How Do I Know It Is Ready to Submit?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


I’m a 78-year-old psychotherapist in a psychiatric practice and have been doing some writing for patients over the years. My question is, “How do you know when an article or book possibility is developed and written well enough to send to an agent?”

As an agency, we don’t represent articles, so I’ll confine my remarks to books. The best way to see if your book is ready to be submitted is to write the book proposal. I wrote a series about this on our blog. Here is the link:

As you can see from filling out each category, you’ll tease out problems and find holes that might keep the book from selling to a publisher.

Of course, the best proposal has to be backed up with a fantastic manuscript, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

To develop the book, write it. The. Entire. Book. Authors who gain contracts based on a blurb or even the possibility that they may write a book have a proven track record earned over years of writing extensive proposals and complete manuscripts on speculation. Your goal is to become one of these writers. But until then, write the book.

Your turn:

How far along are you on your current WIP?

What is your favorite part of writing?

How many books have you written? Have you sold any yet?

What is your favorite part of writing a proposal? Your least favorite?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”

18 Responses to How Do I Know It Is Ready to Submit?

  1. Audra Sanlyn October 8, 2020 at 3:58 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! It can be difficult to know when a manuscript is ready. I’m currently working with an amazing editor and we’re nearing the finish line with my women’s fiction novel.
    My favorite part of writing is when I have the title and Chapter 1 with the cursor blinking beneath it. I love the freedom of being in the place where your story could go anywhere and become anything.
    This is my first full length novel. I previously wrote a novella and a non-fiction biography/local history. The non-fiction was a self-published family project, so it has mainly sold to family and friends through our local bookstores.
    My least favorite part of writing a proposal is formatting and making sure I’ve included everything and my favorite part is clicking “send.”

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 8, 2020 at 5:23 am #

    I hope this isn’t too far off-topic, but this topic gobsmacked me in metaphorical fashion this morning, Tamela; as it gets more difficut to breathe (and it’s now almost impossible to eat, thanks to new tumours), I find that when unsteady sleep comes for brief periods, dreams are a catalogue of sins.

    And I’m not quite sure I’m ready to sumbit the manuscript that is my soul.

    I’m not sure what to do with it;
    it still seems very flawed,
    but soon I will have to submit
    my soul unto my God.
    If I could, I would redact
    the things that make the nightmares come,
    but they remain, and they are fact,
    and they walk among
    the good that I have tried to build,
    these ghostly ghastly sins;
    at the end, will they have killed
    the New Life that begins
    when dying heart turns to the Christ;
    will I yet to hell be sacrificed?

    • DAMON J GRAY October 8, 2020 at 5:40 am #

      Grace, my brother. Nothing nightmarish awaits you. Let your doubts melt away like an ice chip on a sun-warmed sidewalk.

      Do not let your heart be troubled, Andrew. You trust in God; trust also in his Son. The house of Jesus’ Father has many rooms; if that were not so, Jesus would have told us otherwise. Jesus has gone there to prepare a place specifically for you, brother. And having gone to prepare that place for you he will come and receive you to be with him so that you also may be where he is. And brother, you know the way to the place where Jesus is!
      (John 14:1-4)

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 8, 2020 at 6:35 am #

        Damon, thank you for this. It was a rough, demon-haunted night, and your words are a balm.

        And I have learned a thing; the very worst of demons do not roar and gibber.

        They weep.

    • Christy October 8, 2020 at 11:15 am #

      Andrew, one of my favorite verses. Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

      No condemnation. Because of Jesus.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 8, 2020 at 4:36 pm #

        Christy, thank you so much; these are fell days, measured against a pat which was not that which it might have been.

    • Terri October 8, 2020 at 2:16 pm #

      Saying a prayer for you right now, Andrew. I just went through the passing of my father. He had not followed Christ for most of His life, but he prayed that prayer of salvation once and we talked many times since about Truth. We had days to pray with him and over him before his passing. In the end, It is all about God’s grace anyway. I praise the Lord that he took my father to be with him. And I believe He offers grace to you and me as well. By His grace we are saved…NOT of ourselves. Thank the Lord.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 8, 2020 at 4:39 pm #

        Terri, first and foremost, I’m sorry about the passing of your father. Death is so hard; even though we know they’re safe with Jesus, in our hearts we want them safe with US.

        And yes, without grace we are so utterly lost…and with grace, we are solidly saved.

  3. Barbara Harper October 8, 2020 at 6:32 am #

    I’ve written the first draft on my current WIP and am editing and revising. Some parts have been rewritten multiple times. Some still need a lot of work. This is my first book, but I have written a number of articles, newsletters, and blog posts. I have not written a book proposal yet, so I guess I’ll see what’s my favorite part when I get there. 🙂 But I think it will be the synopsis: trying to convey the vision of the book in a few short sentences.

    My favorite part of writing is when the words just flow so fast I almost can’t keep up with them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes I have to pry thoughts out with a crowbar. And they look a mess. But when I leave them for a bit and come back, then I can make something of them. I like the saying that you can’t edit a blank page, so getting anything out in print is helpful.

    I can empathize with this reader’s question. I tweak my writing every time I look at it. It’s hard to know when revising is done and I’m just nervously fiddling. A deadline helps. So does asking others’ opinions. But at some point we just have to stop and press the “send” button.

  4. Jeanne Takenaka October 8, 2020 at 6:58 am #

    I appreciate this post. I think my favorite part of writing is the rough/fast draft. Watching the story come to life on the page makes my heart happy!

    I am currently brainstorming out my next story. I look forward to beginning the fast-drafting in a couple of weeks.

    I think my favorite part of preparing the proposal is the (wait for it) the synopsis. I always write one before I begin my rough draft,so when it’s time to craft the proposal, I tweak it to how the story actually turned out. My least favorite part is the back cover blurb! 🙂

  5. OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU October 8, 2020 at 9:42 am #

    1.On my current WIP, I have done 73,000 words.
    2.Writing the beginning of a novel is my favourite part.
    3.I have written 6 books. Might have sold up to 60.
    4.Best part of proposal – writing how many pages it is.
    5. Worst part of proposal – finding a similar story to compare with mine.

    Thanks for the post and God bless you.

  6. Abby Martin October 8, 2020 at 10:02 am #

    How far along are you on your current WIP?
    I am about 1/4 of the way through.

    What is your favorite part of writing?
    I would say, doing the first draft, because my mind is always rolling with ideas, and that’s the time when I am in the “zone” and both my hands while I type and the Holy Spirit’s voice on what to write are working together to shape my manuscript.

    How many books have you written? Have you sold any yet?
    I have written a novel, a non-fiction book. I have not sold any or published any of them yet. But “yet” there is the key, I will someday!

    What is your favorite part of writing a proposal? Your least favorite?
    I don’t have a least favorite, honestly, I enjoy writing the whole thing. My favorite part? Probably when I summarize my book into a couple sentences,

  7. Kristen Joy Wilks October 8, 2020 at 12:47 pm #

    I’ve written 18 manuscripts and sold 5 to a small publisher. I am currently outlining manuscript #19 for NaNoWriMo after just finishing up revision #5 on a middle grade manuscript that I hope to find a home for someday. I love writing the fast first draft, writing the script for the book trailer, and writing the proposal.

  8. Terri Thompson October 8, 2020 at 2:23 pm #

    I’m in the character creation phase of my next novel. This is one of the fun parts, watching as a character comes to life. It seems the main points of the book come almost accidentally as my character comes into focus. I like that.
    My favorite part of a proposal is clicking send. lol My lease favorite is probably finding similar books to mine. Why is it so hard to grasp in what way another story is similar?
    I’ve written five novels, self-published one, one is with a publisher now (ms requested/sent-waiting). I have not been diligent to query agents and publishers, a flaw I’m trying to remedy.

  9. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. October 10, 2020 at 6:16 am #

    HI Tamela:
    I’ve written six books. The first, my dissertation, was published five years ago. Since then, I’ve written two self-help books in my Suddenly Single series and three novels. I got close to being published with two interviews with the same publisher for the Suddenly Single series but am still holding onto hope for the eventual publishing. I know that God’s timing is perfect!

    My favorite part of writing is tension-release-tension-release. I love getting a character into horrible trouble and then letting her escape in the nick of time!

  10. Kathy October 13, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

    This was helpful, Tamela! thank you. My favorite part of writing nonfiction is the research!! But my least favorite part of proposals is doing research on similar books.

  11. Velma F. Stewart October 19, 2020 at 10:02 pm #

    Comparing my book to similar ones has been the hardest for me so far. I really don’t have the hang of how to do it.

    Other parts I haven’t even tried yet.

    My favorite? Should I have one?

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