Five Steps to How an Editor Reads Your Manuscript Submission

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Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

Editors receive hundreds—if not thousands—of submissions every month. Each submissions package includes (in order) a query letter, a synopsis and then the number of manuscript pages as per the publisher’s specific requirements.

 Most editors evaluate a manuscript submission package like this:

  1. We read the first line of the manuscript—not the query letter. Some people are great at writing letters but not at completing full books. For a first line to be good, it has to be catchy, and hook us. This means it has to make us wonder about something, pose a problem that your book will answer, or use an anecdote that engages our curiosity.
  2. If the first line is good we continue to the rest of the paragraph, then the rest of the page, then the rest of the chapter to see if the promise of the first line is continued.
  3. If the writing sample is solid, then we read the synopsis. A synopsis should highlight all the pillars of your book. Don’t leave off the conclusion in an attempt to hook the editor. We need to know that you have concluded all the threads of your book in a way that satisfies the reader. 
  4. Next: the query letter. Do you have any special qualifications that make you the best person to write this book? Any awards? Also make sure you have spelled our names correctly—you’d be surprised how many submissions come in with typos.
  5. Finally, we check with our editorial team. If we have two similar submissions, only one will be accepted. This is why it is so important that your submission is solid. If you have done all of the above well, but the other submission hasn’t, then they will get the rejection letter instead of you.

If you receive a request for more chapters, but not the full manuscript, this often means the editor still has some reservations, or there is another submission that is similar to yours. The extra pages give the editor a chance for further evaluation and/or comparison.

Upon acceptance, you will receive a lot of edits. This is normal. This isn’t a commentary on the quality of your book or writing. (The editor is paying you for it, remember!) Editors do this because they need the tone, style and information to match the publishing company’s mandate.

Learn from the feedback you receive so each subsequent submission is even stronger than the first to build a successful career as an author. 

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