What do publishers look for in an author’s unpublished manuscript? Unfortunately, in today’s world greater emphasis is upon whether a manuscript is “marketable,” rather than exceptionally well-written, though both criteria are usually necessary to land a publishing deal. An editor at Random House to whom I was pitching a manuscript once responded, “Yes, but who will read it?” Lee Child, the wildly popular bestselling thriller writer, has often said “it’s about the audience.”
When submitting a manuscript to an editor, you want to eliminate as many no’s as possible. The obvious mistakes must be minimized. An editor must be able to answer “yes” to most of the following questions:
Is the manuscript well formatted and spell-checked, indicating professionalism?
Do the opening pages hook the reader?
Is the text too long, indicating it needs editing?
Is there a balance between scene and sequel (action and introspection?
Is the plot well-paced for the specific genre?
Is the premise or theme considered “high concept,” meaning the premise is clearly and easily communicated? A high-concept story is usually plot-driven wile literary fiction is more character driven.
A good critique service can be helpful in assessing a work of fiction, nonfiction, or essay.