Ready to submit?
Publishing is the process of turning a completed manuscript into a book which encompasses many steps including editing and proofreading, design and layout, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and sales.
Literary agents manage all the business relating to the sale, contracting, publication, production reproduction and rights of an author’s work. You do not always need an agent in order to submit to publishers. Check publishers’ websites for individual requirements.
There are no shortcuts to publishing. It can be a long and hard road, so make sure your manuscript is the best it can be to give it the highest chance of success when placed in front of an agent or publisher.
Write a synopsis
A synopsis is a summary of your novel, detailing the main characters, their motivations and their actions, the major conflicts and plot points, and, most importantly, what happens at the end. You don’t include minor characters or subplots in your synopsis as these will come through when reading of the novel itself.
The synopsis is a way of showing not only that you know what your story is about, but that you can communicate it to other people like agents or publishers.
Write a cover letter
A cover letter is the brief letter that accompanies your submission to an agent or publisher, otherwise known as a query letter. While in this letter you will also introduce yourself, the primary focus should remain on the manuscript and on your writing. As above, it’s also important you read an agent or publisher’s submission guidelines. This information can be easily located on their website.
Submit to an agent
Literary agents manage all the business relating to the sale, contracting, publication, production reproduction and rights of an author’s work.
Agents are skilled professionals with a thorough knowledge of copyright, contracts, overseas rights, subsidiary rights and other legal issues related to the sale of intellectual properties. Literary agents act as a conduit between authors and publishers; they sell manuscripts to book publishers or television and film producers, and they negotiate contracts for their clients.
Finding a literary agent to represent you to publishers is a similar process to approaching a publisher. Literary agents look for talented, marketable writers. Choosing to represent your work is a business decision, so you will need to approach the agent professionally with a polished manuscript, and behave politely.
The Australian Literary Agents’ Association was formed in 2003 in order to provide a public presence and a point of contact for Australian literary agencies and their staff: austlitagentsassoc.wordpress.com
Submit to a publisher
Publishing is a fluid market and trends are impossible to predict. You can, however, place your work in the best hands by visiting bookshops and investigating which publishers are producing similar work to yours before making contact. Establishing networks and being actively interested in the publishing industry will also be beneficial.
Read the submission guidelines
If you are preparing a submission for an agent or publisher, the first place to start is with their submission guidelines. In most cases, each will ask for a specific set of materials to be delivered in a certain way. This information can be generally be located on their website. It is important to note that many publishers will not accept unsolicited submissions (submissions they have not requested directly), or will only accept submissions at specific times.
Fees and charges
If you are submitting to a traditional publisher, fees and charges should not apply. If you are asked to pay a reading fee, or make a contribution to the cost of publication, it is unlikely that you are dealing with a traditional publisher, and you should investigate further. Do not be tempted to sign a contract with a publisher who is asking for a financial contribution without seeking legal advice on the contract first.
When to follow up
Follow up if three months have passed from the date of your submission, unless advised otherwise. Be polite and patient: publishers receive hundreds of submissions.
Formatting your manuscript
Always check agent or publisher websites for individual preferences, but if they don’t specify any, the standard way of formatting a manuscript is as follows:
Print the manuscript in black ink on white A4-sized paper, single-sided. On your first page include your full name and contact details in the upper left corner. Repeat your name and the title of your story on every page (Title / Surname / 2 ). Use a 12-point standard font, e.g. Times New Roman or Courier. The first line of each paragraph should be indented, the text should be double-line spaced with at least 3cm margins, and aligned left.
Other publishing pathways
In this instance, you take on the role of both writer and publisher, meaning you are responsible for producing the book, the distribution and the promotion. Self-publishing will cost you money, however you also receive a greater share of the profits. There are many resources for those who are interested in exploring self-publishing – we have included a few below.