How to Know it’s Time to Submit Your Manuscript
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It’s been six weeks since I quit my job to become a published writer, and I’m finally taking the
After my first submission, I learned that there are some necessary steps to follow before you should hit send. And most will be the reason why your manuscript does or doesn’t sell.
Let me share those secrets with you.
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How to Know it’s Time to Submit Your Manuscript:
Sending your manuscript to agents and publishers is like sending your kid to school for the first time.
Your nerves are on hyper-drive, but you’re trying to keep your composure until you’re finally alone and can down a glass of red wine while watching a Hallmark movie in the middle of the day with tissues littered around you.😭
But how do you know when you submit your manuscript that it’s going to sell? The easy answer is you don’t. And the good news is you can still prepare for the yes.
Steps to Make BEFORE You Submit Your Manuscript:
1. Have it Reviewed by Your Critique Group or a Professional.
I’ve been meeting with the same ladies for almost five years. They’ve seen anything from my really rough drafts to my fully polished manuscripts. And all of their input has been undoubtedly valuable.
Before you submit, take the first chapter of your novel or your complete picture book to a writer’s group. A lot of writer’s groups meet at public libraries or can be found through your regional SCBWI group. (Read more about how to find a writer’s group here.)
Even if you don’t have a critique group that will put eyes on your writing regularly, it’s better to have a once over with some people that know the industry, rather than only your or your mom (who thinks you do amazing at everything).
Should you pay for an editor?
This is a topic that comes up at a lot of the conferences I attend, and the overwhelming majority don’t believe paying for an editor is vital. After doing additional research, I’ve decided there are only a few times when you should pay for an editor:
- If you have the money in your
budget,and want to put forth the additional expense.
- If you don’t know any writer’s groups or critique partners (Even online) that can read your work.
- If you’ve been published for a while and you want to skip going to group activities.
Using a professional isn’t a bad idea, but you need to make sure they’re a good one. Anyone can say they know how to proofread manuscripts, but that doesn’t mean they understand the children’s market.
Check reviews and try to get trusted referrals BEFORE making any decisions.
2. Research a List of Potential Agents or Editors to Send to.
When I decided to submit this last time, I created a list of the top 50 agents that I was interested in working with. Some of these were from large houses and some were junior agents that were looking to grow their list. But all specialized in solely selling children’s books.
The number that you submit to doesn’t matter, so long as you’re doing your research.
Places to do research before you submit your manuscript:
- SCBWI- The Book (Must be a member to Access)
- Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market
- Writer’s Market (Need a Subscription)
I recommend getting the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Book for
- Small publishing houses
- Educational markets
- All the children’s book agencies (and their agents)
- Big publishing houses (who may not accept unsolicited manuscripts)
- Plus all their contact information!
Get a hard copy for yourself here. 🤗
3. Follow the Strict Guidelines for Each Submission.
One of the biggest pet peeves that agents mention when asked about submissions is when writers don’t follow the guidelines. Especially because they’re listed on their site.
I know that a lot don’t because some writers even comment about it on Literary Rambles and normally mention that they’ve been rejected. 🙈
This sounds easier than it
You need to READ! Check out these other articles to help you find an agent and write a successful query letter.
What to do After You Submit Your Manuscript?
Time to celebrate: you just sent your manuscript! 😍
There are a few things you can do now that you’re in the waiting game (And after you’ve spent your time celebrating your awesome accomplishment!):
1. Create a log to keep track.
I set mine up in Google Drive so I can edit it from wherever. In my tracker, I store:
- Name of the agent/contact person
- Agency or Publishing House
- Date Sent
- Method (Email or Form)
If you’re offered representation or publication, you can follow-up with others that you’ve sent to, in order to get the best offer for you.
2. Start working on something else.
Nothing is worse than watching paint dry, hovering over a hot stove until the water boils, or waiting to hear back from a submission.
Also–it takes a while to hear back from a lot of people and others may not respond at all.
3. Consider making edits.
I have a story I’ve been working on for four years, and I’m still not sure if I’ve gotten it right. But I really love my characters and believe in the story–no matter how many forms it takes.
However, if I’ve sent it to some 50+ agents and haven’t heard a yes or even a “this is great, but not for me, keep going” email, then I need to look at my submission.
My pitch might not be working–how I sell the story could be falling flat and no one even makes it to my writing.
However, if I’m getting a lot of rejections off my query, instead of no response at all, it could be my story. That’s when I’ll consider editing or rewriting parts or all of my draft. (Read this article to help you identify when you may need to rewrite your manuscript.)
One of the biggest mistakes after you submit your manuscript is giving up too soon. It takes a while to sell a manuscript, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be better prepared to be published.
Have your manuscript reviewed, research who you want to send it to, follow their guidelines, and keep track of submissions.
For more reading, check out these other articles on the blog:
- How to Avoid My Biggest publishing Mistakes
- How to Find a Writer’s Group
- What to Expect at a Writer’s Conference
- Everything You need to Publish a Children’s Book
- How to Know if You Should Revise Your Manuscript
- Don’t Make these Mistakes when you Submit
- Should you self publish your book idea
- What’s a Comp Book & Why Do you Need Them?
I especially liked your advice in keeping track of submissions!
Thanks so much Jamie! It’s so helpful, especially after you’ve been submitting for a while or want to resubmit/follow-up with an agent or editor.
I know this is a silly question, but Should I register (copyright) my story before sending to publishers?
Hi Maria! It’s actually a really common question. You don’t have to register your story because you’re already protected by copyright as an author. As the creator of the original work, you’re protected from anyone stealing your work, and in the event that was to ever happen, you could legally pursue them. If you’re submitting to reputable critique professionals, agents, and publishing houses, you shouldn’t have any reason to fear that they will steal your story. Hope this helps ease your fear! Good luck with your submissions. 🙂
I’m trying to find a children’s book agent I finsh my book it’s only 15 pages and I dont a have it illustration
Thank you for all the great advice! One question is still open : If I am writing a children book that needs illustrations, at what stage do I send the manuscript? Do I have to have the illustrations already (not done by me, but I am in talks with some illustrators) or can I send the plain text?
You’re welcome! Glad it was valubale. 🙂 As for your question, yes – you can definitely just sent a manuscript without illustrations for possible publication. You only need to make sure it’s formatted correctly. Here’s the link to the article on formatting — https://journeytokidlit.com/format-your-childrens-manuscript-guide/