Read the Guidelines
You’ve spent months or years perfecting your book. Not just the actual writing, but also the revisions and editing. Let us not forget the beta readers or critique groups, ripping into your prose and showing you where it needs fixing.
After one last look over your book, you realize that you’re now ready to submit. We all know how that process works. Most authors will set up a list of publishers they want to submit to. They’ll check out other works, to find novels similar to theirs but sufficiently different to give them a chance at receiving the prize... a contract.
Once you’ve decided this is the publisher for you, you set up your submissions package. Most publishers today utilize a submissions program that allows them to see everything that still needs to be reviewed for a contract at a glance. This is an excellent way to keep track of what they are receiving and makes saying thank you for submitting, but I’m afraid…
Oh yes, you may have just received a rejection. Immediately, you’re wondering why. Why did they not like your wonderful book? The person looking at submissions must be a moron. You read over the rejection letter again and scratch your head.
What does it mean you didn’t submit properly?
You go over the notes you took while studying the many experts you located on the internet about how to submit your book. The greater consensus was that you needed to have a cover letter, three to five page synopsis, and you should only send three or five chapters of your book. That’s exactly what you did. Why, then, was did this yahoo fail to offer you a contract for what you are sure is the next immediate best seller, with accolades on the New York Times Best Seller List, USA Today, and other equally well known newspapers?
You’re so sure that you’re right and the idiot looking at submissions is lazy and not worth what they’re being paid that you submit again, taking care to add your synopsis because someone forgot to add an upload section for that. You then attach the five chapters of your book and click on the upload button.
Three days later, you receive the same rejection letter, along with a note from this idiot who must hate you. “Please read our submission guidelines before submitting your book to XYZ Publishing.”
Submission guidelines? Isn’t that what you’ve been doing by researching how to create the perfect submission package? Who are they to fool? You know what you’re doing.
Or are you?
All publishers have guidelines of what they want to see when you send them your novel. It’s up to you to read those guidelines and follow them to the letter. The advice you received from those websites is good, but it’s not the final word.
A few publishers still ask for a query (cover letter, synopsis, and three to five chapters of your novel) but most now require only the cover letter and full manuscript. You may also be asked to submit an online marketing plan, but that is a subject for another day.