Why I Like Submitting an Unsolicited Manuscript
When writers look for places to submit their work, they often choose markets that request a query letter first. Submitting a query letter definitely has benefits for writers. It saves time and the effort of writing a piece, which is especially helpful if you don’t get positive feedback from the editor. If you do get a green light, you might also get better direction on how to write your story. Plus, most writing markets prefer a query letter, so it’s a practice that comes with lots of sales potential.
The problem is, not everyone likes drafting those query letters, including me. In fact, I actually prefer markets that accept unsolicited manuscripts. It may sound counterproductive, but submitting a completed story to an editor who didn't ask for it does have its perks—and, at times, can be the most practical way to submit.
The Pros of Submitting an Unsolicited Manuscript
Here's why I like to submit an unsolicited manuscript rather than a query:
The piece is done. When you submit a completed manuscript, you have a polished piece that’s ready for sale. Even if the market you submit to rejects your work, you still have a finished product to send elsewhere—right away.
You can save time. With the query method, you save time writing a piece that an editor doesn’t want. But writing a good query letter often requires as much effort as writing a good story. With a completed manuscript, you skip the query step entirely, thus saving precious writing time that you can devote to crafting a high-quality piece.
Rejection odds don’t change. Whether you’re submitting an unsolicited manuscript or a query letter—assuming you follow editorial guidelines—your chance of getting rejected remains the same.
You get to write your way. Submitting a completed manuscript is the best way to show an editor who you are as a writer—your style, tone, personality, ideas, and writing ability. Sometimes, a great idea needs the full story to impress an editor; submitting a completed manuscript can do just that.
Tips for Submitting an Unsolicited Manuscript
Of course, submitting an unsolicited manuscript is one thing; doing it right requires a few tips and tricks:
Edit well. An error-free manuscript has a much better chance of grabbing an editor’s attention and keeping her fixated on your piece than one full of typos and grammatical problems. Make sure you edit well and send in the best, most polished work product you can. It’ll make all the difference between moving past the first reader and landing permanently in the slush pile.
Follow guidelines to a T. If your word count is too high or low or you’re writing about a topic that doesn’t fit a publication’s theme or style, you’ll be out of luck before your story even gets read. Adhere to editorial guidelines to a T, and you’ll have a much better chance of finding a home for your story.
Don’t forget a cover letter. A cover letter is different than a query letter—lots less work but still important. Read up on writing a quality, brief cover letter, and be sure to include biographical and contact information.
Find several markets. If you’re going to take the time to write a full story, also take the time to research and find several markets for it. Don’t bank on just one publication for a home because you may end up with a huge letdown—and a story that sits on your desktop for good.
Five Markets That Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts
So where do you find markets that accept unsolicited manuscripts? Writer’s Market is a good place to start, but freelance writing sites and newsletters can supply you with all kinds of submission requests, many of which accept unsolicited manuscripts. Here are some markets to consider:
Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies.
Writing contests, like these, many of which are renewed yearly.
Blogs, your own and guest posts.
A local newspaper, especially for local interest stories.