I know you are in a rush to set the literary world on fire with your new novel, but my advice is to slow down just a bit. Don’t hit “send” the minute you type “The End,” gleefully emailing your baby off to agents and editors certain that they will be star struck by your brilliance and immediately offer you a three-book deal. Well, most of us know that isn’t the way things work anyway, but I think it’s important to remind authors every now and then what editors and agents are really looking for: a reason to say “no.”
As a small press, Simon & Fig is looking to take chances with new authors, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proofread and beta read your manuscript before sending it over. It can be hard to see the brilliance in a book with a great premise, a strong voice, and well-developed characters if the pages are filled with typos, formatting errors, or giant plot holes. I really do want to root for your heroine and fall in love with the hero, but if I’m constantly stumbling over misused commas and spelling errors, it can be hard to see past the simple grammatical and punctuation goofs to want to keep reading. Indeed, if there is a typo on your first page, your manuscript is likely to go unread by those bigger agents and publishers. I’m not that hard on authors, but it does make things tough when it comes time to decide just how much effort I want to put into reading a manuscript.
May I suggest letting your freshly minted first or even tenth draft breathe for a while before even considering contacting an agent or editor to read it. Give it a solid week at a minimum, and then re-read it yourself. You’ll be amazed at the amount of errors you find. Then, let it rest another week and read it again. Or, better yet, have a fellow author read it for you. Not your mom or your best friends (unless they’re also writers), but someone who understands where the flaws may be hiding and can help point them out. And then, yep, read it again. Only after it has had at least three read-throughs should you sit down to write a query letter. Don’t give that agent or editor an easy “no” with a manuscript full of minor mistakes that could have been fixed with a solid proofread. A few typos always escape us, even those massive bestsellers are not immune to them. But, when you’re a little guy looking for a break, you have all the more reason to make sure your manuscript is as clean as possible. Because, honestly, I’m not looking for a reason to say “no.” I really want to fall in love with your manuscript. So don’t let a typo come between what could be a great love affiar!