Publishers are busy people, so it should stand to reason that around 10% of the books submitted to them are even looked at. When they do pick up a manuscript, they don’t always read the entire book before deciding to publish it.

Publishers don’t always read the whole book or manuscript before giving an author a book deal. They require that the author only send them the first chapter, as they can often gauge a book’s quality and marketability from this alone. If they’re intrigued, then they’ll request more.

How do you know when to send a full manuscript? Do publishers read complete books before they publish them? We’ll look at these and other questions in this article. 

Why You Should Not Send an Entire Book to a Publisher

The guidelines for submitting a manuscript differ. 

Some publishers require you to send one chapter, while others want your entire manuscript. The version your chosen publisher wants is something you need to know before you submit your manuscript, or else they probably won’t even look at it.

There are a handful of reasons publishers only want one to five chapters of your manuscript rather than the entire document. The biggest reason is that it’s likely a waste of time.

Publishers don’t have the time to read through every book they receive from aspiring authors. They want the author to send them a letter directly, including a proposal, a synopsis of their book, and a couple of sample chapters. 

They can tell immediately whether a book has potential and whether they’re interested in personally taking on the responsibility of publishing it. Some publishers don’t even accept direct submissions from authors. 

In this case, you’ll need to find an agent to take you, make connections, and submit work on your behalf. However, if a publisher wants your entire manuscript, ensure you give it to them. Even more importantly, ensure that your writing is up to scratch and your editing is near-perfect. 

Treat your manuscript like a final work, even though it will definitely undergo refinement. 

When To Send Unsolicited Manuscripts

Some publishers, and even agents, don’t even bat an eye at unsolicited manuscripts, which means that you submitted your manuscript without any requests for it. An example of a request is an open call for submissions. 

Jeff Herman lays down the law regarding solicited and unsolicited manuscripts, so look at that if you want to know more about publishing guidelines. 

What Do Publishers Look For in a Manuscript?

Once a publisher has picked up your manuscript, there are a few crucial boxes to check to hold their interest and convince them to publish your book:

  • Excellent language use
  • Evidence of editing
  • Correct or relevant genre
  • A strong, unique voice
  • Marketability

You potentially have a single chapter of your manuscript and a cover letter to convince a publisher that your book deserves the resources it would take to publish. Though it’s no easy feat, it’s possible and even necessary.

That’s a lot of pressure from the offset, these are achievable and will help you stand out from the crowd.

Excellent Language Use

No publisher would dream of publishing a book that is poorly written, including spelling and grammar mistakes, incorrect punctuation, and clumsy, meandering storytelling.

If you’re serious about publishing, you need to ensure your manuscript is as refined as you can personally get it before submitting it, even if the publishing house has an editor. Clear, correct use of the language you’re writing is the first step to getting a publisher’s notice.

Evidence of Editing

Although you’re not submitting different drafts of your manuscript or showing the publisher your writing process, they can tell whether or not you’ve put effort into editing your writing.

If your manuscript is too long or too short, they can tell you haven’t combed through and removed unnecessary details or expanded enough on important ones. 

Correct or Relevant Genre

Let’s say your chosen publisher accepts manuscripts and you’re eager to get on their radar. This is your chance!

However, look very carefully at these calls for submissions. Are they asking for a particular genre? Does your manuscript fit that genre? 

Sometimes, publishers only accept particular genres, whether for a particular submission period or permanently. If you submit a manuscript that isn’t part of that genre, you won’t be considered, no matter how good your book may be. 

Recognizing and following instructions is non-negotiable when you’re trying to publish your work. If you blatantly disregard them, publishers will be reluctant to work with you in the future

A Strong, Unique Voice

You’ve made it past the initial check for language mistakes, but that’s not even half of what publishers check for.

Your manuscript must capture the essence of who you are as a writer. Publishers need to be able to identify your unique voice as soon as they start reading your work. Otherwise, it’s no different from any other piece of writing.

The ability to breathe life into writing is something that separates the manuscripts collecting dust on a desk and the ones that become bestsellers. 

Marketability

Publishers won’t waste their time on a book they don’t think will sell. After all, publishing is a massive investment and potential financial risk for publishers. To even consider publishing a book, they need to be convinced that this book will turn a profit and have a substantial audience.

This also means that publishers want to see that you’ve attempted self-promotion

Authors must build a social media following and create excitement around their book and its upcoming release. Of course, most publishers will arrange a marketing team, but getting there will be far more challenging if you have no following before approaching a publisher. 

That means that you’ll need to build a following on social media and get people talking about your work, which will be a massive advantage in getting you published. 

Do Publishers Read the Whole Book Before It Gets Published?

Publishers are highly involved in the editing process and may have input on the final finishing details in writing and editing, which means they read the entire manuscript before it gets published. The publisher works with editors, proofreaders, and the author to create a polished final book, which will go into publication and circulation. 

However, once a book is handed over to production, the publisher’s responsibility changes from writing and editing to printing and marketing. 

Conclusion

If your book makes it through initial selection, then your publisher will read your whole manuscript, along with proofreaders and editors, to polish it to perfection. However, that’s a big “if.” You might only get one chapter and cover letter to impress a publisher and will rarely get to send them your full manuscript right away.

Categories: Publishing

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.