What a curious term ‘submitting’ is, to describe the collaborative project of author, agent and publisher, as they come together with a common aim of preparing a book for the delight of the reading public. But submission is the stage I am now at in my writing journey.

In my previous books, published by Jessica Kingsley, there was no need for a go-between. With professional or academic works, like these were, an author makes a proposal to a publisher and then works with the editor allocated to them. The book is only written after the proposal has been accepted. I enjoyed my relationship with our editor, Lisa Clark, from beginning to end; I found her warm, supportive and responsive, and was delighted with the finished results. 

Now I’m seeking publication for a work of narrative non-fiction, my memoir/family history Stumbling stones: the Holocaust, my family and me.

If I were writing fiction, I should complete the book to the best of my ability, taking it through several revisions following developmental, line edits, and beta reading. Only then should I seek an agent, submitting a cover letter, synopsis and opening chapters. If an agent is interested, they will ask to see the full manuscript, and, one hopes, will offer to represent the book to publishers. I am advised that an author should always try to meet any prospective agent, to ensure that they both see the work in the same light; the first offer may not necessarily be the right ‘fit’.

Just imagine- all of these books went through this process before publication!

For non-fiction, the process of securing publication from a reputable independent publisher lies somewhere between these two extremes. I am still advised to seek representation from an agent, but the agent will want to have a hand in shaping such a work. I am not to perfect the book so that we can finalise its form together, in the light of their expertise in what will be publishable. Each agent has slightly different submission procedures, but they generally want to see a proposal, the author’s credentials for writing the book, the areas of evidence and research, a synopsis sometimes broken down into chapters, recent comparable titles in the genre, and some sample text.

As I am new to this field, I am keen to learn how to get the process right – hence my willingness to get stuck in and ‘submit’.  Embarking on a fresh learning curve is always a stimulating place for me!

What about you? Have you had similar learning curves to negotiate?


  1. This is going to be a fascinating journey for you Miriam, and (vicariously) for the rest of us as you report developments. (I hope you’ll keep us updated.)

    Submitting has always felt an uncomfortable word in a literary context. So many connotations. The author lays down before the publisher/agent and exposes their neck. Will the alpha beast bite?

    Good luck!

  2. I think the language has changed over time. Certainly on Twitter, people refer to sending off a submission package to acquire literary representation as ‘querying’ – the usage seems to come from America. Submitting more commonly refers to agents who are in the process of attracting a publisher for the work. But, whatever the word is – we know what you mean! It’s a tough getting noticed in the publishing industry but here at Pens Around the World, we’ll be your cheerleaders.

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