Do you want to write a good book and have great book sales? I think I hear a “yes.” We all do, don’t we? If we all want our book to be our most beautiful baby, then why won’t we take the time and write it to the best of our abilities?
Think about what I wrote above. To me, there are a lot of people who don’t really care about how their book looks when it comes to an agent or a publisher. If they did, they’d really clean it up a lot! Your Word document has those pretty colored and squiggly lines under words for a purpose. They are to tell you that you are not perfect. You have made a mistake. There are certain rules to writing. If you are not adhering to these, you need to stop and study the craft. Nothing will make a publisher or agent reject your book faster than a manuscript full of errors.
Here are some of the things we’ve seen recently.
- More telling than showing. Backstory can be woven through a book and not have to be dumped in my lap at the beginning. Show me what is happening with dialogue and action tags. Don’t bore me with a lot of telling.
- Punctuation mistakes. This is probably the biggest thing we see. Our editor that does punctuation tells me about the errors. There is a time and a place for commas, periods, spaces, and a lot more. Each publishing house is different. We want curved quotation marks and apostrophes. Not straight ones ever! Watch what happens with the underlines in your manuscript. Pay attention to what Word tells you. This will make your manuscript look so much better. Do not hit enter at the end of a line. Computers are made to continue typing. This is not a typewriter where you hit enter at the end of a line. Only at the end of a paragraph do you hit enter.
- Not following guidelines by the agent or publisher. Not everyone wants the same thing. Each website has their own guidelines. We are very specific with what we desire each proposal to look like. We prefer Times New Roman font at 12 point. Nothing else. We want a manuscript double spaced, plus a synopsis single spaced at 3-5 pages. Only the first three chapters are wanted at this time. We also want a bio and marketing plan. If these are missing, your manuscript will not be looked at.
- Not reading and correcting mistakes before you send your manuscript out. Reread your manuscript to be sure it is as perfect as it can be. Correct all the errors you can. You dress up for an interview to make a good first impression. Your manuscript is a first impression to agents and publishers, why not dress your manuscript to look nice and neat?
These are four of the biggest things we see as publishers. I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that we see the most. Take your time and make sure you manuscript is polished. Don’t rush. As one publisher told me one time, “We’re not going anyplace unless the Lord comes.”