So your manuscript has been through a number of drafts, been read by a few people in your writers club and fairly heavily critiqued. You’re sure it’s ready. What now? Well, you actually have a number of choices.
- Send to a copy to a publishing house that’s accepting unsolicited manuscripts. It’s important to check their Web site for detailed instructions. They get so many unsolicited manuscripts they’ll immediately reject incorrectly formatted submissions. This can result in a wait time of anywhere from a few days to a few months. Remember, unsolicited submissions go onto the “slush pile” to be reviewed (often very briefly) when they get around to it. There are also some other matters to consider. How long is the ms? I sent my novel to one publisher and the next day thought I had a good omen (writers can be a superstitious lot). As I was leaving a parking lot the car in front of me had a license plate that began with the 3-letter abbreviation for the name of the publisher I had just submitted to. A sign from the gods! I had a rejection letter a couple of days later. How was this possible? They didn’t even have time to read the first chapter! Then it struck me. My ms. was 480,000 words long. I assume they saw that (you have to put it right at the top right-hand corner of the title page) and immediately sent the letter. If you’ve not published previously, it’s extremely rare for a publisher to accept anything over about 110,000 to 120,000 words. For a new author this is always a long-shot. The odds are you will get the classic “Thank you for sharing….” rejection letter. The biggest problem is you don’t have a clue what they didn’t like about your ms. They rarely ever even give you a hint, but you can’t blame them since they receive so many unsolicited manuscripts like yours. Remember, they’re publishers, not writing schools, they have neither the time nor any reason to tell you what you’ve done wrong. If you think about it, that’s why Penguin allowed some of its folks to create Book Country.
- You can self-publish, or post to Wattpad, or Smashwords. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you do this you’re in for a lot of work. You need to market your book aggressively since no one is going to do it for you. Don’t get me wrong, it has been done, but the novel better be really good, or have a great hook that makes it really unique (think 50 Shades). You may even get a few reviews along the type you get on Goodreads. If you get some 5-star reviews you can then put those on your other social media pages and keep pushing. Just remember, you’re one voice in a few million trying to get attention – so scream!
- Finally, you can try a hybrid like Bookkus, but I’ll go into that next time.