What Publishers Require

Q: What is commonly required by publishers and/or agents besides a finished manuscript? -Megan

Thanks for your question, Megan.

While fiction writers should always have a finished novel manuscript before contacting a publisher or an agent, the editor/agent may not necessarily want to see the entire manuscript right away. Each book editor and literary agent is different and conducts the search for new talent in a different way. Your best course of action is to find a market guide (like Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market) or an agent’s guide (like Writer’s Market’s annual Guide to Literary Agents or the Literary Agents section of Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, Writer’s Market, or Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market) and read the listings to find out which publishers and/or agents are interested in the type of fiction you write and in what way they would like to be contacted.

Some editors/agents only want first contact with a query letter. Some want a query and a synopsis. Some want a synopsis and the first few chapters. Some want the entire manuscript. Unfortunately, there’s no one-method-fits-all answer; you’ll never know exactly what type of submission package your potential editor/agent wants unless you do your homework.

In addition to whatever you send, remember to always enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or—better yet—a self-addressed stamped postcard (SASP) for reply. When using a postcard, remember those notes from elementary school that read “Will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no.” That’s the basic idea. On your postcard, write a few sentences like “Not interested,” “Not interested in this manuscript but please send something else,” “Please send entire manuscript,” and “Please send first few chapters” and draw check boxes. This makes it super easy for an editor/agent to respond and increases your chance of getting a quicker reply.

One last note: I know this sounds silly, but please make sure you include your complete contact information when submitting. You wouldn’t believe the cases I’ve heard of an editor wanting to publish a poem or short story but not being able to because the author gave no mail or e-mail address or the phone number given was incorrect.

Hope this helps. Best of luck to you!

Lauren Mosko, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market Editor
Writer’s Digest Books