Is It Ready to Submit?

You’ve poured out your soul. You’ve written your heart out. You’ve struggled and sweated over how to say what you want to say. You’ve paced the floor, clicked your heels, and now you think maybe it’s ready to submit. But how do you know?

Good question.

“Good question” usually means you’re going to get a lousy answer. I won’t promise you anything different now, because it can be so hard to know if your article, story, proposal, or manuscript is ready to send to agents and editors who, if there’s any justice in this world, will be honored to read it and eager to publish it, making you rich and famous in less time than it takes to change your typewriter ribbon.

Sorry. Got a little carried away. And nostalgic.

Seriously, though, writing and publishing is such a subjective business that it’s hard to know if your piece is ready to submit to someone, somewhere. After all, you want to make a good—even great—first impression, right? You want to ensure the best possible chance for success. And fame. And—sorry, started to get carried away again. Still, though I can’t offer you “Ten Surefire Ways to Know Your Piece Is Ready to Submit,” I can suggest “Ten Surefire Ways to Know Your Piece Isn’t Ready to Submit.” That’s almost as good, right? So, here goes:

  1. If you haven’t prayed (and listened) for wisdom and guidance, it’s not ready to submit.
  2. If you just wrote it today, it’s not ready to submit.
  3. If you haven’t written (and “field-tested”) a gripping hook, it’s not ready to submit.
  4. If you haven’t spell-checked it, it’s not ready to submit.
  5. If you haven’t read it aloud, it’s not ready to submit.
  6. If you haven’t proofread it, it’s not ready to submit.
  7. If no one else’s eyes have seen it (to edit or critique), it’s not ready to submit.
  8. If you haven’t made sure the person(s) you’re sending it to actually represents or publishes in your genre, it’s not ready to submit.
  9. If you haven’t researched the genre, it’s not ready to submit.
  10. If you can’t say what other successful books are like yours and how yours is better or different, it’s not ready to submit.

Much of that list is serviceable for both short form (articles, short stories, etc.) and long form (book proposals and manuscripts). I think so, anyway. Though, to be fair, what do I know? I just dashed this off today and sent it off without even spell-checking or proofreading. (I’m really hoping no one can tell.)

How about you? What metric do you use to decide when something you’ve written is ready to submit for publication?

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