Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Protocol of Successfully Submitting Your Book

by Charles Jacobs

Modesty, integrity and professionalism are key to the successful submission of your manuscript to either a literary agent or directly to a publisher. That's not really very different from seeking success in any field, but for some reason far too many authors, especially start-ups, stumble because they allow their ego to bypass these very basic considerations. Then they rail about the obstacles to finding an agent or to landing a publisher.


What they fail to realize is that agents and editors are eager to discover new talent, but not talent self-proclaimed by the author or by relatives and friends whom the author selects in an effort to secure impressive comments for inclusion in their submission. You would be surprised to discover how many writers proudly proclaim their output is guaranteed to be a best seller. After all, brother Tommy and pal John both said it was superbly written. Aunt Susie, a retired English teacher, called it the next great American novel.

Editors and agents certainly expect authors to have a great deal of enthusiasm for their output. It would be sad if they, of all people, did not. That would be interpreted as a guarantee the book would fail, for it is the author who is the key to proper and widespread promotion once the book comes off the press.

Common Mistakes

The mistake that is so easily avoidable, yet underlies so many rejections is the lack of researching the targets of your submission. Agents constantly complain that authors submit manuscripts that aren't part of the agent's standard repertoire. By that I mean, they are subjects and genres the agent doesn't handle. This can be avoided simply by reviewing the agent's web site. Some specialize in fiction; others in non fiction. All list the categories they represent, and these can range from cookbooks to travel guides to literary novels.

Many agents point out very clearly on their sites that they do not represent a category, and yet submissions in that category arrive anyway, wasting the agent's time and the author's money and effort. Some accept simultaneous submission, while others insist upon exclusivity. All require a SASE or you will never receive a response.

When you are researching, don't forget that there are several agents that function in a single agency. Take the time to determine which of those handle the type of book you are submitting. Direct your submission and all related correspondence to that specific agent by name. That personalization distinguishes your submission from those that are sent randomly to a number of agencies and will guarantee you a faster and more careful review.

Ego Errors

The only opinions about your manuscript that agents or editors value are those you obtain from publishing professionals or well-respected experts in the topic you are writing about. Your own praise for your book is meaningless. In fact, it can be a turn off because you are in essence saying to the recipient, "Listen to me. I know better than you how good this book is."

Some authors neglect to do their homework when preparing the sections of their book proposal dealing with competition, marketing and promotion. They assume the quality of their manuscript is such that they don't need these special sections to gain acceptance. They foolishly overlook selling points that can make the difference between success and failure. The income of an agent or an editor depends on the success of your book. If the market is saturated with identical books and yours offers no special insight, chances are few will buy it.

If you haven't carefully analyzed your proposed market and planned a fairly extensive promotional program to reach it, no publisher would be foolish enough to accept your proposal because the chances of sales success have been undermined from the start.

A number of novices think they can draw attention to their submission by dressing it up with color and fancy typography and graphics, none of which impress
an agent or editor. They are interested in just three things: Is the book of a quality to attract readers? Are you qualified to write the book? Will the book sell? Publishing is a business and agents and publishers are astute businesspersons.

Lastly, if you are fortunate enough to find a qualified agent, listen to him/her. These folks have proved their understanding of the industry through long experience. Their criticism is always constructive and will help sell your book to a publisher and later to the public. They know what they are talking about. Listen to them carefully, and follow their recommendations.

With your awareness of these simple points, you will probably double your chances of success in your search for an agent or publisher.

Charles Jacobs' latest book The Writer Within You has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by seven publishing organizations. He is available for book coaching, shepherding and ghost writing. Contact him at or visit his extensive web site

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