Time for some dirty truth and evil revelation: most publishers are not necessarily on the lookout for novels with tremendous literary depth! Sure, it's great if the novel has that in addition to being a hot property, but it's business, folks! Publishers are in it to make money, and if they can publish great literature as a side-effect, so much the better.
Now, in what I'm saying down below here, I'm not talking about the quality of your manuscript. We'll assume for the moment that your manuscript is golden, the kind that makes bored first readers let their coffee grow cold and allow their cigarettes to burn down to the filters, unattended, while devouring your prose.
However, publishers also look at many other things when you submit your manuscript, and here are eight of those areas. Don't despair if you can't nail down all eight—it's the rare author who can! But the more you can get, the better your chances of getting your first novel published.
1. Length. Does the length of the work match well with the typical length of a book of the same genre selling currently? When comparing the cost of printing to the possible financial rewards realized by selling the books, will things come out in the black or in the red? (We're assuming print publication, not ebook.)
2. Writing credits. Has the writer published in the genre before? Has the writer published stories in magazines and ezines to establish a track record? Or, is the writer a total novice and the submitted manuscript the only writing effort the writer can show?
3. Platform. Has the writer established name recognition in the genre in any way at all? Is he/she active in online discussion groups? Does he/she have a web page?
4. Genre knowledge. Does the writer keep abreast of market news and the writing community of the selected genre? Does the writer know the authors who lead the genre, the ones who are beginning their careers? In short, does the writer understand the competition?
5. Marketing. How will the writer draw buyers to the publishing house? Does the writer have a marketing outline to present to the publisher? Does the writer have a unique angle for marketing? Is the writer creative and able to think outside the box in regard to marketing schemes?
6. Writer's well-defined audience. Can the writer describe in detail who they think will be willing to spend money to have the author's Book in their hands? Has the writer made contacts within the genre community? Is the he/she a member of any professional writers' groups that might help with networking?
7. Practical logistics. Does the writer have the physical ability and transportation to do book signings, readings, or other engagements? Does the writer have front-of-room presence? Is the writer willing to take his or her own time to market and promote the book?
8. Business acumen. Does the writer understand (at least somewhat) the business end of publishing? Does the writer understand their responsibility and the need to produce revenue for the publishing house as well as for their own pocket? Does the writer have a realistic grasp of what can be accomplished?
I know, these sound terrible and discouraging. But it's a very competitive environment out there, and the more you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd, make yourself look like less of a risk and more of an asset, the better off you will be and the better your chance will be to get that publishing contract in your hands!