6 Tips for Submitting Sample Chapters to Publishers

Before you submit your sample chapters to publishers, read my tips – they’ll help you succeed (they certainly couldn’t hurt!). I rounded up these tips because my agent recently told me that a publisher wants three sample chapters of See Jane Soar. I want these chapters to hook me a book contract! So, here I learn…

“All good writing is built one good line at a time,” said Kate Braverman. “You build a novel the same way you do a pyramid. One word, one stone at a time, underneath a full moon while the fingers bleed.”

Whether you’re building a pyramid or three irresistible sample chapters, you need to create one sentence at a time. Each sentence has to be as perfect as you can make it; you know you’re done with one sentence when you keep inserting and deleting the same comma, over and over.

When You’re Submitting Sample Chapters…

1. Include your original query letter. This tip for submitting sample chapters to publishers is from literary agent Nathan Bransford. “When you e-mail your partial…include your original query at the bottom of the e-mail,” he says. “Otherwise, when I sit down to read your partial a week to two weeks later I have to go hunting through my files to find your original e-mail to refresh my memory, and even though I keep them in one place sometimes they’re hard to find, and it takes forever, and makes me Mr. Cranky McCrankyagent, and I’d rather be in a good mood when I’m reading your partial.”

2. Add a paragraph of new info. I submitted my query letter to this publisher about a year ago, and my writing career has grown since then. So, these three sample chapters will include an update on my career (eg, my newest writing credits, blog statistics, participation as a presenter in writing conferences, etc).

3. Free your writer’s voice. Several publishers have asked me to submit sample chapters based on my query letters, but none offered me a book contract. I believe it’s because my writer’s voice wasn’t strong enough — I was intimidated, anxious, and fearful that the publisher wouldn’t offer a book contract. That affected my writing, which affected my chances of getting published.

4. Edit for technique and voice separately. If you’re at the point that an agent, editor, or publisher has requested sample chapters, you may already know this writing tip: Wear two different editor’s hats when you’re polishing your writing. Focus on literary techniques one day, and your voice the next day. Make sure your writing is grammatically and in all other ways tight…and then make sure that your writing has pizzazz! Read How to Make Your Writing Edgy and Quirky for more ways to jazz up your prose.

5. Send the sample chapters in on time. “Make sure you send the chapters on time – when they expect it,” says Elaine Burroughs, of the Writer’s Canvas. “Polish it, definitely, but be on time.” In my experience, publishers rarely give a deadline for sample chapters – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s probably best to send your sample chapters as quickly as you can, else you run the risk of the publisher losing interest or completely forgetting about the request. But — don’t send your chapters before they’re cooked!

6. Don’t send more chapters than they request. “Provide exactly what they ask for, no more and no less,” suggest Iain Broome from Write for Your Life. “Don’t sneak an extra chapter in – it won’t go down well!” However, if the publisher or agent requests 30 pages and your book has a natural break at 32 pages, then go ahead and submit 32 pages, says Bransford.

Where to Submit Your Sample Chapters

articles to write for magazinesWriter’s Market Deluxe Edition 2017: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published is the best way to find publishers and writing markets for your books, novels, and magazine articles. This edition includes all-new material devoted to the business and promotion of freelance and other types of writing.

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This book also teaches writers important things such as how to build relationships in the publishing business, use video to promote your work, and remove obstacles from your path to freelance writing success.

If you have any questions or thoughts on these tips for submitting sample chapters to publishers, you’re welcome below. I can’t offer specific advice, but you may find it helpful to share your comments. Writing can help you figure out what you need to do and where you need to take your book.


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13 thoughts on “6 Tips for Submitting Sample Chapters to Publishers

  • Laurie Post author

    Hi Jordan,

    When you read the publisher’s guidelines – or the literary agent’s tips on how to submit manuscripts – what did they tell you to do?

    Publishers, agents, and editors have different ideas on the “best way to submit sample chapters.” Your best bet is to know who you’re sending your submission to, and follow their guidelines.

    Above all, be professional. Show you are a “serious” writer by reading their manuscript submission guidelines and following their directions. This makes it easier for them to like and publish you 🙂

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Sarah,

    Congratulations on receiving interest from 3 publishers — that’s excellent news!

    If I were you, I’d submit the first three sample chapters to the publisher. It’s what most publishers and agents seem to prefer. And yes, since the publisher doesn’t require a synopsis, I’d summarize the theme and plot in a paragraph in the cover letter.

    I wish you all the best – I hope you come back and tell me about an offer to publish your book!


  • Sarah Potter

    The publishers I’ve approached so far, have asked for a covering letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters. I now want to approach a publisher who requests an emailed query letter and sample chapters, but there’s no mention of a synopsis.

    My work is a novel for middle grade children of 55,000 words in length, divided into eight chapters and an epilogue. I like to think that the whole novel is polished enough to choose any three of its chapters.

    Which chapters should I select? Should it be the first chapter, plus something from the middle, and the final one? Or perhaps the first two, plus something from later?

    Also, I’m guessing that the query letter should include a summary of the story in a couple of short paragraphs, if a synopsis hasn’t been requested.

    I’d much appreciate your feedback on this 🙂

  • AK

    Hi, need help here.
    I have finished my book (my magnum opus of course and a fiction on medical ethics). I have to deal with submissions and rejections (I am a first time author, otherwise I wouldn’t be here).

    My beginning is stunning, in a literary sense. But it doesn’t represent the power of the book.

    Do sample chapters mean the initial chapters? Can they be the chapters that better represent the work?

    Please guide.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Hi Arun,

    I’d submit the sample chapter AND the table of contents! That way, the publisher has as much information as possible at his or her fingertips.

    Good luck!


  • Arun Joshi

    A publisher I contacted has asked me to “submit a sample chapter or the table of contents”. What would be the best next step: (a) submit only a sample chapter. (b)submit only the table of contents, or (c) submit both. I am right now in the process of finalizing my table of contents. I’m keen that I get back to the publisher quickly and hence am considering submitting only the table of contents as the first step. What do you think?

  • CJ

    Hi — I’ve been asked to submit “three chapters” of my nonfiction book. But it’s not divided into chapters — it’s full of much smaller chunks (in the hundreds). I have a structural concept of which material to send — but how many actual PAGES should I send?

  • riyanka

    hey i need ur help….i want to publish my mehndi book and nw i have to write a mail to publisher…wht i shd write …m bit confused….plz guide me

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Sunny,

    Congratulations on finishing your book! You deserve a pat on the back, and at least a day off 🙂

    Different publishers have different requirements regarding manuscript submissions. If your publisher’s website doesn’t specific how to submit a hard copy, then I suggest doing an internet search for “standard manuscript submission procedures” or “how to submit a print manuscript to a publisher.”

    I haven’t written an article on submitting a print manuscript; all my submissions have been via email.

    Good luck with your publisher!


  • sunny

    i have finished writing my book. i have also finalized the sample chapters to submit. the publisher is requesting for a hard copy of sample chapters. my question is, should i send the hard copy of the sample chapters in a file? please suggest me how to present my sample chapters?

  • Tumblemoose

    Perfect timing!

    I’m working a project that is probably going to require me to do this sometime in the next few months.

    Some of the advice does seem like it’s common sense, but judging from some of the query letters I’ve heard about, you can’t be too careful!


    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog post ..Vintage Typewriters and Deviled Ham =-.