We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a lot of great festivals and literary events since setting up Tramp Press, and we usually join in the conversation with a talk on submitting your manuscript for publication. We’re always happy to share our thoughts and experiences on this, so here’s a short how-to on one aspect of the submission process: How to Tell if Your Manuscript Is Ready to Submit to Tramp Press.
This advice is from a Tramp Press point of view, so if you’ve read our submissions guide, you’ll know that we’re a fiction-only book publisher. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the kind of work a prospective publisher does, too (our titles are here). If you want to submit a fiction manuscript to us, here are some questions that it’ll probably be worth asking yourself:
1. Did you read the submissions guide?
There’s a reason this is number one on the list. It takes just a few minutes and can be the difference between a good submission and sending your hard work off to the wrong people, which’ll waste their time, and yours. Make sure you’re sending your work to someone who’s a good fit.
2. Did someone else read and give you feedback on your manuscript?
The publisher shouldn’t be the first person to read your work. As hard as it is, you should seek the criticism of a trusted reader. Donal Ryan and Sara Baume are great examples: they’re two successful authors whose first readers are eagle-eyed family members.
3. Is there a typo in the opening paragraph?
We won’t reject your work for having the occasional error. However, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and carelessness in the basics is usually a good indicator that each sentence has not been carefully reviewed. Your work deserves a really high level of attention.
4. Is there a scene where the protagonist wakes with a hangover in a grotty room, or some salty men talk philosophy in a pub?
We won’t turn you down for these, but remember you’re competing with about ten manuscripts a month whose authors also try to rewrite Flann O’Brien/Charles Bukowski/James Joyce. Every writer is influenced by the greats, and this is really important in developing your own style, but what we’re looking for is writers who have created their own voice.
5. Does your list of influences only include men/women/books about cheese?
We won’t turn your manuscript down for this, but we find that when a writer can only list one kind of author, or one gender of author, that often indicates the writing won’t be up to scratch. Reading as much and as widely as you can is an essential part of being a great writer. The most interesting manuscripts are always sent by well-read authors.
6. Does your cover letter begin ‘Dear Sirs’?
Don’t do that. Unless you’re the next Anne Enright, in which case talk to us however you like. (Though it’s probably worth noting that the Anne Enrights of the world never do this.)
7. Are you sending your submission to the right address?
We sometimes get submissions to our newsletter address; through social media messages; through friends. We love tenacity, but please just send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to read your work so there’s really no need to find out our home addresses/follow us to the gym or leave your manuscript for us in pubs. But if you see us, come say hi.