Post: What do publishers look for in a fiction story?


Every budding author hopes to have written a manuscript that is worthy of publication. The latter phrase is both ambiguous and subjective. What constitutes ”worth” when publishers are considering a fiction story for the book market. It’s quite possible that one publishing company might reject one of your manuscripts while another one accepts it. However, there are several key factors that most publishers are looking for when reviewing a submission from a writer. 

In this post, you’ll find a basic overview of six issues that can make or break your chances of having a fiction story published. Satisfying these key points in no way guarantees that a manuscript will be made available to the public. The reverse is also true. If your submission doesn’t meet every quality a particular publisher is looking for in a fiction story, it doesn’t necessarily mean all hope is lost. Revisions can be a writer’s best friend! 

Publishers often look for these 6 things in a fiction manuscript

Each editor, publisher and manuscript review team are unique; however, you can expect most publishing companies to look for the key attributes included in the following list when considering a fiction manuscript for publication:

  • Command of the English language—obvious mastery of grammar, punctuation and syntax in a manuscript, as well as an easy-to-read style
  • A strong plot
  • Well-developed characters
  • At least 50,000 words
  • Originality
  • A potential for more books from a particular author

As for originality, there’s really no such thing as a totally original story. When publishers are considering a fiction manuscript, they’re looking for uniqueness and innovative use of themes, words, phrases, etc., that would appeal to readers. 

Additional book potential doesn’t have to mean a series

When publishers are considering a fiction manuscript for publication, your story is bound to get attention if your writing demonstrates the potential for more books in the future. Sequels, trilogies and series-type stories are popular and are attractive to a publisher due to having multiple products for sale. You don’t necessarily have to write a story ”set” to demonstrate potential for more books though. 

As long as a publisher finishes your manuscript and wants to read more of your writing or asks if you have ideas for additional stories in the future, it’s a good sign. 

Get your fiction manuscript in tip-top shape before submission

Many writers make the mistake of trying to edit their own fiction manuscripts or not taking time to ask a professional editor or reviewer to read a story before submitting it to a publisher. This often turns into a missed opportunity because a professional review typically includes recommendations for revisions. They know what publishers are looking for in a fiction novel. Taking advantage of these resources could very well increase your chances for success.