A corridor of mostly grey doors, one of which is red.

Despite appearances, this is not a blog with a ‘fifty shades’ theme. The major source of sauce round here is gravy. But don’t click away just yet.

We have now perfected our new process infographic so you can see at a glance how we get you from submission to publication. Everyone in the Fantastic Books family has had to get through that first crucial stage, so if you want to know how to get a publisher on the hook from the first contact, then you may wish to read on.

The first thing to say is that everyone at Fantastic Books is here to get great writing out there. When an extract of someone’s imagination lands on the desk in the editorial dungeons, nobody ever puts their hands behind their heads, kicks back on a metaphorical spinny chair and says ‘Just so you know, I’m going to think this is terrible. Convince me’. The editors are a fearsome troupe but submissions are their lifeblood and they relish every one. Everything is looked at with a fair and equal optimism. And besides, no one talks to themselves at Fantastic Books. Honest.

So much do Fantastic Books want you to succeed, that the team have created some really amazing resources to give prospective authors a leg up. And because they are available to everyone, you are free to use them and then take your genius to another (inferior) publisher. It’s your choice. We just want more fantastic books in the world.

Having said all that, it is a fact of life that not all submissions are created equal. But if a submission is not quite ready to prompt a request for the full manuscript, our team will always do their damndest to return it to the author with their expert advice on how to make it better.

So, how to get the best chance at that elusive ‘show me more’? Well, putting the integrity of the blog above my own safety, I entered the lair of the hungry FBP editors and asked them for a quick run-down of their top practical tips for a successful submission. Here is what I escaped with:

Make your précis precise. 

Every submission requires a detailed synopsis of the book. Although this will not ultimately be before a reader, the synopsis is extremely important. The extract is usually only 3000 words so the synopsis allows the editor to get a feel for how your story will hang together and how your style will work throughout the book. A woolly synopsis will make an editor doubt the fluency of your plot and whether you can handle telling a lengthy story.

Top tip
: Get a trusted friend to read your synopsis and then tell you what your book is about. If they understand it and hit all the important plot notes in the re-telling, you’ll be on the right track. Make sure they are a really good friend though, as you will need someone brave enough to be honest with you if your synopsis does not make them want to read your book.

Look at your first chapter as if for the first time.

Once you have finally finished your manuscript, you might think fondly of your opening chapter(s) as born in a halcyon time of excitement and fresh writing. They may well be, but they are also where you are trying to get into a groove whilst wrangling the myriad ideas and images which you’ve been bursting to get down onto the page. Very often, our editors report, the first few pages of the novel fall down on lengthy sentences and over-description. In particular, your first paragraph will be critical. Never make it too wordy, never too complex. Try not to make a reader of fiction work too hard right at the beginning. Literary masochism is another blog altogether. A general rule is to ease a reader in gently.

Top tip
: Read your extract aloud. This should help you spot any difficult patches.

Tell us more about yourself.

Give your prospective publisher some background. Even if you ultimately want to be a shadowy figure behind the pages, it helps enormously to have the full picture when we produce, champion and promote your amazing work.

Top Tip
: Imagine you are writing the short bio for the inside of your dust jacket.

Finally, read the small print.

‘Keep to the submission guidelines!’ plead our over-worked word polishers. This is not simple bureaucracy. Every publisher will have their own set of rules. FBP are a very amenable bunch but we get so many submissions that in the interest of fairness, efficiency and the editors’ sanity, we have to ask that things like word-count and procedure are followed.

Top tip
: See above (I don’t want to go over word-count).

Good luck!