As I receive more proposals, I see more things that writers should be aware of before they send a manuscript to an agent or publisher. Most agents I know go over the manuscript with a fine toothed comb and are aware of the mistakes that slap you in the face. Some agents are only looking for a warm body.
When we first began our business, I was not as serious as I am now about accepting manuscripts. We’re at the point now that we need to be more selective. We, as most businesses, want to make money, and we can’t make it on an ill-written manuscript.
If you are serious about writing, you’ll make your manuscript as strong as you can. Most of my multi-published author friends have either critique partners or editors who edit their manuscripts before they send it to their agent/publisher. When I wrote my first book, I had it professionally edited and had a critique partner to go through it. It takes time and money, but a well-written book sells better than a sloppy-written book.
If you are writing a mystery/suspense, have plenty of action in each chapter. Put on some snappy music when you write and make the story go fast. Make page turners. No one wants to read a mystery/suspense and not know what’s going on until Chapter 10. Make your characters alive, active, full of energy, and interesting. Make an outline if you have to. I’m sort of a seat of the pants writer, but I see in mystery/suspense I need an outline.
Read your manuscript out loud before you send it out to anyone. When you read the manuscript to yourself, you see more mistakes if it is spoken. If you hate to hear your own voice reading, use a speech program on the computer.
One thing I’m seeing a lot now is the wrong attributes at the end of a dialogue. In fiction at this time, we are using, “Jane/he/she/Tom said” instead of “said Jane/he/she/Tom.” When I’m reading, I pause each time I see “said …” Yes, it was correct in the 50s and 60s, but not today. Keep up to date on writing techniques.
Be ready to go outside your box to market your book. Be ready to start marketing early. Listen to what the publisher or agent tells you about marketing and be ready to spend the time to do it. I love helping new authors, but I love making money also. I love it when I send an author a nice royalty check and they write back to thank me. Those are emails I cherish.
The last thing I’ll say today is to keep up to date on all of the changes in the book industry. Know what is good and what is not. Study your craft. Writing is not only putting words on paper, but knowing how to put words on paper.
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