This is the second part related to all those mistakes to avoid for your first novel!
This week, we’re reviewing those that concern your finished novel, or at least… when you think you’re done! You believe that your manuscript is ready to be sent? Check this list of 10 mistakes to avoid to publish your first novel before you actually send it!
Some English speaking countries require that you hire a literary agent, because publishers don’t deal with writers directly, so this article obviously also serves as a guideline to contact an agent!
NOT EDITING YOUR TEXT
It’s obvious that a first draft won’t be ready to be sent to a publisher, but the second one either, most certainly! Thinking it’s the publisher’s job to heavily edit your text, that there will be a team ready to do the structural work for your more than rough novel is a very common preconceived idea. The publisher is exactly that: a publisher. He’s neither a grammar manual, nor a ghostwriter. Of course, if your novel is accepted, you will need to rewrite certain parts to fit the publisher’s needs, but aside from pointing out flaws, the publisher won’t do more, the writer is you.
And if the manuscript has too much rewriting to do, it will simply, at best, be sent back, with the advice to review it completely, if the publisher thinks it has potential. But it has mostly good chances to end up in the thrash. Publishers are REALLY selective.
NOT CORRECTING YOUR TEXT
You might not be good at spelling and grammar, but that won’t be an excuse considering the many existing softwares that will hep you avoid a maximum of mistakes. Having someone who’s actually good in English language to proofread your novel is also an option, or, if you have the funds, hire a professional! But don’t skip this step because publishers will systematically refuse a manuscript full of mistakes.
SENDING AN ECCENTRIC MANUSCRIPT
Do it through the quality of your writing, your respect of guidelines, but never through a crazy font or text color, it will be poorly thought of. The standard is Times New Roman, 12 points, black. Nothing else.
Same with double spacing, margins etc, leave the default page setting of your text editor, it’s usually adapted to the required standard, except if the publisher asks for something specific in their guidelines.
NOT NUMBERING YOUR PAGES
The publisher needs, added to margins for annotations, page numbers so he can refer to one part or another. How do you want them, if they accept your manuscript, to tell you where the parts you need to rework on are? All text editors have an option to number pages, and if you don’t find it, Google always has the answer!
SENDING A HANDWRITTEN MANUSCRIPT
It’s very unlikely these days, but I want to mention it because I was asked once: any novel needs to be typed. As neat as your handwriting looks, the publisher will not let you pass Go and collect 200$.
NOT RESPECTING THE PUBLISHER’S GUIDELINES
Publishers nowadays almost all have a website where you can find the guidelines to respect when sending your manuscript. Respect them religiously, for two reasons: the first one because you don’t want to see your novel refused, the second one because you’re not respecting the rules so the publisher will think you’ll be a pain the ass to work with.
NOT SENDING A RESUME
A manuscript can’t be sent alone, you need to send at least a resume with it, that will tell the publisher what your book is about. Actually, it’s that resume that will help the publisher to decide if your novel will be handed out to the reading committee.
FAILING TO TARGET THE RIGHT PUBLISHERS
Just ask yourself this simple question: has this publisher ever published the category my book is in?
Useless to send a sci fi story to a publisher that only does romance. Take a look at the bookstores’ aisles and note down the publishers that do the kind of story you do, as simple as that!
TARGETING ONLY THE BIG NAMES
Harper & Collins, Penguin or Simon & Schuster are not the only publishers! Of course, every writer dreams of being published by a big company, and under no circumstances should you stop yourself from giving it a try! But target smaller publishers too, they will also do a good job!
You will need to be very patient because answers are usually long to come. Some publishers give a timeframe on their website, some don’t. And as some don’t bother sending a refusal, it’s really hard to know if you still stand a chance after several months without a reply. In any case, if the delay given by the publisher has passed, or after a whole year, I advise to reread your novel to eventually rework it, and target other publishers. But don’t harass the publishers you’ve sent to, they hate that!
This time, you’re good to go!