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.