11 Things Publishers Want

  • By Karetta Hubbard and Molly Best Tinsley
  • March 11, 2014

What are publishers looking for in a manuscript? Here, Karetta Hubbard and Molly Best Tinsley, co-founders of Fuze Publishing, share their tips for aspiring authors.

11 Things Publishers Want

The works which Fuze finds most compelling, say the publishers, have:

  • An intriguing story and engaging, multi-dimensional characters. Fuze’s novel Black Wings, by Kathleen Toomey Jabs, for example, features a courageous naval officer investigating the fatal crash of one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots who also happens to have been her Naval Academy roommate. The narrative develops the women’s past relationship, as well as solves the present mystery. 
  • Momentum; each chapter leaves the reader wondering, “What happens next?” In Satan’s Chamber, Fuze’s debut novel, written by Tinsley and Hubbard, junior CIA officer Tory Pierce lands an assignment to Khartoum, determined to find out what really happened to her father, who disappeared there. From the minute she arrives, nothing is as it seems. Then she begins to uncover the pieces of a horrific plan. 
  • Strong, authoritative writing. Sarah Pleydell’s lyrical coming-of-age novel, Cologne, published in 2012, takes readers to England in 1960. With depth and elegance, the narrative documents the collision between war-torn history and the innocence of childhood. 
  • Rich, sensory texture. James Sulzer’s recently released novel, The Voice at the Door, breathes vibrant life into the iconic Emily Dickinson. The sensory facts drawn from her letters and poems become a rich tapestry that explains the three great mysteries surrounding her life: her agonized love poetry, her partial blindness, and her subsequent withdrawal from the world. 
  • Convincing portrayals and bridging of cultural conflict between societies, generations, genders, or institutions. Leaving Tuscaloosa, by Walter Bennett, is set in Alabama during the sultry summer of 1962. In it, two estranged young men, one white, one black, are propelled along separate tracks that converge in a fiery climax. Despite great loss, trust springs up among those who remain.
  • The ability to engage and entertain, while also raising cross-cultural awareness. The Pepperoni Palm Tree, by father-son team Aidan and Jason Meath, introduces children to the challenges of tolerance and being true to themselves. 

Based on the submissions they’ve been asked to consider, Tinsley and Hubbard share these five secrets for crafting a narrative a publisher can’t refuse:

  • Check your point of entry. Have you begun with a bang, a disturbance to a pattern, a first?
  • Exposition is highly overrated. Don’t bog your story down trying to weave in background. Keep that information implicit; let readers pick it up on the fly.
  • Make sure your protagonist has at least one clear flaw that you can name. It should drive her actions, shape her arc, and provide her with something to change.     
  • Give your characters bodies!
  • Make cuts. With your final draft, you are no longer writing for yourself, but for a reader. Be willing to cut your favorite passage(s) and expand others to strengthen the tension and impact of your story.

In 2009, Karetta Hubbard and Molly Tinsley, two successful career women, merged their talents and embarked on a journey to discover and publish unknown, overlooked authors. They founded Fuze Publishing, determined to ignite the publishing world with examples of propulsive narratives that not only entertain, but also cross cultures and have the power to educate and change minds. Just as writers hope to craft the next Great American Novel, the Fuze mission became to single out worthy manuscripts among the many being generated. Find more writing tips on Fuze’s website under “Muze Taps.” And click here to sign up for Fuze’s free weekly newsletter.

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