Sending a manuscript to a publisher is an exacting task that must be done according to the specific manuscript submission guidelines of each publisher. Each publisher will have a number of requirements that you must follow or risk having the manuscript rejected upon arrival. If you want to learn how to get published, follow the publisher's requested manuscript format.
- Find out exactly what the publisher requires. Many require a few preliminary steps before they will accept a full manuscript. Publisher's guidelines can be found in part in The Writer's Market. This is a book that is updated yearly, as well as a website that contains information about thousands of publishers.
- A query letter is a common first step to getting a publisher to read a manuscript. This is required of most book and magazine publishers. This letter is usually a simple one-page typed letter that details both the contents of the manuscript and the market available for the work. Publishers love to hear exactly who would be interested in buying the item, so any data on successful projects that are similar is helpful. This is also the time to detail your credentials, such as any education related to the material that you may have and anything that you have previously had published. Unless the writer's guidelines say differently, submit these with standard 12-point type in a plain, easy to read font.
- Some publishers will accept the query letter and then ask for sample chapters, and some will require that these be sent first without a letter. A synopsis is generally a one paragraph description of the work followed by a short chapter by chapter description. "Sample chapters" generally means the first three chapters of the work. If the material is going to a magazine, the query letter should be followed with the entire work.
- If the preliminary contact was favorable, you will be invited to send in a manuscript. A full, book-length manuscript will have to be typed as is laid down in the writer's guidelines of each publisher. Writing a manuscript in a publisher's format may take some time, but it's well worth the outcome of getting published. Once you have decided on a list of publishers, it may have to be changed slightly to be submitted to each one. A full manuscript is usually shipped in a box (the box that the computer paper came in is often the perfect size for it). The paper used for submission should be a high-quality paper that will not smear, bleed or be so thin that the type is difficult to read. Do not use colored paper or paper with any designs on it. The work itself should be what stands out.
- Because many publishers are inundated with manuscripts, the current trend is to require agented submissions. If a publisher requires this, then any manuscript sent without an agent will be immediately rejected. Agents are plentiful, and anyone with a competent, completed manuscript should be able to find one. They are forbidden by their trade organization from charging upfront fees, so be wary of any agent who tells you that fees are customary. They submit work and are then paid a percentage of what the author receives -- no more and no less.
Now that you know how to get work published, you can start writing and submitting your manuscripts! Good luck!