Manuscript submission days

17 April 2012 / 2 comments
publishers accepting manuscripts

I asked a friend of mine, who works as an editor for an Australian publisher, why major publishers are deciding to have manuscript submission days where they accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Let’s call her the Publishing Insider. She said:

We had a publisher start here a few years ago and part of her remit was to start commissioning for her own imprint – one that focused on commercial literature and okay, a bit of chick lit and farm lit. So she started the weekly submission day. It worked so well that they opened it up across the whole list.

The way it works here is that we have a couple of dedicated staff members (normally publishing assistants) who will scan through the submissions and pass anything they think requires another look to the relevant publisher. This might not happen on the day the book was submitted – the designated submission day is really just to limit the flow of submissions to one day so that it is manageable.

If the publisher likes something and wants a second opinion, they might then ask an editor to read it (in our own time, usually over the weekend and unpaid). It is rare, however, for an editor to get involved until much later. Usually after the manuscript has been accepted, reviewed by the publisher, possibly had a bit of a structural edit and some other refining and rewriting done, then eventually it will be officially handed to the editor to organise an actual copy edit.

We have had a few successes through the manuscript submission day. I worked on one book last year that came through that system and it has been reprinted several times already and we are bringing it out in a new format. I'm not sure how many get through – as the publisher doesn't always tell us how the author was discovered.

I don't know how it works in other publishing houses but I'd be really surprised if an editor got to clear their desk for a day to read through the slush pile. And it isn't something they'd hire an extra person to come in and do for a day each week (at least, not here in Australia with the industry being so dire!) If they have an intern for a few weeks they'd probably give them the job.

In terms of what gets through to a publisher, having an agent is still a much safer bet. Unless you are a celebrity (even D-list). Then it doesn't even matter if you can't write as long as you have a profile.

Oh! And if there are submission guidelines on the website (for example: word file, double-spaced, first two chapters, summary, author bio – whatever) then the person submitting should follow it! This sounds like really obvious advice, I know.

So it seems that publishing assistants are the ones we writers need to please. I myself have worked as a publishing assistant, but in educational publishing, in my mid-twenties. From my experience, it’s an administration job one only wants to stay in for one year, maybe a max of two years, before getting a proper publishing job. I had to do lots of photocopying of page proofs (for the people with real publishing jobs), analyse market research and badger Maths authors for their manuscripts.

Australian manuscript submission days:

Penguin –  Monthly Catch, 1st–7th of every month
Allen & Unwin – Friday Pitch, every Friday
Pan Macmillan –  Manuscript Monday, every Monday
Momentum (ebooks) – Momentum Mondays, every Monday
HarperCollins - Wednesday Post, every Wednesday 


  1. At Rough Draft we accept unsolicited manuscripts all the time. We're small, so as publisher I do the initial filtering myself. Anything that I think has potential I pass on to my business partner Anna and she has a read. If she likes it, we have a few trusted readers outside the company who we then pass it on to. That's the process - we've only been going a year and so far haven't published an unsolicited MS. We got close with one, but our distributor wasn't confident with it, and a few others we've given serious consideration to. So, I know we'll find one soon. Keep submitting, and make sure it's your best work.

  2. Hi

    Why not get involved with Creative Kids Tales? They help to promote emerging children's writers. Each month they also feature a published author and ask all the questions emerging authors are dying to know. As an emerging author you can display your work meet others like you. There is tips, competition information and loads of great stuff. It's a great Aussie website designed for Australian authors. best of all it's free!


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