Is Manuscript submission service a good value?
Manuscript submission service is branded, rebranded, and reworded in an effort to make it sound as if it’s a new idea. Regardless of how it’s branded, the industry name for this service is a ‘virtual slush-pile’.
A slush pile is the term that refers to a stack of queries waiting to be reviewed by an agent or editor. At any given moment, there could be hundreds or even thousands of queries waiting for a glance. Often, a glance is all queries will get.
I know someone that gets between 80,000 and 100,000 queries a year in his agency. Do the math. How much attention do you think an agent can give your query? You have about ten seconds to grab his or her attention or your query is destined for the rejection pile. This agent stated that on average, his office gets around 8,000 queries a month. About 600 or so will have their entire query read. Out of those 600, between one and three will be asked to send in three chapters. Out of the twelve – twenty a year that the agency deems worthy of a look, maybe one or two will be offered representation.
Not great odds. Hence is the challenge of the author. Your odds of being selected can be as low as 1 in 100,000. To say you have a 1% chance is a fantasy.
What does this have to do with manuscript submission service?
Well, stop for a moment and think about the numbers I just gave. If an agency is only getting half of these queries, they are already covered up with more work than they can handle. Do you think they will go to a manuscript submission service and ask for more? They have plenty of slush to pile through, so they certainly won’t have time to go to a virtual site and acquire more manuscripts demanding their time.
Having said this, inevitably I’ll get someone who knows someone who got their book published this way. There may indeed be someone who found a publisher through a manuscript submission service, but they are as elusive as Sasquatch.
Visit a few writers forums and read what real people are saying about these companies. The publishing companies making contact are self-pubbing companies trying to sell overpriced packages. I’m sure someone out there can find an exception, but the fact remains that few if any traditional publishing houses find authors through manuscript submission companies. Some sites change their names regularly as their reputation sours. Some of the author testimonials have even been shown to be fabricated. I’m not saying all slush pile companies fabricate testimonies, but you should never take the hype at face value.
Manuscript Submission Service Fees
Authors are charged various fees to post their manuscript. Some are roped into paying for gold star editing with the promise that they are listed as the most promising manuscripts. If an agency should decide to check out a site, they are required to pay a hefty fee in order to view manuscripts. Who do you think would pay a fee to view your manuscript? Only someone who thinks they can profit from you. This is usually a self publishing house seeking to sell you a pricey publishing package. And when you read the forums, this is exactly what writers are saying about their experiences.
There may indeed be exceptions to what I’m saying, but you are better off using your money to go to a writers conference and meeting an agent. They will invite you to send in a manuscript and then you’ll truly go to the top of the slush pile. When an agent invites you to send in a manuscript, you are guaranteed that they will at least look at your query. That alone takes you out of the 1 in 100,000 odds lottery.
As a rule, if a promise is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Every writer has to go through the pain of banging on countless doors, trying to find one that will open a crack. It can take years to break into the market. It’s the persistent who succeed. Anyone promising a secret way to bypass the system and get into the front of the line is trying to use your desperation to lure you into a scam. If there was a secret method, the industry would change to accommodate it – and we’d be back to the same odds.
Inform yourself about the publishing world. Network with others. Go to conferences. Don’t give your money to anyone promising a golden egg.
Some good conferences where you can meet agents are:
- Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference
- American Fiction Writers Conference
- Catch the Wave (Christian Authors Guild)
There are others, so do your research for conferences, and think twice before investing in a manuscript submission service.