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Preparing a Novel Manuscript (Typescript) to Submit to Editors or Literary Agents

This is a guest-post by professional writer and editor, Ms Lillie Ammann. Read below to know further about her

You've finished your manuscript. Now you're ready to submit it to an agent or a publisher. But is your manuscript really ready? Let's assume that you have honed your craft and the quality of your work is superb. What can you do to increase the odds that an agent or publisher will offer you a contract?

Aspiring authors are understandably eager to submit their masterpiece to an agent or an editor at a publishing house. But before you pack that manuscript to ship or click-send an e-mail message, take a little time to improve the chances of catching the agent's or editor's attention.

Edit the manuscript one more time

If you haven't read the manuscript aloud, reading aloud helps you catch awkward phrasings, omitted words, and other mistakes that are easily overlooked when reading silently. As writers, we tend to read what we meant to write, not what is actually on the page.

Have someone else read the manuscript

Of course, as a freelance editor, I recommend you engage a good editor for the final review. However, if you prefer, you can get feedback from critique partners or readers knowledgeable about your genre or subject matter. I asked two published author friends to read my novel Dream or Destiny and got valuable comments from them. I also posted a request on my blog for first readers, and several regulars at my blog responded. This gave me different perspectives, and I improved the story by taking some of the suggestions offered.

One of my editing clients writes historical fiction set in a part of the country he knows only from a couple of research trips. His first readers are historians and people who live in the area, where his story takes place. They are able to provide insights and information that I as an editor can't––I don't have the in-depth knowledge of the history of the time period or of the geography of the area.

Put as much effort into your query letter and synopsis as you did into your book

Your query letter is basically your advertisement for your proposal. Your goal is to convince the agent or editor to read your synopsis and sample chapters. Your synopsis is a sales letter for your book. Your goal is to convince the agent or editor to read the complete manuscript. Although, most writers don't like writing query letters and synopses, those two documents are critical in getting an agent or editor to consider your work.

Ensure you are submitting to appropriate agents and publishers

Don't waste your time and the publisher’s time by submitting your poetry to a press that publishes only historical nonfiction or your romance novel to a company specializing in fantasy/horror. The time and energy you spend researching agents and publishers will give your work a better chance of being accepted. Look for agents who represent authors who write in the genre you do or publishers who publish books like yours.

Follow the guidelines of each publisher or agent

Some agents want an e-mail query first; others prefer that you submit a synopsis and sample chapters by mail. Some publishers accept submissions online; others require that you mail a hardcopy. Don’t think it won’t matter. It will. Don’t risk getting a rejection without your work even being considered simply because you didn’t follow the published guidelines. Editors and agents receive hundreds or thousands of submissions that they will reject ones from writers who can’t be bothered to follow instructions. They assume that those writers will be difficult to work with, and there are many authors who are both skilled and cooperative.

If there are no specific guidelines, follow generally accepted practices

If the company doesn’t offer guidelines on its website or by mail, you will be safe following standard practices. Double-space your manuscript on one side of the page (white paper) with a one-inch margin all around. Use a standard font, such as Courier or Times New Roman in a size that’s easy to read (12 pt). Do not bind or staple the pages. Make sure your name, the title of the work, and a page number appear on each page. If you realize that many editors and agents read submissions on the commuter train, these guidelines make sense. They want to carry only the number of pages they expect to read rather than a complete bulky manuscript, so the pages need to be easy to separate and put back in the right place. With all the reading they do, they want manuscripts that are easy on the eyes with plenty of white space, both to break up the text and to give them room to make notes. Rather than trying to stand out with brightly colored paper and garish fonts that are hard to read, make your manuscript simple and clean, so the agent or editor can focus on the content.

Remember that every no is just one step closer to a yes

Most writers get many rejections before they sign their first publishing contract. I hope you are more fortunate than that. But if you’re a typical writer who receives rejections, you’ll appreciate this bit of wisdom from author Barbara Kingsolver on what that rejection letter really means:
This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it to the editor who can appreciate my work and it has simply come back stamped not at this address. Just keep looking for the right address.

What questions do you have about preparing your manuscript for submission? I’ll also be glad to answer other questions about writing, editing, and publishing as well as share anything you’d like to know about Dream or Destiny. I’ll be back during the day to respond to your comments and answer your questions.

Lillie Ammann is on a blog book tour for her newly released romantic mystery novel, Dream or Destiny, her second novel and fourth published book. You can read reviews or a free excerpt as well as a tour schedule on her website. Lillie is a freelance writer and editor specializing in working with self-publishing authors. She and her husband Jack live in San Antonio, Texas. She blogs at A Writers Words, An Editors Eye, where she covers writing, editing, and publishing topics.

About Dream or Destiny: Marilee Anderson dreams about a murder and wakes to find it really happened. She and David Nichols, the victim’s brother, become the prime suspects. Though they have their secrets and aren’t sure they can trust each other, Marilee and David team up to find the killer in this psychic suspense.

Purchase the Book Here:

Perfect Paperback:
Paperback edition of Dream or Destiny by Lillie AmmannPaperback edition of Dream or Destiny by Lillie Ammann
Amazon Kindle Edition:
Amazon Kindle edition of Lillie Ammann's Dream or DestinyAmazon Kindle edition of Lillie Ammann's Dream or Destiny

Related Resources:

Query Letter:
Every No Is Just One Step Closer to a Yes:
Book Review, Dream or Destiny:
Free Excerpt (PDF):
Tour Schedule:
A Writers Words, An Editors Eye:


  1. Lenin,
    Thank you for hosting me on my blog book tour. I look forward to answering questions from your readers.

  2. Thank you Lillie. That was an informative post. Editing both the manuscript and the query letter is important for a writer. And it's best if you can go outside yourself to a critique group, trusted readers or outside editors. You're right.

  3. Helen,
    I appreciate your support of what I've said. A lot of aspiring writers read this blog, and I hope my suggestions help them along the road to publication.

  4. Hi Lillie:

    A nice, concise version of the process of submitting, something many writers neglect. I especially agree with the part about putting as much effort into the query letter and synopsis as you did into the book itself; publishers know when someone hasn't done their homework, and they are less likely to risk their time and financial investment in what appears to be sub-standard work.

  5. Miriam,
    Thank you for emphasizing what I've said. Aspiring writers don't always realize the importance of the query letter and synopsis. They want their writing to be evaluated on its own merit, but it won't even get read if the query letter and synopsis don't impress the publisher.


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