: they are auditioning writers to find the right match for a role/publisher. Publishing culture doesn’t readily embrace prima donnas. If you are hostile with an agent or publisher from the get-go, alarm bells will ring for them. They will think that this is going to be hard work and they have to decide whether it’s worth it. You have to be an awfully good writer for them to decide it is. Writers who are pleasant to deal with, efficient and professional can often go further simply because agents and publishers like working with them, and they know they will deliver the goods.
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