Who’s Keeping up with the Kardashians?

By Kate Carroll

Now that I have your attention…

Sorry, this isn’t about the Kardashians. Heaven knows everyone else writes about them. Hollywood groupies and fans crave every single detail of their lives.

Details. That’s what I want to talk about - the details of manuscript submissions. Unlike the details leaked about the Kardashians, the minutiae of manuscript submissions is vital to a writer’s success. Being alert to the details helps a manuscript get to an editor’s or an agent’s desk. So let’s dish details– shall we?

Once you polish that manuscript like a bowling ball, you are ready to submit. Sounds easy, but any of us who submit our work knows that it is not that simple.

Of course, we secretly believe that our manuscript is a best seller and that editors’ or agents’ calls will be forthcoming. But most of us know, that’s not as realistic as we would hope. Does that happen? Yes. But for most people who are looking for their first publication, it has to do with the preparation and the details.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when seeking your first publication.

1. Know the market.

And the market is always changing!  What was considered acceptable when I was reading to my kids probably wouldn’t pass muster from an editor today.

Every genre has very specific guidelines. Every market has a structure that authors use.  It took me a while to go from reading lots of picture books to actually studying them. Scrutinizing the competition is a great way to understand what editors are buying and what is trending in the genre.

That being said, due to the subjective nature of publication, there are always, and always will be exceptions. Editors buy favorite authors. Houses publish specific types of projects.  As writers, it is our responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the current trends. Sometimes, I have a seed of an idea, and I can’t seem to stop it from growing. But many times, I find that my idea is blooming along with a hundred fully bloomed projects out in the marketplace.

I would never tell you not to write what’s inside of you. At the heart of every thing I write is the passion to write words and ideas that inspire me. Yet, as I grow in experience, I conduct more market research. I check out titles on a specific subject, especially if it is a well-worn subject. I make monthly visits to the local library where I research new titles in the genre I’m writing. I’m sure others can add ideas here, but the most important thing to do is your homework. Study the market.

2. Follow the rules.

We can’t seem to get away from them – especially in traditional publishing. Here’s the thing: We are at the mercy of those who make decisions. Research every agent or editor to whom you want to send your project. Generally, you can find specific submission guidelines on websites. My advice? Follow them! 

Slush piles are real, folks. If you want your manuscript to make it from there to an editor’s eyes and heart, then adhere to the guidelines.  Don’t ever give the first reader of your manuscript a reason to put it down simply because you didn’t follow the rules. Details! Pay attention to them.

3. Write your best work.

When I first heard that advice, I thought it was rather trite. Of course I’m writing my best work; I wouldn’t write anything less. Everything I write is my best!  But, over time, I’ve learned that every genre has its demands. Every genre wants perfection.

You may have a wonderful way with words and great syntax but does your manuscript have the charm, the magnetism, the quirk and the precision to make it to acquisitions?  Whatever you write, it needs to be irresistible to those making the publishing decisions. Be courageous to write and rewrite. Be courageous to take criticism from fellow writers. And when your homework is one hundred percent done, be courageous to submit!

1 comment:

  1. A "must read" for any beginning writer - and a short refresher course for those of us who have been around the block! Well done!