#16: Making Your Submission the BEST It Can Be

A “submission” is the manuscript – or portion of one – that you send to an editor or agent. What they want to see, how much they want to see, and when they want to see it will be spelled out on their website or verbalized in a face-to-face meeting.

This is a good time to mention that the very best way to garner requests for submissions is to meet agents and editors at conferences. They are attending for the expressed purpose of meeting new authors. If you present your book well and they don’t request a submission, they must not handle the genre that you write. Really, it’s that easy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When the agent or editor requests to see your manuscript, make sure to note “requested submission” on the email subject line or the outside of the envelope! This will ensure that they notice your manuscript, and hopefully read it immediately.

If you don’t, your baby runs the risk of being buried in the “slush” pile: the overwhelming stack of randomly submitted manuscripts that almost never get read.

Requests will be for one of the following:

The PARTIAL Submission

This is the normal request to begin with. In the world of snail mail and paper, it made sense to only ask for the beginning of the book. Agents and editors read the first sentence. If they like it, they read the first paragraph. Then the first page. Then the first chapter.

The Partial can be requested in chapters (usually the first 3) or in pages (usually 20-50). Again – before querying anyone, check their guidelines on the web. Do not give them a reason to reject you before they read you!

Here’s a secret just between us: you can “cheat” on your first chapter or three. Adjust your chapter breaks to make them longer and give a good feel for your writing and story. Make sure you end on a hook. And by the end of that section – your main characters, what they want, and what stands in their way had better be obvious! If a full submission is requested later, then put your chapter breaks back where you originally had them.

If the agent/editor gets through the requested pages and loves them, they’ll ask for:

The FULL Submission

This is your entire manuscript. TRADITIONAL: In the world of snail mail and paper, this method is very expensive! I recommend taking your manuscript on a flash drive to your local Office Max, Kinko’s or Staples and having them run the 300-400 single-sided pages. Not only will it cost less than ink cartridges, the document will be clean and crisp.

Pack the loose manuscript in a box along with a cover letter and synopsis, put the box in a sturdy envelope, and mail it Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation and Signature Required. If you want the manuscript returned to you, you’ll need to include another sturdy envelope with postage already affixed. Or – you can ask the agent/editor to recycle the paper and save some serious cash.

ELECTRONIC: Ahhh, relief. In our world today “green” is the goal. Powerful anti-viral software allows agents and editors to accept full manuscripts as attachments. Amazon is sending their sales reps to writers’ conferences and pushing Kindles for agents and editors to read their submissions on. This isn’t the wave of the future; it’s the wave of NOW.

Because it’s free and easy to transmit documents electronically, I have noticed some publishers asking for full manuscripts upfront and not bothering with partials. Again – check their website!

Whether your submission is hard copy or electronic depends on the preferences of the agent or editor. Do exactly as they say. But I decided before I signed with my agent that I would no longer submit to anyone who wanted hard copies for all the reasons stated above. You will have to make that decision for yourself.

Happy hunting!

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3 Responses to “#16: Making Your Submission the BEST It Can Be”


  1. 1 Rebecca 01/25/2010 at 10:50 AM

    Thanks so much for this post! I just eat up all this advice.

    -Becca

  2. 3 zusy 01/25/2010 at 9:24 PM

    Lovely blog! Thanks for the useful information.


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