Secrets of successful submission

Many of our readers are writers aspiring to one day becoming successful authors. Perhaps one of our New Year’s resolutions is to finally complete and submit that fiction or non-fiction manuscript that we have been working on for so long.

But a manuscript submission is much more than getting read and hopefully publish our written words. Rather, it is quite similar to applying for a high-flying job. However talented we think we are, we need to “Show, Don’t Tell”.

As fantastic as our stories are, we need to convince publishers of their full potentials. And that requires some serious, savvy persuasion.

Interestingly, Carolyn Martinez, Director of Brisbane-based Hawkeye Publishing, recently posted a series of useful tips on how to stand out – for the right reasons – when submitting our manuscripts to publishers.

First and foremost are the essential rules that our manuscripts are professional edited; that we as aspiring authors understand our target audiences, marketabilities and potential competitors; and that we abide by the submission guidelines.

Next, Martinez reveals some amateurish mistakes that often cause a manuscript to fail in the first few pages. Perhaps the most noteworthy is “Passive Phrasing”, which means the subject of a sentence is the person or thing acted upon or affected by the verb’s action.

For example, “The powerful cyclone destroyed the town” is straightforward. In comparison, “The town was destroyed by the powerful cyclone” seems verbose and weak.

Furthermore, Martinez highlights several issues that can still cause a manuscript to fail even after it has attracted a publisher’s attention.

Among these, perhaps the most common is “Too Many Characters”. This can lead to so-called “head-hopping” while considerably decelerating and weakening a story as the writer gets busy illustrating the actions, thoughts and feelings of every character included.

Another troublesome issue is “too many redundant words”, which can slow down a story’s pace. It is here that American author Stephen King’s warning comes to mind: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”.

Other readers may recall the following words from English writer Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Finally, Martinez provides a list of ten features commonly shared by successful manuscripts. The publisher’s words are worth quoting to some length:

“It’s hard work selling books, and the only way that books sell well beyond an author’s own personal network is when readers fall in love with a book, are so moved and changed by the experience of reading, that they rave about it to anyone who’ll listen. And that only happens through masterful writing.”

Also eye-catching is Martinez’s sound advice on how to be a good writer. To this reviewer, one particular sentence stands out: “Read books. How can you possibly expect to know what modern audiences devour if you’re not reading?”

Carolyn Martinez’s helpful tips on successful manuscript submission can be found here:

Note: This article was originally published under the title “Helpful tips” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, January 25, 2022, P.11.

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