With the recent influx of authors submitting their manuscripts to Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) for publication, the editorial team has developed guidelines for aspiring authors to follow to ensure that their submission packages are successful, and their manuscript moves on to publication
“It’s definitely inspiring to see that a positive outcome of the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 have resulted in a marked increase in the number of submissions we have received lately. This indicates that people are focusing on nurturing their literary talents in their spare time at home,” said Jameela Sultan Al Mass Al Jassem, Arabic Editor at HBKU Press.
HBKU Press receives submissions across a wide range of genres, including fiction and non-fiction titles, for children, young adults and adults. In addition, HBKU Press’ academic department receives peer-reviewed, scholarly content and research in the natural and social sciences that it publishes as academic books, open-access reference materials, and conference proceedings.
Though the criteria for submissions can be found on the HBKU Press website (www.hbkupress.com), with this flood of submissions, there are certain factors that make some submission packages stand out from the crowd.
The Synopsis – Get the editorial committee interested: With most publishing houses, the sheer volume of submissions means that not every submission is considered at length. That’s why the synopsis is key to getting the editorial committee to read your full manuscript. An OK synopsis will simply state what your book is about; a great synopsis will read much like the back cover of a book. It should inspire emotions: intrigue, sorrow, nostalgia, horror, laughter; whatever it is that your work is truly about. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words at best and should effectively explain the premise, give insight to the key characters and/or themes, and leave an editor wanting to know more.
The Author Biography
1. Who are you? One of the biggest publishing faux pas when it comes to providing a proper author biography is when potential authors send in their CV instead. Unless you’ve already developed a career as a published author or are a professional in the topic of your submission, it really doesn’t matter where you worked 5, 10 or 15 years ago. And even if you are, you can send in your CV but not without a proper written biography: this is another opportunity to show your personality and flair for writing. Don’t just tell the editorial team what you’ve done, show them your passion, tell them about your literary goals, and mention anything that will help market you and your book. Do you have 1,000,000 Instagram followers? Do you have a webpage? Are you a pioneer in sports, the arts, music, the sciences, et cetera? Are you listed as an editor, researcher, or part of a peer-review team that has already published a number of works in your chosen field? These are all important facts to share with the publisher. And if none of the above apply to you, don’t worry – a short biography will suffice. Your biography helps the publisher get to know who you are while providing another sample of your writing that highlights your passions. Establishing your author persona is one of the foundational building blocks of starting a career in publishing.
2. Why do you write? What is your motivation for writing? What do you hope to accomplish through your work? Is it a personal passion or do you have goals to persuade, inform, or entertain? These are all questions to answer in your author biography. Knowing your motivation gives the editorial team insight into your manuscript before even reading it. If your motivation is compelling, it can even be one of the deciding factors in pursuing your manuscript further.
3. Know your audience. This point is important for two key reasons. First of all, having a key audience or age demographic in mind while writing is another way to advocate your manuscript’s suitability for publication. Are you writing for a niche market? Are you writing for a general audience? In both cases, tell us what sets your work apart, what is going to make your book the next big hit.
The second reason it’s important to know your audience relates to the publisher to whom you are pitching. You need to make sure that your intended publisher has experience in the genre/audience related to your work. You’ll most likely get rejected if you submit your romance novel to a publisher with a portfolio of academic textbooks, for example; or if you submit an educational children’s book to a vanity publisher. Knowing what you are pitching and to whom only add to your criteria for success.
The Manuscript: The best manuscripts are not first drafts. They’ve gone through multiple rounds of editing and review before they can even be considered ready to submit. Make sure another person – a colleague, a mentor, a family member, or friend – has taken a look at your work before you submit it. They don’t have to be professional editors but getting feedback from an actual reader can help strengthen your work and make your writing stronger. A second pair of eyes can also ensure that there are no glaring spelling and grammar mistakes either.
Authors sometimes make the mistake of thinking that a publisher’s job is to take your first draft and make it final, which is not the case. A manuscript does not have to be perfect, but it needs a strong foundation as a starting point if it is going to be chosen for publication.
“At HBKU Press, our aim as a publisher differs to that of other publishing houses, both locally and globally. We are committed to promoting literacy as the key to knowledge development and human potential and as a means to participate fully in the community and wider society. What that means is that if you can show us potential through a strong submission package, even if an author’s manuscript isn’t quite ready to be published, our team is available to provide feedback and will sometimes work with the author to bring their level of writing to the standard it needs to be at to be published,” concludes Al Jassem.
HBKU Press launched its program in 2010 as a world-class publishing house founded on international best practices, excellence and innovation. HBKU Press strives to be a cornerstone of Qatar’s knowledge-based economy by providing a unique local and international platform for literature, literacy, scholarship, discovery and learning. HBKU Press aims to promote a love of reading and writing by helping to establish a vibrant scholarly and literary culture in Qatar and the Middle East.
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