Post: Avoid these mistakes before submitting a manuscript


Fiction novels typically come to be in one of two ways: as the final product of a writer’s effort that may have taken months (or several years) to complete, or a story that suddenly and overwhelmingly took form in a writer’s mind so that he or she had to sit down immediately to start writing, completing an entire story in a matter of days. Either way, while there are often similarities in the overall writing process, each project and writer are unique, making no two stories exactly the same. Once the final chapter is complete, the goal often shifts to submitting a manuscript to a publisher. 

Inexperienced writers often don’t realize how much happens in between those two events—the writing of the story and the submission of the manuscript. There are several important steps to take before sending your final copy to a publisher. Some writers think they can omit certain tasks or handle things on their own, but that’s usually a big mistake. Your manuscript might not even make it past the screening process if you haven’t properly prepared it for submission. 

Avoid submitting a manuscript if beta readers haven’t tested it

One of the biggest mistakes you can make before submitting a manuscript to a publisher is to send it in without first asking others to read it. In the publishing industry, the term “beta reader” refers to people who “test” a manuscript for a writer by reading it and providing feedback. You should choose beta readers carefully. It’s nice if your mother always tells you “Great job!” when you do something. However, what you’re looking for in a beta reader is detailed, honest feedback. 

If you ask 4 to 6 people to read your manuscript, you might begin to see feedback patterns. Do most of them mention a similar weak spot in the story? Are they left with unanswered questions that frustrate them? Do they suggest improvements for the pace of the story or plot or character development? Giving your story a test run through beta readers is an important part of the post-writing/pre-submission process. 

A professional edit is always best

Avoid the mistake of trying to edit your own manuscript or asking someone without a professional editing background to do it for you. A publisher can tell right away if a manuscript has gone through a professional editing process. If yours hasn’t, you will no doubt receive a rejection letter.

Copyediting ensures proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Development editing helps refine your story, making sure there are no holes in the plot, that the language style you use fits your characters and time setting, and that you have presented the story in a way that will appeal to today’s readers. Skipping these two steps before submitting a manuscript to a publisher is never a good idea. 

Proofreading and editing are not the same things

After your manuscript has been edited, fully designed and formatted, you’ll want to have a proofreader check it for errors. Think of this step like a “final walk through” when purchasing a home. The proofreader should not be the same person (or people) who edited the manuscript. If you do these things before submitting a manuscript, your story will be in tip-top shape. If it makes it through beta readers, editors and a proofreader, you’ve got a better chance of it being published.