Preparing Submissions by Leigh Russell
Recently there has been a lot of controversy in the publishing industry. Should we read physical books or e-books? Is traditional publishing better than self-publishing? Contrary to what a lot of writers and self-publishing companies would lead us to believe, self-publishing offers very little chance of serious remuneration. 98% of self published authors fail to cover their costs, let alone make any money out of their writing. This is without factoring in the time and expertise and sales contacts a traditional publisher provides.
If you are dedicated to your writing, and able to write well, your best chance of succeeding as an author is submit your manuscript to an agent who will hopefully find you a publisher. If, like me, you devote a lot of time to your writing, you will find it far more satisfying to be paid for all that effort, than to pay someone else out of your own pocket in order to see your work published.
So how do you attract the services of an agent? Nowadays it seems essential to secure one. Publishers will rarely even look at a manuscript that has not been submitted by an agent. But choosing the right agent is a minefield in itself. Proceed with caution. As with any business arrangement, there could be any number of reasons why you might be justly dissatisfied with your agent. But once you have signed a letter of engagement, you may find it impossible to terminate your agreement.
Take advice from people working in the industry, seek recommendations from authors you know and trust, and check if your prospective agent is a member of the Agents Association. I don’t think this gives you any protection, but it does signal that this agent is serious about their work.
Probably the most important point, in my opinion, is to make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be, to ensure you attract the best agent to represent your interests. If you are successful in finding a publisher, you will be relying on your agent to negotiate the sales of foreign rights, TV rights, and hopefully many other deals for audio, large print books, and so on, all of which provide you with an additional revenue stream. When you are earning your living from writing fiction, as I do, all of these sources of income are important.
Never submit a manuscript for consideration until it is as good as you can make it. There is a wealth of advice available online. You might, for example, read through my regular ‘Writers’ Tips’ published on the CRA website to help you. In all the excitement of creativity, it is easy to overlook the basics, so use the ‘Writers’ Tips’ as a checklist.
Finally, never be dejected by rejection. The lists of authors who were received multiple rejections is huge. Many successful authors are simply those who didn’t give up. To quote Einstein, ‘It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ As a writer of fiction, you need to be both smart and tenacious!