One of the things I love about going to writer's festivals is learning from others in the great big wide industry that is writing. It can be so easy to get isolated in your writing, even when you know you have an audience who share their thoughts and ideas with you on Facebook and Twitter. So settling into listening to a discussion with others in different areas of the industry is simply good for the soul.
At the Sydney Writer's Festival I got along to What Makes Fabulous Female Fiction with publishers Frederique Polet, Annette Barlow and Daniela Rapp and found the different experiences of publishing between France, Australia and the USA fascinating.
While France doesn't distinguish between female and male authors both Australian and American see them as valuable individual markets - especially as women are the main buyers of books.
With a friend getting ready to take her first book to a publisher I took careful note of what each of the publishers said about what they look for in a manuscript. So instead of just sharing it with Shirley I thought all those asking themselves the questions of how do I get a book published and how to get a publisher would find value in these publishing industry insights.
How to get your manuscript published
When you're asking yourself how do I get published the whole process can seem very daunting. For many authors the writing process itself can be challenging enough but the next step of how to get a publisher can seem like a huge hurdle.
Knowing what the publishers are looking for is the best way to get yourself ahead of the mob in the competitive world of publishing - there's only a certain number of books that will be published in a year and keeping in mind what publishers are looking for in a manuscript is crucial for making the publishing list.
How do you get published?
Start with the end in mind - who in the process will make it work, will enable you to become a successful published author?
The first few people in this process are literary agents, publishers and editors. So make it easy for them to connect with your manuscript.
Keep in mind that some literary agents and publishers can have 20-50 manuscripts land on their desks every week, some have that many come to them every day. So make it easy for them.
With the end in mind, if you have an online following through your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms, have influential friends who will help promote you and your book or media connections to leverage be sure to mention them in the cover letter. (Read more about why writers need their own following and how to create your own online following...)
What is a manuscript that captures attention?
Manuscripts need to grab attention immediately so they stand out from the competing manuscripts on the publisher's desk.
With a full in tray of manuscripts publishers have a set limit of pages they read to determine if they might be interested in your work. It can be as many as the first 50 pages or as few as the first 20 pages that they read to determine if they are captured by the story.
For some publishers the first page is crucial for setting the pace and getting into the story, believing that the back story can come later and the pace needs to rolling along from the very beginning. So make sure you are getting the story moving quickly and keeping the flow moving.
For all powerful publishing gate keepers it is the desire to keep reading, being caught up in the story and wanting to read on that is crucial for taking the publishing process to the next stage.
Publishers and editors love a good read, compelling characters that get the reader involved in the story and keep you turning the page.
Value of working with an literary agent - the publishers view
In certain markets having a literary agent is crucial for getting your manuscript in front of a publisher, just think of the New York publishing world.
While in Australia it is not mandatory but it can certainly help because it tells the over worked publisher that the text has already been worked on and progressed.
Professional agents will know their local publishing community, they will have a list of publishers they work with and know what individual publishers are looking for, what they like and most importantly, what they don't like and their preferred manuscript format.
Practical features of your manuscript
How to get a publisher comfortable with handling your manuscript; make it easy for publishers to read:
- Number the manuscript pages as it makes it much easier for the publisher to put the pages back in order if they tumble off an over full table.
- Include the name of the manuscript and author in the footer.
- Use a good font that is easy to read - always keep your reader in mind. Go for high comprehension rate fonts such as the traditional body text serif fonts.
- Double spacing makes it easier for edits and publishers to read, especially if they wear reading glasses.
- Keep to easy to handle paper stock rather than trying to stand out with fancy types of papers that can be difficult for your reader to handle.
Reviewing Your Manuscript
The next step is to review your manuscript - is it easy for the publisher to handle on a tangible level and does the story get going quickly? Can an over worked publisher get the real feel for your story in the first 20-50 pages, will it capture their attention?
Sometimes it can the little changes that make all the difference.
Good luck with your publishing journey and let us know on Facebook
how you go!