Friday, March 27, 2009

Tips #3: Submitting Your Manuscript

When submitting your manuscript to a publisher be sure to enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE) large enough that your material can be returned to you. By tracking your package on the Canada Post website, you will be aware of when it was delivered.

But is it sitting, unopened, with the rest of the mail? To save having to wonder about that question, I also include a stamped, self-addressed postcard with my submission. It can be dropped in the mail when the package is first opened.

Always keep a record of your submissions. Note what you sent (3 sample chapters and synopsis, complete manuscript), to whom you sent it, the date it was mailed and the cost of the postage. I also make a note if I had to send out a further query and the date of that letter.

If the publisher's website indicates that they will get back to you in 4 to 6 months, it's perfectly ethical, after that period of time, to inquire about the status of your manuscript. Is it still being considered? Send this query by regular mail. Do not email or telephone, unless you have been instructed by the publisher to do so.

Your manuscript may be one of hundreds they receive each month. Be prepared to wait, and while you do, get on with your next writing project.

Congratulations! You've taken the first step towards publication. It will never happen while your manuscript sits in your desk drawer at home.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This is a shot of what I'm doing lately, i.e. daily free writing. Trying to stir the muse. A writer friend calls it "moodling." All of us in our writing group have adopted that term. It describes so well this all-important, early process of mulling over ideas, doodling on the page. It cannot be rushed.
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Tips #2: The Cover Letter

The cover letter you send with your submission will be the first impression the publisher has of you.
  • Keep it to one page. Use an easy-to-read font, and edit and proofread it carefully.
  • Describe the genre of your book, the number of words, and whether it is intended for children, teens or adults.
  • State your publishing experience and any awards or nominations you've received. If you have no previous writing experience, there is no need to mention it.
  • If you are submitting your manuscript to more than one publisher (you've already checked that they will accept multiple submissions), indicate this in the cover letter. You will, of course, notify them immediately should another publisher offer you a contract to publish the book.
Reading a few of the books from the publisher's list has not only made you aware of the type of material they publish, but you may have discovered one or two of their authors with a style similar to yours. You could mention in your cover letter what a good fit your book would be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tips #1: Finding a Publisher

You've completed your novel and want to submit it to a publisher. By now, you'll be familiar with the names of a number of publishers that produce the genre you have written.

In Canada, you'll find a list of Canadian publishers on the Canadian Children's Book Centre's website ( Quill & Quire also publishes a new edition of the Canadian Publishers' Directory every summer and winter. The Writers' Union of Canada produces and sells The Writers' Guide to Canadian Publishers. This is available as an on-line subscription. Go to

Even if you are not yet published, you can become a Friend of the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP), which will entitle you their quarterly bulletin, CANSCAIP News. Joining CANSCAIP as a Friend was the best move I ever made. Not only did I begin to feel connected with other children's writers in Canada, it was through their regular marketing section that I found my first publisher.

The next step is to visit the websites of the publishers you've selected and click on "submissions." Follow the guidelines posted there exactly.

The guidelines will tell you whether or not the publisher will accept unsolicited manuscripts, whether they accept multiple submissions, whether you should query them first or send sample chapters, and how many they like to receive. They will tell you what to include in your cover letter (more on this all-important document in a later blog.) Some publishers also ask for a resume or c.v. If you're asked for sample chapters and a synopsis, be prepared to spend much time on the latter.

Be sure to look at the publishers' catalogues, where you'll find their new releases and back list. It's a good idea to read a couple of their books so that you'll know the type of writing that appeals to them.

Publishers' websites will also give you their phone numbers. Take a couple of minutes to call their office to find out to whose attention your submission should be addressed.