On manuscript submissions – Nonfiction

Every once in a while we will try to discuss a little bit of our editorial process for the trade books, to answer so many questions on bad submissions we receive everyday. When I say ‘bad submissions’, it doesn’t necessarily translate to bad books; but the way the book is submitted actually makes reviewing manuscript impossible, and thus, it gets nowhere.

I am going to talk nonfiction books now, and I will cover fiction in another post.

Editors are quite busy, we receive loads of submissions everyday, both unsolicited and solicited. We do accept unsolicited submissions in Garnet Publishing and authors don’t necessarily need to be represented by an agent. However, this doesn’t mean that the authors shouldn’t do their homework. If you, as an author, don’t care enough about your book to produce a well-thought proposal for it, then how can you expect the editors to care about it?

It is the editor’s job to find the diamond in the rough. Although we are not essentially looking for bestsellers, we care about the sales of the book. If the potential readership of a book is only a handful, so why would you need a publisher? Nowadays you can publish anything online and digitally or in print, with the print-on-demand technology. When you approach a publisher, you are aiming to reach a wider audience, and so do we, when reviewing a manuscript.

First of all, before approaching any publisher, read their guidelines first. Ours can be found here. And then, make sure that you have done the following:

-         Prepare a well-formatted manuscript: As an author, you are expected to know some of the typesetting rules. Don’t submit a sloppy manuscript. Make it look nice and professional.

-         Prepare a professional proposal:

o       Format: Dedicate some time to the formatting of your proposal: The more professional it looks, the more interested the editor will be.

o       Introduction: This is the part when you actually sell your manuscript. Explain what the book is about, why it is important, why should it be published.

o       Synopsis: Send us a full synopsis. Dedicate enough time to producing the synopsis. Don’t let it be long, but it should be comprehensive.

o       Market research: You are expected to do some market research. Who is your potential audience? How large is the that market? Is there a gap in the market for this title? Check for other books in the field. How well have they done? How is your book going to make an impact? If you don’t do your market research (even before you start writing), it is very unlikely that the editor will have time to do it for you at this stage. They will do their market research at a later stage, when your manuscript has stood out and has been approved to move on to the next stage. Don’t say ‘I know there is a big market for this book’. How do you know? Provide facts, figures, comparison charts. Qualitative research is as valuable: Talk to prominent people in the field, how do they feel about the market for your book. Quote them. When the Egyptian crisis happened, we started to receive tens of proposals for books on the Egyptian revolution, and all of them claimed that the market was so interested in such a topic. But they didn’t know that hundreds of authors felt the same way, and had already started writing on the topic. Your job is to prove that your work is better, different, more important, will stand out, has a longer lifetime. And just claiming so won’t do. You need to prove it.

o       Competition: Essentially part of the market research, but it deserves more explanation. In 9 out of 10 proposals we receive, the authors claim that there is ‘no competition’ for their book. This will not do, and will result in an instant declining of your proposal. There is ALWAYS competition. Just check for similar topics on amazon, that’s usually the first thing that editors do. Be honest. The mere existence of competition to your book doesn’t mean that your work is not original or will be refused. No, sometimes it’s even better to have a lot of competition, because it shows that the topic is popular. But you also need to ‘SHOW’ (not claim) that your book is different, and will stand out.

o       The author: Unless you are a fiction writer, you have to PROVE (not claim) that you are qualified to write a book on the topic. Include a short CV, but that’s not enough. Are you an already published author? What else have you published? List everything, from books to articles. If you are a first-time author, it doesn’t matter, but you have to convince us that you know what you are talking about. What is it that makes you unique? We already know that you should have been passionate about the topic, otherwise you wouldn’t have dedicated so much time to write about it; so you don’t need to convince us about your passion. We need more.

o       Promotional blurb: Sometimes this is the most difficult part. Being a good author doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a good copywriter. So you might need to train yourself in copywriting or seeking professional help. There are thousands or resources available on copywriting. But basically, a blurb is marketing piece intending to ‘sell’ your book, not ‘explain’ it. Keep it short, less than 150 words. Make a big entrance, you have only a minute to convince the readers that they should consider the book and further investigate it. Highlight the most important aspect of the book, and finish with a big bang. If you can add quotes from prominent authorities, the better.

So, this is it for now, more to come later.

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One comment on “On manuscript submissions – Nonfiction

  1. Pingback: On manuscript submissions – Fiction « Garnet on Publishing

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