I've heard people say they don't need to edit their books before they submit them to a publisher, because the publisher will edit them anyway. That's only partly true. If a publisher offers you a contract to publish your book, they will edit it. But you improve your chances of getting that contract offer if you've done the groundwork first.
Today Rachel is going to briefly share her top tips for getting your manuscript ready for submission to a publisher ... and address an even more important question about our writing.
By Rachel Sweasey
I have a somewhat bipolar relationship with my role at Rhiza Press. I’m so chuffed and proud to tell people I’m an editor in a publishing house. But then, too often, I wish I’d been a bit more vague when answering that ‘What do you do?’ question.
The trouble is that everyone seems to know someone who’s written something they want to get published, and for the most part, the writing is not publishable at all.
The question I want to ask is “Why do to they want to be published?” Is it because that’s the only way they can imagine sharing their story? Or do they really believe they are the world’s next J.K.Rowling? I hate to sound negative, but they’re not. There is only one of each of us and J.K. is taken.
Unless you’re already an international bestselling author, then before submitting to a publisher your manuscript has to be refined to within a hairsbreadth of perfection. Take a look at the refining process for gold. There are at least 10 steps in the process from mining, through grinding, leaching, and filtering before even the fiery furnace stage, and on to the final product. Imagine going to a Jeweller and being shown a grubby lump of rock. “That there’s solid gold missus.” Yeah, right. We want to see the shiny blingy things.
Our writing must be refined to the same extent if we’re going to produce gold-star quality writing—and that’s what every publisher is looking for. Even if you intend to self-publish, the refining process is still important if you mean to sell your books, rather than use boxes of them as expensive patio furniture.
So what are some of the steps in refining your work?
A. Read widely
B. Work out why you’re writing what you’re writing
C. Do some writing training, and then practice
D. Apply all your training to your Manuscript
E. Befriend a Beta-Reader (or three)
F. Apply the Beta-Readers’ feedback
G. Engage a Professional Editor to complete a Manuscript Appraisal
H. Apply the advice of the Editor
I. Re-engage the Editor to complete a full edit
J. Enter a Competition
K. Find a Publishing House
… And then, hopefully, you’ll hear back from one... In time.
But taking all that advice aside, the biggest question I really want to ask writers at this stage in their journey is ‘Why do you write?’ Because maybe, just maybe publishing doesn’t have to be the end goal.
Being called to write, and being called to get that writing published are two very distinctive calls. For me? I’m called to sing. I’ve had a passion to sing all my life and I’ve been blessed with some gifting and lots of opportunity to minister. But has God called me to become a professional singer, cut DVD’s, and sell my voice on Spotify? Absolutely not, no way, at all, ever. But I’m called to sing, and I will sing will all my heart until my lungs collapse.
And it’s no different with writing.
If you have a talent or even a God-given gift to write then you absolutely must do that writing. You should dedicate your spare time (or all your time if God’s blessed you that much) to perfecting your writing, to listening for leading about what you should write, or who you should write to. There might be a platform by which others can be reached and blessed by your writing but that does not necessarily mean having a book published.
And if writing is your gift, you can and should still apply many of the same snippets of advice I’d give to writers who are intent on being published. Start with the basics of working on style, structure and grammar and share your work widely to gain feedback and make refinements.