Do What They Say

I’ve heard it said that growing old is not for sissies, but neither is writing. Although my first book is due out in August and I haven’t really been writing for very long, one thing I’ve learned about submitting a manuscript is that it’s important to do what they say.

If writing is you’re passion and publishing is your heart’s desire, then there are some basic things you can do to minimize the obstacles on your pathway to publishing. One of which is to follow their instructions for submission. Agents and acquisitions editors are busy people, who see umpteen jillian manuscripts every year. Unfortunately, many of those that leave their desk and land in the circular file are from aspiring authors who shoot themselves in the foot by simply “NOT” following the publishers’ guidelines.

If you find a publisher or an agent who accepts unsolicited manuscripts, go to their website, pull up their guidelines and follow them to a “T”. If they require a query letter first, send a query letter first. If they request the first three chapters, send the first three chapters. Not two chapters, not five chapters…just the three they asked for.

It may help to print out the guidelines, highlight their requirements and begin to check off what you’ve completed. You’ll know if you’ve done everything they say when all the highlighted requests are checked. When you’ve completed everything, be sure to put it in the proper order, place it in a file or a special binder and mail it. You will also want to have your priceless package sent with a request for tracking and/or a signature confirmation request, depending on the publishers or agents guidelines.

And then you begin the long-drawn-out process of waiting. Again…do what they say. If their guidelines list an eight week wait, then wait at least eight weeks before emailing a follow-up letter. If it says wait four months, then wait four month.

Don’t skip a thing. Just do what they say and you’ll have a greater opportunity to hear the news you’re waiting for.

By the way, if you’re looking for some help to put together a jam up book proposal, Mary DeMuth offers one for nonfiction proposals and one for fiction proposals. Click here for a link to her page.

What did I forget to mention about following guidelines? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?


  1. You're right, Stephanie—-this is exTREMEly important! And just as important is writing a “knockout” query or cover letter.

    If you don't know what should go into one—LEARN! There are plenty of books and webpages with info.

    It is CRUCIAL to not have even ONE typo—make it PERFECT! You must come across as professional, and typos, poor grammar, not spelling the agent's or editors name right—all of these things indicate that you are sloppy, don't take your work seriously and are not professional.

  2. So true, Stephanie! The ability and willingness to follow directions speaks volumes about you.

    Congrats on your upcomming book!

  3. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for popping in and adding to the post! By the way…I “heard” your comment! It's always a mark of a great writer when someone can hear what they read!
    Phil 3:7-14

  4. Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for visiting my little corner of cyberspace and for the sweet and encouraging words!

    I'm pretty new to the world of writing and publishing and have made several mistakes along the way. I've got so much to learn, but I'm excited about the opportunity of doing so.

    By the way…I love your blog and visit it often! 🙂
    Phil 3:7-14

  5. Hi Stephanie –

    Thanks for highlighting an important issue. As someone once said, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

    Publishers also have rules about formatting. They detest fancy fonts; stick with 12 pt. New Times Roman. Many also specify margin size.

    Play it safe; follow the guidelines.

    Susan 🙂

  6. one word about the signature confirmation request…
    Be sure you have know that it is okay with the publishing house to do this. Many say they will NOT sign anything like a signature request. They won't even accept them.

    Most websites give that sort of information. If not, you can usually google the editor or agent's name and find out from interviews.

    I don't suggest sending a confirmation that needs a signature. If you want to send one that simply allows you to track where it is, go for it. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it. However, this topic has been discussed on VerlaKay's writing board. Here's the link if you want to hear more opinions…


  7. Hi Susan,
    I'm so glad you popped in and adding some valuable advice! Doing what they say is imperative if we want to hear them say “yes.”
    Eternally His,
    Phil 3:7-14

  8. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for the comment on signature confirmations. Most publishing houses have a front desk that has no problem signing for manuscripts, but not everyone does.

    I should have included the “see guidelines for mailing instructions” as well. You are so right!! Thanks for the helpful advice and for the link!

    I'm glad you've got my back!
    Eternally His,
    Phil 3:7-14

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