One question that we get pretty regularly from people is “What makes a good submission?” Having spent many an hour reading unsolicited manuscripts, we understand the importance of making yourself stand out. What a lot of writers don’t realize is that it's much easier to be noticed for negative reasons than for positive. We have asked two of our lovely editors here at Peachtree Publishers to give some insight into what they are looking for. Here is what we learned.
It is important to keep in mind that your cover letter is your way of introducing yourself to an editor. Why, out of thousands of manuscripts, should yours get published? Having an author that is great to work with can be just as important as having a good story. My point is, feel free to brag a little. Let an editor know your qualifications and previous publications. Do you have experience presenting to children at school? Have you been published in a newspaper? Maybe your short story won an award. Tell them; just don’t over share. While we might personally appreciate that you are the leading llama wrangler of your town, unless you’re writing a book about the lost art of llama wrangling, it's irrelevant and takes up space.
Which brings us to the next point—space. Your cover letter should be no more than ONE page. It is a brief introduction to you and your story. It should not include a marketing or publicity plan. Publishers have marketing and publicity departments for a reason. It should also not include feedback you received from your class, your kids, your neighbors' kids, strangers on the bus, or anyone else you’ve read it to. An editor will make their own assessment. Other things that should not take up space but often accompany a submission: Candy. Bookmarks. Stickers. Calendars. Plush toys of your book's characters. Sequins and confetti. Nothing is more annoying than having to clean up confetti that has spilled all over your floor from a manuscript. Presentation is important, but so is professionalism.
Having a professional look for your cover letter and manuscript is key. For some reason somewhere along the line, people started to think that cutesy, looping fonts were a great idea. All a cute curling font does is annoy the people trying to read your letter when they have to squint and turn the paper sideways to try and decipher what is happening on the page. We are not in a Dan Brown novel. Editors do not want to deal with breaking any codes. And while we’re on the topic, DO NOT under any circumstances tell an editor that you have written the next Harry Potter, Twilight, Da Vinci Code book, aptly entitled The Potter Code at Twilight. A good manuscript will speak for itself.
Lastly, and most importantly, do your research. Alyssa, a former Peachtree editor, says it best: “…do your research. How many books like yours are on the market? Is your idea unique? What age group is it intended for? Is there a demand for this kind of book in the market? If there are other books like yours out there, what is going to make a consumer buy your book over the others? These are the questions the submission editors will be asking themselves as they read your story.”
Publishing is a competitive industry and taking on a new author is a risk for any publisher. We know hearing back about a manuscript is a long and slow process for writers, but know that we do note professionalism and patience in the early processes. It does not go unnoticed. Have a thick skin, because you will get rejected at least once, if not multiple times. However, we strongly believe that a good story will find a home, so keep submitting.