Last Wednesday, my agent sent out a new picture book manuscript to publishers. It’s one of the steps along the way, a step I find exciting because the story is out there, but all options are still open.

Prior to submitting, I celebrated having a manuscript that we felt was ready to submit. It’s a short one—about 250 words—but we went back and forth with it six or seven times. Each time I was sure we couldn’t possibly make it better and then my agent would have an idea and I’d run with it or I’d have an idea and give it a try and to our delight it really was better than before.

That’s when I had that Question, just before we decided it was good to go: Should we keep going? What if we come up with another idea that makes it even better? What if? What if? What if?

The Endless Revision Trap

I’m sure we probably could have gone a few more rounds and it may have gotten better; but how much better is hard to say. At some point it gets to diminishing returns. At some point we have to say: Enough. It’s as good as it can be right now. Or even: It’s good. Will a small change really make or break it in terms of an acceptance? Probably not. So how do we know it’s ready?

The Unscience Science of Manuscript Readiness

I’ve talked in the past about some steps to take that can help us know when a manuscript is ready. In fact, one of the videos I included in my Find a Publisher launch is about that very thing. I follow a number of things including:

  • reading similar books as mentor texts and applying anything I learn
  • getting feedback
  • incorporating feedback
  • Reviewing word choices
  • …you get the idea

There’s really no science to it; after I follow my guidelines, I follow my gut.

Is My Manuscript Ready?

My gut usually knows.

There have been times when I just don’t think I can look at it one more time and just want it off and away. This “I’m sick of it” feeling can actually be a decent indicator…for two things. Either it really is ready to go or I no longer have the perspective I need to make a decision.

How do I know which one? It’s back to the gut. If I give myself a little time to be quiet and consider, I usually know whether it’s really ready to go out or if I just need a break from it. Go, gut!

What inner or outer guidance do you follow to determine when your manuscript is ready to submit?