There are so many articles out there that tell writers what they should do when submitting their manuscripts to publishers, but not too many on what writers should NOT do. We want to help you avoid making any of these novice mistakes to better your chances of staying out of the rejection pile!
Here are 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Submitting a Manuscript:
1. NEVER staple anything. Editors hate staples! The only acceptable way to attach papers together is by using a paper clip, and in most cases this is completely unnecessary because all of your pages are already numbered. Unless a publishing company specifically requests anything to be paper clipped, you can skip using those as well.
2. NEVER request that an editor send your manuscript back to you. They do not shell out the funds that would be necessary to mail everyone’s manuscript back to them and to ask them to do so marks you as an amateur.
3. NEVER use decorative font, colored paper or fancy envelopes. Do not doodle or add stickers or embellishments on your documents or envelops. The package you are submitting should be as professional (aka plain) as possible, using the most standard materials. Anything else will take away from the story which you are trying to sell them on. Let that speak for itself.
4. NEVER send in gifts, baked goods, money, lottery tickets, or any other types of “bribes” with your manuscript. Only include what is required and specified by the publishing company. Anything else seems terribly unprofessional and sends the message to the editor that you do not believe in your book idea or story enough for it to stand on its own. This is a another great way to get tossed into the rejection pile before your cover letter is ever read.
5. NEVER send in drawings, photographs or artwork with your manuscript. Unless you are also a professional illustrator and have prior permission or a request from the editor to include these elements, leave them out. Editors are not interested in images at this point; they only want to see the writing. If they love the writing they will send you an acceptance letter and then tell you what is required of you in terms of images to complement the text of the book. But this comes later! Including these items in an initial submission will not improve your chances of having your manuscript accepted. So, resist this urge and provide them with what they want now, and that is text, not images.
6. NEVER tell an editor that your work is copywritten. By federal law, as soon as you write something and attach your name to it, you hold the copyright to it. You do not need to do anything special, pay money, have it registered or anything of the sort. You wrote it, your name is on it, you own it. It’s that simple. To tell this to an editor shows that you are uneducated about the field of writing. Not a good message to send if you want to get published.
7. NEVER send in a manuscript that contains typos, errors or is improperly formatted. This sends a message to the editor that your work is sloppy and that you do not respect them as a professional institution. Also, hey will automatically assume that your plot, character development, and overall story will be sloppy. And that will earn the manuscript a special spot in the rejection pile.
8. NEVER send certified mail that needs to be signed for at the receiving end. This is because there may not be anyone available at the time it is delivered and it will delay when your manuscript gets into the hands of the editor. And if there is someone available, it will take time for them to sign for it which takes more time away from them doing their actual job. Also, no one ever sends certified mail to publishing companies and to do so will mark you as an amateur in the field. That is never a good message to send, especially before an editor even opens your envelope. It will get there. Don’t worry.
9. NEVER try to guess the postage. Instead take it to the post office and give it to the postal worker. They will weigh it and stamp it for you so that it is sure to get to where it needs to go and you will not have to deal with the inconvenient and unnecessary delay of having it sent back to your residence due to insufficient postage.
10. NEVER include a picture of yourself in the package or print it on your cover letter. While it may seem like a good idea to put a face to a name in order to make your work more memorable, this is a counterproductive step. You are not applying for a job or selling yourself, but rather you are selling your writing. While it is inappropriate for editors to discriminate based on race, religion or ability, you never know how your image may impact their opinion of your writing. Maybe you look just like an editors ex wife which will conjure negative thoughts, even before he begins reading your manuscript. You just never know how preconceived and even subconscious biases will affect an editor’s opinion upon seeing your picture, thus impacting their decision of whether or not to publish your work. So leave your picture out, as attractive as it might be (yes, you are a beautiful person) and let your writing speak for itself.
By keeping the tips above in mind you can guarantee that your manuscript will not end up in the rejection pile due to novice mistakes.
If you have made any of these mistakes in the past, that’s ok! We all make mistakes and mistakes are necessary for growth and professional development. Don’t waste even one second of your time feeling bad or embarrassed by this, but instead use your experience to grow! Also, if you have made some of these mistakes we would love to hear about them, and how it has affected you as a writer. By sharing the mistakes we have all made, we can grow and improve together! Go ahead and share them in the comments section below.