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Be patient with your work

Non-fiction publisher at Hachette Australia Books

I’ve been reading submissions for many years – when I was an editorial assistant, then as an editor, agent and publisher. I regularly check Hachette’s submissions inbox to see what writers are sending us, and in that inbox I’ve found books to publish. With most submissions, however, there are clear reasons why we can’t consider it for publication.

There are some common mistakes that writers make when submitting manuscripts or material, and the most predominant is that they submit before their work is really ready. It’s understandable – they’ve finished a draft and they’re very keen to find out what people think of it, so they send it off with not much of a cover letter (if any) and then, no doubt, wonder why it isn’t published. But no manuscript sent at that stage is published. Manuscripts – especially if it’s your first – need time and work to develop. So that’s why one of the most important qualities you can cultivate as a writer is patience. Be patient with your work, and always keep in your mind that you should be doing the best for it. Is it really the best thing to send off that novel without reading it through, taking time to digest it, and redrafting it?

You may wish to send your manuscript to agents and publishers in the hope of receiving feedback, but that’s not actually what we’re here for – at least, not at the stage where you’re formally submitting to us. Nor do we have the time to give feedback to all the writers who submit to us. Events like the CYA Conference and some of the many programmes offered by writers centres are the best ways to receive feedback, but at the point at which you’re submitting to an agent or publisher you’re initiating a business contact. We are looking for books to publish – and we are all looking for new writers, so we never discount writers for being unpublished – and it’s competitive out there. There are plenty of writers who will take the time to let their work mature, who will write a great submission letter, who will respect their work enough to do it all properly, and that’s whose work yours will be compared with when it’s submitted. So if I can suggest anything at all it would be to wait. Finish that draft and wait. Finish the next draft and wait. All manuscripts benefit from a bit of time spent in the ‘bottom drawer’, so that when you come back to your manuscript you can see it more clearly. Only once you’ve done that a few times and you feel that there’s just nothing more you can do to improve that manuscript will you be at the point where you’re ready to submit. Then you can turn your mind to the task of the submission letter …


Sophie will be doing assessments of multiple genres of adult manuscripts at this year's conference. Find out more on her page.

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