So you've done it, you've written a book and you're finally ready to submit to prospective publishers. For many new writers it can feel like the hard work is over, that you're on the home stretch. Well, don't relax just yet, there's still a lot of work to be done. In fact, preparing your manuscript and submitting your hard work to publishers is just the first step on the long road to getting your work traditionally published. For tips on how to write a killer cover letter to complement your manuscript, click here. Read on for more advice on how to format and prepare your work for individual publishers.
Each publisher's submission guidelines will vary, some will be similar, others will be wildly different. There are many factors to consider when choosing which publisher or publishers to submit to, and how to go about it. But don't stress, we've done some of the research for you to make this process a little less daunting.
General factors to consider for Australian publishers:
- What type of work do they publish? (Genres, length, style etc.)
- Do they accept unsolicited manuscripts?
- When can I submit?
- What do I need to include in my submission?
- How should I format my manuscript?
- Am I ready for the possibility of rejection? Will I be able to persevere long enough to find success?
- And, most importantly: Is my manuscript the best it can possibly be? Has it been re-drafted, edited, proof read?
Putting yourself and your work out there is hard. Your writing is an extension of yourself and a representation of your hopes and dreams. It's important to remember that even the greats faced rejection in their early days. Mystery writer Agatha Christie went through 5-years of continual rejection until she found success, now, her book sales are in excess of $2 billion.
For tips on how to handle rejection, check out our article by Editor Kyra Bandte.
Many companies provide manuscript assessment services to help edit your manuscript for a fee. The Writer's Edit team offers a comprehensive manuscript assessment service that can help you ensure you're submitting your best work.
Although each publisher will be different, there are some basic guidelines that are consistent between most publishing houses. These are as follows:
- Title page should contain: title of book, author name (and pen name if applicable), author's contact details including email, phone, and address.
- Start each new chapter on its own page.
- Indent for each new paragraph.
- Double-space the entire text.
- Use a standard font, 12-point type. Times New Roman.
- Prepare a 300-word synopsis of your book.
- Prepare a 50-word author bio, including any previous publication history in 3rd person.
We're going to look at some of Australia's larger publishers and each of their requirements, including: Pan Macmillan Australia, Random House Books Australia, and Allen & Unwin. However, do keep in mind that these are just a select sample of publishers in Australia. Later next week, we'll be looking into submitting to small publishers, but for now, read on for guidelines for Pan Macmillan, Random House and Allen & Unwin.
Pan Macmillan Australia
Pan Macmillan is one of Australia's largest publishers of both educational and commercial fiction. In the search for new talent, they've implemented Manuscript Monday. On the first Monday of every month between 10am and 4pm they accept any unsolicited manuscript that meets their submission guidelines. They only accept electronic submissions and any unsolicited manuscripts sent in hard copy, or outside of Manuscript Monday will not be read.
All manuscripts submitted will be assessed within 3 months of receipt. Although this seems like a long time of waiting and crossing your fingers, like most publishers they do receive large volumes of work. This means it takes time for them to work through all submissions. If you haven't heard anything within 3 months, they have chosen not to proceed with your submission. This is programme is good because it means that you as they author, know either way. You can move on after three months, whereas with other publishers, you could still be in limbo.
Should you not hear back after three months, it could mean the publisher, simply wasn't the best match for your work or your manuscript might need a little more polishing. As we mentioned earlier, even the best authors face rejection and it's important to remember that rejection is an experience we can learn from.
Types of work they publish:
- Literary Fiction
- Crime Fiction
- Current Affairs
- True Crime
- Health/Self Help
- General Fiction
Pan Macmillan is a uniquely Australian publisher. The work and voices they choose to publish are representative of an Australian market with authors like Kim Kelly and Andy Griffiths, both Australians whose writing represents the Australian way of life and culture.
Unfortunately, they don't publish poetry, or children's fiction. To familiarise yourself with the type of work they look for head to www.macmillan.com.au
What you need to do:
- Prepare the first 100 pages (50 pages for Children’s) of your manuscript (double spaced) and a synopsis (maximum 300 words) as separate Word documents, ensuring that they are clearly labelled with the title of your manuscript.
Note: You are welcome to submit the first 100 pages and synopsis of multiple manuscripts, but not from the same series. If you have a trilogy, for example, submit only the first instalment.
- Fill out the form included on their website, indicating which genre your manuscript falls into.
- Attach your Word documents (synopsis and required pages) to the email.
- Send on the first Monday of the month between 10am and 4pm AEST.
Electronic submissions can be made at: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/manuscript_monday.asp
Random House Books Australia (A division of Penguin Random House)
Submitting to Random House Australia includes submissions to their imprints: Knopf, Vintage Australia, Bantam, Ebury Australia, Random Romance, and William Heinemann Australia. Once again, it's important that you familiarise yourself with the types of work they publish before you submit. Some of their popular authors include: Richard Flanagan and James Patterson. Their website provides a comprehensive list of all their authors and books. This not only provides you with the background knowledge you need before you submit, but also allows you to explore other literary talents.
A publishers website is like a gold mine of learning resources for writers. So even if you discover Random House isn't the best fit for you, chances are you'll learn something about the industry through your research.
Random House does accept children's fiction but it has a different set of submission guidelines. More information on submitting can be found here .
For Adult submissions authors are required to send only hard copy submissions. Electronic copies will not be assessed.
Types of work they publish:
- Fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers.
- Popular non-fiction, biography, travel narrative, popular culture, biography, and memoirs.
- Parenting, health, mind body and spirit, soft business and self-help, cooking, and lifestyle.
They do not accept poetry, short stories, or educational materials.
- Include a covering letter that includes the following information:
- A little about yourself and how you came to write the book.
- The target reading market for your proposed book and how your proposed book appeals to that market.
- A list of all the ways you might be able to work with Random House to promote your proposed book, including any of your relevant media or corporate contacts or other contacts that would help in publishing and marketing the book.
- Your contact details.
- A synopsis of your proposed book (Keep it short, direct, and straight to the core of what your manuscript is about in under one page).
- A sample of your work. A few chapters (not necessarily consecutive) or at least 50 pages on white A4 paper, double-spaced, not bound. Please don't send the entire manuscript if we need more we will be in contact
- Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the return of your material.
When submitting, they do state that:
Although all possible care is taken with all submissions, Random House Australia bears no responsibility for the loss or damage of materials received. Please ensure that you send copies only of materials you are submitting. Do not send original illustrations or photographs."
The address for submissions is:
The Submissions Editor
Random House Australia
Level 3 100 Pacific Highway
North Sydney NSW 2060
Assessment may take anywhere between 3-9 months. Unfortunately, you won't receive an acknowledgement of receipt, but unlike most publishers you will be advised in writing once your work has been assessed, whether it's successful, or not.
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin have the Friday Pitch for all writers with unsolicited manuscripts, providing new writers with more opportunity to get their work published. Some of their popular authors include: Emily Lockhart and Gregory Mackay. You can find a detailed list of their authors and books on their company profile.
Types of work they publish:
- Children's fiction and picture books
- General fiction
At this time they only accept electronic submissions. They site on their website that any hardcopy submissions they receive will be disposed. However, this is a good thing for us writers, it saves us time and money on printing and postage.
On any Friday:
- In your email subject line, indicate whether your submission is fiction or non-fiction or illustrated and say what genre or subject area it deals with.
- Copy and paste the title information sheet supplied by A&U into your e-mail and fill it in.
- Attach your double-spaced FIRST CHAPTER and 300-word synopsis in Word (or PDF if illustrated).
- Send your email to [email protected] and expect an automatic bounce back acknowledgement indicating they've received your submission.
If they have not contacted you within two-weeks of receiving your manuscript, they have chosen not to proceed with your submission.
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As you can see, it's impossible to devise a universal set of guidelines for preparing your manuscript for submission. The best advice we can give is to do your research. There are dozens and dozens of Australian publishers out there and they each look for different types of writing. Being well prepared is always the first step to achieving success.