I’m about to submit my nonfiction manuscript for the first time, and the experience is definitely shining a light on gaps in my knowledge. I’m very comfortable with the idea of my work being out in the world, even my nonfiction, so that isn’t the part that induces hesitation. It’s that this is unfamiliar territory for me.
I know that the manuscript is ready. Eyes have been over it, and frankly, I am done with it. I’ve aggressively submitted individual essays from it over the last couple of years, and have had success. Beyond that, I actually have a faint hope that even though the manuscript is weird, people other than editors I’m submitting it to will read it eventually, which is pretty cool.
My own experience as an editor has helped with the confidence part. I’ve been reading for literary journals for over a decade, but within the last couple of years I’ve had the honor of getting to read manuscripts for Sundress Publications. Getting to read so many unpublished manuscripts has definitely helped me get a feel for what is out there, and I’m ready to add my work to the pool. The quality is right.
Now this is where things get fuzzy. Some places need a query letter first. Some need the manuscript formatted in a specific way. What the heck does traditional manuscript formatting even look like? I researched this, but I’m still not confident. How do I format a table of contents? Do I need one? How will my cover letter be different? Blah.
Some of you reading this know that all of these questions have very simple answers. Hell, I know that these questions have simple answers. My anxiety is getting the better of me for now, though, making this entire process out to be scarier than it is. I mean, yes, this is a huge deal, but I don’t want to be the kind of person that lets huge deals crush them. I’d rather climb over them and be done, and know what to do without fear the next time. Once that happens, I’ll be open about it.
Give me essays or stories or poems and I’ll make you a tiered list of where to send them, what format to send them in, and who to address your letter to. That stuff I get, and it’s an area of comfort now. I want submitting my manuscript to feel the same way, but it’s such a larger creation that I don’t know if it can, really. I won’t lie, though—unfamiliar feels kind of good.
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