Five Things I Like to See in a Manuscript Submission

Legend Press is proud to accept manuscripts directly from writers. We are always looking for stories which make us sit up and take notice, capture our imagination and that we can't wait to publish. Managing Director of Legend Press Tom Chalmers gives five tips on what makes a really great manuscript stand out.

Sadly I don’t get to read the submissions any more until they have gone through the editorial team and Lauren, our Commissioning Editor, recommends one that she is considering acquiring. But, while my Friday afternoons now usually consist of reviewing forecast and budget spreadsheets, I still remember when they were spent in a café in Stoke Newington reading through the latest submissions.

I may now be out of touch but I believe the points below still hold true so, for what it’s worth, here’s by Five Things I Like to See in a Submission:

  1. The writer has done their research: We get many submissions for subject areas that we don’t publish in and though it probably involves ego more than I would like to admit, it is frustrating when you can tell from the letter they have no idea who Legend Press is and are writing the same letter to as many publishers as possible. My tip: use the ego to your advantage, mention at the start a few of the publisher’s books you have enjoyed (possibly whether you have or not…).

  2. The writer understands their market: You don’t need to provide pie-charts and market breakdowns. However, if you can point in the letter to a reader or a range of readers who may enjoy it (be specific, avoid ‘everyone from 8-80’ etc.) it creates the impression that you are a serious writer who has considered who may buy this book. This also helps to answer the first question the publisher will ask themselves.

  3. Keep letter and synopsis short and concise: We have received submissions where the synopsis is longer than the sample chapters though in fiction particularly the sample is the key to deciding whether the publisher would like to see more. The letter should be one page with 3/4 paragraphs, not dissimilar from a job application letter, and the synopsis one page, similar to a blurb but less promotional, more stating what happens in the book.

  4. Make sure you are happy with it: Writing is a creative, solitary process, which makes confidence a huge challenge. It may never feel completely ready, but hearing ‘it needs a lot of work’, ‘still working on the ending’ etc. while truthful is off putting to someone keen to reduce the pile of submissions in front of them. Get as much feedback as possible, leave it for a while and come back to it then try to read it as a reader would and gauge what your opinion would be.

  5. Try hard but not too hard: With short attention spans, the era of ‘once upon a time’ has long gone with readers wanting to have their attention grabbed immediately. So good starts are essential as is being able to hold the reader all the way through. However, I have seen a lot of submissions where the writer is trying too hard, starting with unnecessary similes and metaphors or telling reader throughout what the characters are feeling and why they do things. Again, read it through again after some space as a reader would – after all they are most important person to a writer or publisher.

So there are my tips – writing a novel is a huge challenge, one I have never completed, so from a publisher’s perspective I hope they are helpful to writers looking to submit their work!

If you have a manuscript you'd like to submit to us, full guidelines can be found on our Submissions page