You’ve done the hard work – you’ve written your book and now you’re looking to get it the recognition it deserves. This is the easy part, right? Well, yes it is, if you know what to do…
Manuscript prizes typically ask for a sample of your work, as well as a covering letter or other supporting material. There are also a few things to think about before you start filling in your entry form.
Let’s start with the book itself
1. Draft, draft, and draft again
The prize deadline is a couple of months away. Why submit early when you can use the time to make sure your book is the best it can be?
Whether you’re on your final draft or your first draft, your writing needs time to mature and develop.
If you can, take a step back from it for a while, and then return with fresh eyes. You’ll reap the rewards when it comes to the judging.
2. Show off what you’ve got!
Get someone you trust, someone whose opinion you value, to read your work.
It can be difficult to distance yourself from your own writing, and a friend, family member or beta reader may give you the perspective you need to improve your work ahead of that submission date.
3. Write right – don’t overwrite
The idea that you’ll be judged based only on a small sample of your writing can be daunting.
But remember: the entry should represent your writing style.
It’s important to fight the temptation to work up the sample until it’s far more elaborate than what follows it.
Polished is good, but keep things natural – it’ll be obvious to your reader if what you’ve done is overwritten.
4. Make sure to do your homework
You don’t have to be a marketing guru, but it is useful to show that you’re aware of what books are already out there, where your work fits in, and why what you’ve written will add something valuable to the existing conversation.
All of this will be invaluable once you get stuck into promoting your book too!
Now it’s your turn
5. Read the entry requirements
And stick to them! A good first impression is important, and forgetting to include a covering letter, or formatting your sample incorrectly, will not impress whoever’s reading your submission.
6. Keep things pithy
If you thought the sample was short, the supporting material can be tiny!
You’ve got a small space to describe yourself and why your book’s the Next Big Thing, and to outline the book’s plot.
These need to be clear and focused – sell yourself and your book.
7. Blurbs can be bad
A synopsis can be pivotal in convincing the reader that the good work they’ve seen in your sample continues throughout the book. The judges don’t need to be drawn in in the same way as a reader in a bookshop.
It’s all very well for one of your characters to have a ‘dark and mysterious secret’, but the judges need to know what that is so they can assess your work.
8. Ask questions
If anything isn’t clear about the prize, or if you have any other questions, the people running the prize will be more than happy to help.
9. And finally, don’t be scared
Manuscript prizes are dedicated to uncovering new talent.
Self-doubt is a writer’s prerogative (and it’s certainly useful when you’re editing and refining your ideas), but don’t let it get in the way of sending in your submission.
If you’re proud of your work, you can bet there’ll be readers out there who love it too!
This post was written by Impress Books Commissioning Editor, Julian Webb.
Impress Books runs an impressive manuscript prize for unpublished talent.
Now in its 12th year, the prize was created to champion and nurture new voices. Winners of past prizes have gone on to sell rights across the globe, and those shortlisted have enjoyed multiple book deals with Impress.
The prize is a publishing contract with Impress Books in both print and ebook, and a £500 advance.
You can find out more about the prize and how to enter here.
Impress Prize opens on 1 May 2018, and closes on 29 June 2018.