“Every veteran editor can tell in two minutes whether or not they are going to reject your manuscript.”
When Jerry Jenkins made that statement, he was correct. Because we read hundreds of manuscripts every month, we instinctively know if the author is ready. We recognize stale information or a commentary on the obvious in the first few pages. The topic may have too much competition in the marketplace and in our stable of books. Or the author hasn’t followed the publisher’s guidelines.
We love to see good writing skills displayed in a manuscript, but a manuscript is more than good grammar and punctuation. The flow and content must excite the publisher as a new way to look at an established truth or the use of good stories. The subject matter must meet a felt need and the writer must give the reader a way to change—commonly known as the takeaway.
We also place the book in the rejection bin if it will require too much editing or if the book is too long or too elaborate and thus too expensive to produce.
How do you wow an acquisition’s editor at a publishing house?
Here are some practical steps you can take to get past those two minutes with an editor.
- Begin with a great title. We use the term “high concept” when we talk about potential titles. High concept means the title clearly tells what the book is about. A great example title is The Purpose Driven Life. Other titles might include the classic The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life or Don’t Waste Your Life. When you see those titles, you immediately know what the book is about. A high-concept title is one with a clear, easily communicable premise. To come up with a title like that, make a promise, be specific, and find a metaphor that communicates. Your reader will be curious—and curiosity means book sales.
- Use all five senses when writing. Describe the feel, smell, sound, taste, and sight in every section. Your reader will thank you and keep turning those pages if you engage them in this way.
- Cut details which drag the writing down. Look carefully at each paragraph and each sentence. Does every word need to be there? Cut out excessive and needless words. Is this sentence a potential quotable? Does this sentence show everything it should? Will a reader highlight this sentence?
- Read. The more you read, the more you’ll discover the power of tight, meaningful words strung into sentences and placed into paragraphs. As you read, study the structure of the book and the techniques used by the author. Then write to find your signature voice.
Send us a well-written, organized, worthy manuscript and we will be wowed.
Question: Which of the suggestions in this blog do you need to work on?