Tips for submitting your manuscript

10 February 2015 / Leave a Comment


In my novelette Bequest Leonard has spent years having his body tattooed by a well known Australian artist. The story traces his quest about what to do with his literal body of work after his passing. I’ve been feeling a little like Leonard lately. I’ve bled lines out of me, painfully sometimes, easily other times, and it’s amounted to three novels, two novellas and a novelette ... and now I have to figure out what to do with this body of work ...


This year, I'm stopping myself from starting something new, until I find a home for some of my old stories. My greatest problem is that I'd rather write a 50,000 word novel than a 1-page synopsis. But once that hurdle is jumped, here's what I'm now doing to streamline the submission process ...

How to organise your manuscript submissions:

  • I've created a submissions spreadsheet, with a tab for 'Publishers' and a tab for 'Agents' so that I can properly track dates, stories and responses. This stops me from pitching different stories to the same publisher/agent at the same time and will make it easier to contact others if a story does get accepted elsewhere.
  • On this spreadsheet I'm also recording special submission dates for unpublished manuscript awards or open submission dates for publishers, for example Macmillan Australia only accepts manuscripts on the first Monday of the month (easy to miss without a good system!). I'm also setting reminders in my phone, if needed.
  • I'm creating a better file management system to save time submitting. Publisher and agent submission guidelines often vary, but if I have the following available for each story it should cover most bases: 
    • a 1-page synopsis
    • a shorter 300 word synopsis
    • a short blurb for the cover letter
    • an author bio
    • first chapter of the ms
    • first 3 chapters of the ms
    • a 50-page version of the ms
    • a 100-page version of the ms
  • Some agent and publishers are now asking for PDF versions of documents so they can read on ereaders. I'm also saving PDF versions as requested, so that I'll have these easily on hand if needed again.
  • I'm creating a hierarchy for submissions, working my way from the top, submitting in small batches and waiting a month or two for responses, before sending out the next batch. Last year I received three contracts for stories in the space of two weeks, exciting yes, but overwhelmingly busy. It meant that I was working on editing stories simultaneously with three different publishers, which I'd rather avoid in the future, to give each story the attention it really deserves! 

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