I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately, from poets and writers who want to know how to tell when they’re ready to submit their work to a publisher. It’s a good question, if I’m being honest. There are a lot of people out there who submit too early, and a lot of others who submit too late. So, how do you know where that sweet spot is?
I have three little pointers for you, because really, it’s all very subjective. It depends on you, and on the work in question. For poetry books, it means something different than novels. For novels, it means something different than short story collections.
But, here are three things to keep in mind, when you think you might be ready to submit:
1. Make sure you love it
If you don’t love it, it’ll be hard for anyone else to love it. So when you’re thinking about sending something to a publisher, make sure it’s something you’re proud of, something that you love. Let it be something that you can picture having on the shelves, something you can envision being published, that you think people will really enjoy, because of how much you love it.
I’ll tell you right now, I can tell when my authors don’t love their work, and it makes it much harder to market. If you’re not excited about it when you submit it, then the chances of you being excited about it when it comes out are slim—and we need you to be excited, because if you’re not excited, it’s hard to get your audience excited.
2. Make sure you hate it
Counter-intuitive, yes? But I have a valid point here. If you’re too attached to your work, it’ll be extremely difficult for you when an editor finally starts working on it. So, while I want to make sure that you love your submission, I also want to make sure that you hate it enough for someone to poke some holes in it. Be distanced enough that you can handle someone looking at it and telling you where the flaws are. Some companies will give you a laundry list of things to fix in your manuscript before they’ll sign you to a book deal—make sure you’re okay with that, before you send it in.
We don’t really want to have to fight with you, over what should and should not be kept in the manuscript. We’d much rather work alongside you, and know that both of us are enjoying the manuscript and looking at it objectively.
3. Make sure it’s your best work yet
This one, of course, is completely a matter of opinion, and this is the one that you’ll want to focus on the most.
Is this work the best thing you’ve ever written, your favorite piece you’ve ever put together?
If so, then it’s probably the one you want to put forward for publication, when the time comes. If you don’t think of it as your best work, then I’d suggest waiting. Wait until this one is the one, until the work you just finished is one that you know must hit shelves, that people need to read.
And if you have a hard time figuring out what your best work is, then my suggestion is to send in your favorite. There’s no harm in trying. Because if you wait too long, if you convince yourself that no work is your best work, that you have no real favorite, then you’ll never submit anything at all—and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
Send something in.
Make an effort.
It’s what we all want, isn’t it?