LitRx: Do Writers Dream of Publishing Sheep?

May 30, 2017

Our advice column is back with a question about submitting books for publisher consideration: we give some tips to make the process as smooth as glass.

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All Lit Up presents LitRx, literary prescriptions for all of life’s problems. If you have a question about books, life, booklife, or any of those permutations,  send us a question. If selected, we’ll post it, anonymously, and give you an answer (and maybe a book suggestion, too) that we hope really helps.

This edition's question:

I wrote an amazing book that I think should get published, but I don't know where to start. Can you do it?

Wishing Rather Intensely To Emit Readings


First of all, congratulations on writing your book – that's no easy feat! Whether you've written the next dystopian thriller or heartfelt memoir or 650-page doorstopper, we salute your effort.

Here's where the spot of bad news comes in, WRITER: we're not a publisher. As a project of the Literary Press Group of Canada, we're hashtag-blessed to work with 60 fantastic, independent literary publishers across Canada, but a super-important part of that relationship is that they bring us brilliant, gorgeous, and already-published books, and not the other way around.

OK – now the bad news is out of the way. Don't panic. Stay with us. You're not the first to try and submit a manuscript (what people in the publishing biz call a book that hasn't been published yet) to our website, but these tips might hopefully make you our last. Here are some things to keep in mind before and while sending your work out for consideration:


1. What book(s) inspired you when you were writing your manuscript? If you did write a young-adult dystopian thriller after reading Divergent or David Neil Lee's  The Midnight Games, look at the publishers of those books and consider sending your book their way. Publishers like when you know their books and can compare your manuscript to something they've already published. If you feel like your book is like nothing else out there, don't just assume – distill your book's premise into a few keywords and do a couple of searches on Google or Goodreads to see if anything else like yours comes up (protip: saying your book is like nothing else out there can actually have the negative connotation of saying "there's no existing audience for this").


2. Submission guidelines are your friend. You mentioned you weren't sure where to start, WRITER, but good news: publishers lay that out for you on their websites! Scan around their website until you see "submissions" or "submission guidelines" and take a detailed look at what they require for you to submit a manuscript. They'll say what kinds of books they're looking for, and may ask for the entire manuscript or just a couple of sample chapters, a table of contents, a resume and/or a cover letter (the cover letter is a great place to mention those books that led you to the publisher's website).

Sometimes, a publisher's submissions page may say that they aren't accepting manuscripts at that time or that they do not accept "unsolicited manuscripts" (basically – they don't accept manuscripts that they didn't specifically ask for from an author or writer's agent). If it says this, your path is simple: do not submit to that publisher.


3. Consider getting an agent... Literary agents advocate tirelessly for the authors they represent, and if they like your manuscript, will be your champion. Oftentimes, an agent will act as the editor-before-the-editor and give you suggestions on how to shape up your story before passing it on to publishers.


4. ...or just some really good writing friends. Contact your most literary pals and see if they'd be interested in beta-reading for you (note: this may require you to bake up some thank-you cookies), or join a local writing group in your area. Other readers' feedback is invaluable in making your manuscript the best it can be. 


5. Start smaller. Or rather, shorter. Maybe develop a component of your book into a short story, and consider submitting that to literary magazines. Already being published in magazines is a huge checkmark when you submit to a literary book publisher. Though, treat submitting to that magazine exactly the way you would to a book publisher – follow these steps!



Best of luck, WRITER! 

Yours in reading,


P.S. The LPG website has a roundup of good resources for writers: take a gander there, too.


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