The odds make it seem impossible.
Everyone tells you it’s hopeless.
Secretly, you fear they’re right.
“Getting your writing noticed by a publisher is a pipe dream,” they say.
But still, you spend countless hours at the keyboard, carefully crafting your powerful story, ferociously self-editing your work.
Because in your heart, you know you were made to do this.
Only problem is, when you do finish, most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.
How are you supposed to get your writing noticed if publishers won’t even look at it?
Even the few publishers who do accept unsolicited manuscripts relegate them to first readers, often interns. Their job is to get through this “slush pile,” as editors call it, and see if there’s even one manuscript worthy of recommending to the publishing board.
I’m told that a good first-reader can often determine within the first page or two whether a manuscript is worthy even of further reading, let alone potentially publishable.
That sounds terrible, and unfair, after all the time and effort you put into the writing. But it’s a reality of publishing.
However, there is a way to get a publisher’s attention without wasting your time or theirs. But learning how to do that requires you to look at things from the publisher’s point of view.
Why Publishers Don’t Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts (and Why That’s Actually a Good Thing)
Publishers get manuscripts by the thousands. Even if they could review them all, the cost of that would not justify finding the one in a thousand that might be worthy of sending on to an editor.
Sad but true, it’s that rare for an unsolicited manuscript to get a look from a real decision maker at a publishing house.
They key, obviously, is to get your manuscript solicited so that when it arrives, it goes to an acquisitions editor and stays out of that colossal slush pile.
You do this with a query letter and a proposal (for a nonfiction book) or a synopsis (for a novel).
While proposals and/or synopses require a great deal of work, they save both you and the publisher a lot of time.
Why spend up to a year writing a book, only to have it languish in the slush pile, when you could get an idea whether a publisher likes the idea first?
What if they like it but want it written from a different perspective, in a different voice, or have ideas on a whole different angle? Better to know this before writing the whole manuscript, right?
What if it simply doesn’t ring their bell? No sense writing it until you find a publisher eager to see it.
How to Use This to Your Advantage
Since most publishers consider only solicited manuscripts (especially from first time writers), naturally your goal is to get invited to send yours. Start by giving them exactly what they want—a proposal and/or synopsis.
Get a publisher to solicit your manuscript and you’ll increase your chances of getting your work noticed—and potentially sold.
The Competition Is Stiff, But You Can Still Get Your Writing Noticed
Landing a contract from a traditional publisher—getting paid to be published as opposed to paying to be printed—is hard, but not impossible.
Sure, if you’re a first-time author you will then likely be asked if you can send a complete manuscript before they make a final decision. But you’re still miles ahead of the slush pile. Your manuscript will have been solicited.
What’s been your experience with publishers? Let me know in the comments.