Submission advice for writers from a Publisher

4 May 2012 / 3 comments

Michael Hanrahan Publisher at Rough Draft has been kind enough to offer some submission advice for us writers trying to get our manuscripts published. I confess that I have sent first drafts to publishers, ignored some aspects of submission guidelines and submitted to not quite right publishers. Next time I'm going to follow Michael's advice...

Publisher Michael Hanrahan's submission advice for writers:
Although it may not seem like it at the time, many authors learn that writing their book is actually the easy part. Getting picked up by a publisher is much more difficult. So, here are some tips that might help if you are attempting to find a home for your book:
  • Submit your very best work. Don’t shoot your book off to publishers the minute you complete your first draft because you are so excited to be finished. Or even your second draft. There’s no hurry. You really only have one chance to impress a publisher. Don’t blow it with sub-par work.
  • Follow submission guidelines. They are there for a reason. If the publisher requests a hard copy, don’t call them to ask if you can email because your printer is broken. Getting your manuscript accepted is difficult enough – if you irritate the publisher I can assure you it won’t help. Send well-presented manuscripts that meet all of the requirements.
  • Behave like a professional writer. As well as considering your book, a publisher is considering what you would be like to work with. You might consider writing your hobby or your passion, but the minute you submit to a publisher you are asking them and others to treat you as a professional writer, so behave as such. If they contact you, it’s fine to be enthusiastic but don’t fall off your chair in excitement. And learn about the publishing industry so you don’t seem like a complete novice if your book is picked up. This is easily done by talking to published authors.
  • Don’t expect feedback on your book. I’m surprised how often authors sign off their cover letter with something like, ‘I look forward to receiving your feedback’. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. It’s very time consuming to provide useful feedback on a book, and publishers don’t have that time. We read manuscripts with one thing in mind: do we want to publish this? If you would like professional feedback, there are many excellent manuscript assessment services out there that can help – just do an internet search. 
  • Submit to the right publishers. Don’t send your book out to as many publishers as you can on the basis that it improves your odds. It doesn’t. Sending your best work to the right publishers improves your odds. It’s easy to find out if a publisher might be interested in your book; have a look at what they’ve already published!
  • Keep going. You’re going to need a thick skin to succeed with your writing, so start now. Don’t be deterred by a few rejections.
  • If the rejections really start to pile up, it’s time to look at your manuscript again. You might reach a point where it’s time to admit the truth; maybe your book needs more work. Have a few people whose opinions you trust read your manuscript, have a professional assessment, and do a few more drafts.

Best of luck with your submissions.

Michael Hanrahan
Publisher, Rough Draft
twitter: @RoughDraftBooks


  1. To anyone who is serious about getting published, follow Michael's advice - it's spot on. I'd also like to add that one of the big challenges of becoming a published author is the fierce competition that continues to grow as a result of the mounting number of books 'written' by celebrities and reality TV contestants. So work hard and believe in your work. Good luck, keep writing and keep those submissions professional! Vickie Cummings, Author of Diet Tips for Busy Chicks.

  2. I think I hate the no feedback. It seems like it would be in the best interest of the publisher to improve books instead of sending readers back out with nothing.

  3. William, here's the equation: I currently have about 20 manuscripts sitting on my desk. I can read one in a night to decide if I want to publish it. I've written many manuscript assessments in my role as an editor and it can take half a day to write a useful one, so that would be ten extra days a month. That would mean I spend a lot of time assessing books and less time actually publishing them. A publishing company is not the place to seek comment on your work; there are many excellent manuscript assessment services that can do that. Yes it will cost you, but if you are going to be a serious writer that will not be a problem. If a manuscript is close to being publishable and we wish to pursue it, we absolutely do work with the author to (hopefully) get them over the line. Best of luck with your writing William.


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