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26th June 2020

What the editor looks for in a manuscript submission

The first step towards publication is submitting your manuscript and waiting for the publisher to assess its suitability. Before it’s made into a physical book and marketed around the world, the writing has to speak to the person who has received the submission. Although it may be tempting to throw your manuscript into the wild immediately after it’s complete, it is less likely to be published if you do not firstly consider these points:


Engagement—Is the first line attention-grabbing?


The opening line should be powerful and attract readers to the writing. It will come as no surprise that the editor reads the beginning of the manuscript first, and therefore will judge those all-important first words. Take a look at the opening line and ask yourself: Does the opening sentence pack a punch?

After the opening line, move onto the first page and then the first chapter. The writing should hold the reader’s attention and give them a reason to keep reading. No matter what genre of manuscript you’re submitting—whether it’s fiction or non-fiction—the beginning should stand out and create interest.


Readability—Does the writing draw the reader in?


For the reader to remain invested in the story, the prose needs to be fluid and the writing needs to serve a purpose. Manuscripts are easier to read when paragraphs flow seamlessly to the next.

There are many problems that assessors look for that can immediately turn off the pursual of a manuscript.


·         Awkward dialogue: Try reading the dialogue aloud to determine whether it’s something the characters would actually say.

·         Clunky wording: If the phrasing doesn’t sound right, brainstorm ways it could be reworded.

·         Rhythmless writing: Just like dialogue, writing needs beats to give the reader a break. This can be achieved by splitting up scenes or shortening chapters.

·         Uninteresting perspectives: The narrator should be compelling and captivating. In other words, try not to bore the reader.


Quality of writing—Is the editor the first person reading your writing?


Editors often look past manuscripts filled with errors and typos. Submitting a first draft is very obvious to editors and encourages them to start looking for reasons not to publish your manuscript—and that’s not what they want. Editors want to enjoy your writing.


Not only is it important for the writer to read their writing multiple times, looking for various issues on each new read, but it is also helpful to find an opinion other than your own before submitting. Pass your manuscript over to anyone who wants to read it and view their thoughts as constructive feedback. Don’t sit on their advice: consider ways to improve the writing to ensure the issues have been addressed.

Unbiased readers can be found in writing groups in-person or online. Workshopping with other writers can also demonstrate how difficult it is to create a well-formed piece of writing.


Originality—Has the story been done before?


Manuscripts with new concepts are exciting, but content that sounds familiar does not often leave a lasting impression. Topics that are under-published or stories that haven’t been explored are the types of manuscripts that Melbourne Books crave.

Consider the potential readership: Have readers already read something similar? Trends in the book world come and go and it’s important to separate your idea from the rest. Don’t look at other books for ideas—look at them for inspiration.

Try writing a strong, unique synopsis that captures the ways in which your story stands out and is different from the others in your chosen genre.


Knowledge—Have you done your research?


While fiction books often only need an idea, non-fiction books benefit from lots of focused research. While niche topics do not necessarily require experts in the field, the writer should have a clear understanding of what they are writing about. Always use reputable references and don’t assume that the editor will pick up on all factual errors—it’s the writer’s job to go over the facts multiple times before submission.


Suitability—Is the manuscript in-line with books previously published by Melbourne Books?


Melbourne Books publishes a wide variety of books, focusing especially on general non-fiction and some fiction. Before submitting, browse our website and look at the type of books already on the shelf in bookstores. Although we like to see new ideas, there are some genres we may not publish. To give the Melbourne Books team a clearer idea of your manuscript, fill out the submissions form supplied on the website.