Manuscript Submission Services

I always get questions about manuscript submission services like Authorlink or Writer’s Edge or Christian Manuscript Submissions. (Also known as manuscript display websites.) These are services that show your writing to agents and editors through a website and/or monthly report that displays your logline, synopsis, and a sample of your manuscript. Most of these services charge fees of around $100 for the listing.

Everyone wants to know if they’re legitimate, if they’re worth the money, if they have any track record of success. Most of all, writers want to know if editors really look at these listings.

First, I believe some publishers have someone on staff, usually an editorial assistant, who checks those listings occasionally. It’s just like another slush pile. And I’ve been told that a few people have actually gotten book deals through those services.

But let’s be real. It seems like all we ever talk about in publishing circles is the massive volume of submissions we all receive, all the time. Why in the world would anyone have the time or need to go searching for more submissons? In my opinion (and this isn’t based on empirical evidence, it’s just what I think) every reputable, commercial publisher that pays decent advances and royalties has many more good submissions than they can handle; they don’t need to go looking for more. They say “no” to really strong projects all the time.

In addition, the part nobody ever says out loud is that most people assume that the projects listed with those services are probably inferior to the projects being represented by agents (and this assumption will be correct some of the time). If they’re already saying no to books that are above the 95th percentile, why would they want to go searching through slush?

Now, there are many smaller commercial publishers, as well as vanity and subsidy presses, who scan the manuscript submission sites to find product. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the majority of people who list their manuscripts with those services either never hear from anyone, or they hear from a self-publisher or subsidy publisher.

A few people, apparently, have actually received book deals with major, commercial, royalty paying publishers through their listing on these sites. I’ve never met one nor heard of any specific examples, but that’s what I’m told.

Should you sign up? Well, if the hundred bucks is insignificant to you, and you’ve tried to get an agent without success, it couldn’t hurt. It’s not much to gamble, and if you get a book deal out of it, then it will have been worth it.

But my advice would be to use your hundred bucks for something more productive. Put it towards a writers’ conference, or a writing workshop, or a professional evaluation by a reputable editor. Buy a few more writing books, or some good novels. Ski Vail for a day. Take your family to dinner. Something more fun and with a better payoff.

I guess I’m biased, but when I was an in-house editor, I was overwhelmed with submissions. My bosses told me I was free to scan those websites for good books and I kind of laughed and wondered what they were smoking.

For a more detailed and perhaps more balanced assessment of manuscript display websites, see this advice on Writer Beware. And if you have any personal insight and/or experience to add, please let us know!

Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

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  • The Things We Carried

    >Thanks for answering a question I have had on my mind!

  • Katie

    >When I wrote my first book (four years ago now) – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Literally. I knew nothing about the publishing world. I thought I’d write this awesome book (of course it would be awesome, right?) and then send it to a publisher and see it on the book shelves next year or something. Okay – maybe I wasn’t that naive. But I seriously didn’t have a clue how complicated the publishing world could be. I found the Christian manuscript submission sight and instead of personally querying agents/editors, I posted my story on the website. $100 and 6 months later, I had an Inbox filled with subsidy publishers asking if I’d like to share the cost. Nothing I was interested in. I agree with Rachelle – spend the money on something better. Like a paid critique. I did that and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve grown since.

  • Timothy Fish

    >I looked at this a couple of years ago (Finding New Authors). At the time, my thinking was that it made no since to pay $100 to submit a manuscript to a website that might not produce any kind of result when I could take that same $100 and get a book in print. What I found interesting at the time, and still do, was the credence publishers like Harvest House Publishers and Thomas Nelson gave the service, even though the Thomas Nelson statement implies they don’t actually use the service. It has led me to believe that the real use of the service is to give publishers a way to ignore new authors while appearing to be helpful.

  • Richard Mabry

    >When I was young and foolish (as opposed to mature and foolish now) I submitted to one of these services. I received one invitation for a full ms. from a publisher that had already passed once on that book. I submitted, and they passed…again.
    Oh, and I did get a bunch of emails offering publication of my book–by self-publishers.
    My take on these sites is to spend the money on something useful, like chocolates to bribe an agent or editor. (Maybe something stronger than chocolate–the “security” word verification that came up for this comment was “Stoli.” Think that’s significant?”)

  • Krista Phillips

    >I agree with Timothy, it was a little…misleading? Well, maybe not as bad as that intones, but it gives the service more credit than due when a good many Christian publishing house references submitting there on their website. When I was a very green author, I did fork out the $100 because… well the publisher’s website told me to do it! I heard from someone I think twice, and both were from less than reputable publishing houses, and thankfully I wasn’t SO green as to have considered them.

    My hundred bucks now stays securely in my bank account:-)

  • lynnrush

    >I agree. Spend the money on learning the craft. Conferences, books, editors, or even joining an organization like ACFW or RWA.

    That’s how a writer grows, I think.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Teri D. Smith

    >I did look at their web site a few years ago since one of the main publishers reccommended it. But spent the $100 bucks instead on craft books which I refer to constantly.

    But thanks for confirming this for us, Rachelle.

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Thank you.

  • LurkerMonkey

    >My rule of thumb has always been pretty simple: I won’t pay anybody for anything to do with an unpublished manuscript. So that means no submission services, no paid critiques, no paying of literary agents, no PODing …

    I think since then (and since I’ve become an editor for hire — ha ha), I’ve softened my stance a little bit on paying for critiques. But even then, it really depends on the editor. A lot. And I think a good critique group of professionals is still a better way to go.

    Occasionally, I find myself on the phone with a prospective author who wants to hire someone to edit/rewrite/whatever their book. More often than not, I find myself discouraging them from hiring me or anybody else until they’ve taken some basic steps on their own. There are just too many ways to lose money in the pursuit of your dream, which is a crying shame. The way I see it, a professional editor is there for the final push, the last 10%. But the heavy lifting is all us.

  • Daniel Mount

    >I got a book deal with a mid-size Christian publisher (AMG) through Writer’s Edge—indirectly.

    I figured out that none of the publishers I was interested in would take cold submissions, so I used Writer’s Edge as an excuse to make follow-up calls to publishers. “Did you notice my listing in Writer’s Edge?”

    Now AMG’s editor said he thought he might have noticed it, we got to talking, and he asked me to send a proposal. But I couldn’t have cold-called for a proposal, since they’re not interested in that.

  • Carrie Turansky

    >HI Rachel,
    I have a friend who posted her proposal with one of those manuscript services and it was accepted by Moody. She went on to win the Christy Award in the YA a couple years ago, and also the nomination in the First Book category. The author is Cathy Gohlke, and the book, which I LOVED was, William Henry is a Fine Name. She is a very gifted writer. Her second novel which is a sequel to William Henry, also with Moody, I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, was nominated for the YA Christy this year. So it does happen. But she is the only author I know personally who received a contract that way.

  • Jill

    >I sent a manuscript to Writer’s Edge years ago when I had “finished” my first complete novel. I was thrilled to hear from them that my book was publishable and would be on their list. My husband and I went out to dinner and celebrated and then I sat back and waited for the contract offers to pour in.
    Fortunately, I still worked on craft and discovered just how little I knew about writing fiction. I continued to work and hone my book into something that truly is publishable. Now I look at what was essentially my first draft and laugh at the thought that anyone could finish it–yet alone publish it! Using the $100 to learn about craft is a much better investment.

  • Dee S.

    >Amen, Rachelle. Use the money for something else. :) And I’m excited about Christa’s book.

  • Cindy

    >I used the Writer’s Edge service a few years. After they listed my manuscript, I heard from a few subsidy publishers,self-publishing companies that wanted a small fee for publishing, etc. I did hear back from the publishing company I signed with, however, and while they are not a huge traditional publisher, they don’t charge to publish, do offer royalties and I did some research, hearing good things about them. Writer’s Edge offers a list of publishers their reports appear to, so you could always check with that list and then go directly to the publisher’s website to see if they recommend using a manuscript service (I know a few of the bigger names do–after all that research). Hope this helps someone if they are torn on the decision.

  • Jeanette Levellie

    >Thanks for the heads up and the wise advice, Rachelle.
    At a writers’ conference I attended a few months ago, one of the questions for the faculty panel was, “Do these services work? Do you know of anyone who’s had a book published as a result of them?”
    Every one of the two dozen or so faculty members said “no.”
    Hmmm…
    Jeanette

  • Anna Hartley

    >Thanks for the advice! I looked at some of those websites, too, but I also thought about the fact that agents and editors have enough on their plate without having to sludge through posts.

    You look beautiful in the new photo, by the way!

  • Laurie

    >Thanks, Rachelle! Great post. I always learn something useful here.

  • Lell

    >I used Writer’s Edge last year to review a non-fiction manuscript. I found the critique to be professional and truthful. The reviewer gave me good advise for writing improvements and also told me, since I do not have a built-in audience or recognizable name, that I had something on the order of 20% chance for it to be published. Miracles do happen, but I think that the $100 was worth it, just for me to set realistic expectations.

  • Janet

    >My problem is that I saw publishing house sites (invariably Christian) recommending these services and saying that they checked them. I found that genuinely disturbing. Why is it that the Christian publishing industry seems to have more questionable activities going on – agents who sell editing services, for instance – than the secular?

    So I reluctantly put submitting to those services on my To Do list as Plan F. Fortunately Plan A worked and I never had to do it.

    It still bothers me that this is going on though. It seems like exploitation of desperate writers and I’m leery of some publishing houses because of it, “Christian” or no.

    • http://www.madetomatter.org Randy Kilgore

      I’m one of those writers who did get a contract with a serious, royalty-paying publisher, and I’ve had a terrific experience as a result of it. Not only that, but I had multiple expressions of interest from credible old-line Christian publishers. Christianmanuscriptsubmissions is a serious, viable route for new writers to consider, and I know with certainty that more than a few publishers have employees assigned to monitor the new material put up on these sites. I heartily commend at least this submission service, and I am not receiving pay or compensation for doing so, nor are they even aware of my endorsement. Hope this helps some of you not to bypass what I believe is a reasonable additional tool to market your manuscripts. (What I have noticed, however, is that agents tend to ignore such sights, so new writers aren’t likely to find agents this way, which is a shame, I think…perhaps agents think it threatens their efforts. That’s wrong thinking if it’s occuring, as nothing replaces a good agent. Though I don’t have an agent, every writer needs two things: a candid editor and a love-your-writing agent.

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  • Yves

    Thanks for the great advice. Do you think it’s a good idea to send my unpublished manuscript to thttp://www.christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com since they no longer charges for reviews? Thanks.

  • http://www.elijahclark.com Elijah

    Thanks, now i wont have to waste my time or money. Will use funds to buy more copies to handout.

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