Manuscript Submission — Because Your Book Doesn’t Publish Itself

You finished your book manuscript.

Congratulations. What a major accomplishment! But only your best friends and your advanced reviewers will read your unpublished manuscript. How do you handle manuscript submission? It depends. Will you publish through a traditional publisher or independently?

First Contact with Traditional Publishing World

When you first approach a traditional publisher, it won’t be with a complete manuscript. Every publisher will have its own submission criteria, which you can read off their website. Most will involve some variation of

  • a table of contents,
  • an overview of the complete book, 
  • two or three sample chapters, all sent as Microsoft Word doc file attachments, and
  • a cover letter of one or two pages that explains what the book is about, why you are qualified to write it, and how you plan to help promote and sell it.

If instructions require you to send hard copy, you send hard copy. Don’t worry about coding for uploading at this time.

Second Contact with Traditional Publishing World

But if you sell them on your book proposal, they’ll send you their boilerplate contract. Look under “Manuscript Submission” for a clause that says, “Author will submit two manuscript hardcopies and one electronic version.” If you see it, cross out “two manuscript hardcopies and” and initial the change. Remember, you’re still in the negotiation stage here. You can refuse that ridiculous request.

And your editor probably won’t even care. No reputable editor edits off hard copy anymore. Good chance the publisher’s lawyer wrote the phrase during the pre-digital era and never revised the contract for the times. For you, it needlessly costs you paper, packaging, postage, and precious time. Ecologically it leaves a huge footprint.

That’s manuscript submission in the traditional publishing world.

Manuscript Submission in Independent Publishing World

If you plan to publish independently, you need to select your platforms to produce and distribute your book. To begin, do you turn your book into an ebook or a softcover print on demand (POD)?

The answer to that question is simple: Do both. You have readers in both venues. Why limit yourself? This isn’t about which methods you prefer; it’s about which methods your readers prefer.

Every platform has its own unique author contract. You can apply these tips to every contract:

  • Make sure the agreement is not exclusive. If you realize later that another platform will give you a better deal or open you to a new audience, you aren’t limited to the lesser deal.
  • Don’t let it take away your copyright.
  • Make sure your POD contract allows you to buy books at a low enough price that your resale price can cover expenses and leave you with money for promotion.
  • It should have an escape clause so you can get out of it whenever you want.
  • It should not charge you to use it.

And remember: Your POD or ebook platform is not your publisher. They are a printer for your POD and a distributor for your POD and ebook.

You are your own publisher:

  • If one claims otherwise, run from it.
  • Reject any offers to accept “free” ISBNs and instead spring for your own (see <“Own Your Own ISBN and Barcode”>).

Manuscript Submission in My World

Here’s how I do it:

I begin with Smashwords and Amazon to upload and sell ebooks:

  • Smashwords distributes automatically through Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd, as well as a growing list of other retailers and public libraries.
  • Kindle distributes through and Amazon Europe.

For softcover PODs:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing, which is owned by Amazon, distributes directly to consumers through the complete Amazon network.

Amazon also offers a resellers’ discount to bookstores that want to purchase your book to resell. However, bookstores hate working with, or through, Amazon, whose middleman status cuts into their profits.

They prefer actual book wholesalers, especially Ingram, the largest, which gets books into 39,000 online and brick-and-mortar retail stores and libraries. For libraries, you want Baker & Taylor also for your print books.

  • IngramSpark, which is owned by Ingram, has been the go-to distributor for getting your PODs and ebooks into both distribution networks as well as Amazon.

POD covers for IngramSpark may be hard or soft, with jacket or without, flexibility that Amazon does not yet allow, though they will soon. 

IngramSpark charges $25 for ebook title setup and $49 for combined ebook and print setup but offers occasional no-fee opportunities and refunds the setup fee if you purchase fifty copies in the first sixty days after publication.

While Amazon does not distribute outside the Amazon network, IngramSpark is able to get books onto the Amazon network.

* * *

This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at [email protected].

Schedule your complimentary 30-minute coaching and editing session now.

Share this: