Formatting for Submission

Humpty Dumpty                                                                                         #words
12345 Wall St.
Mother Goosetown, WA


G. Yolk

This is an example of a proper format for submitting a manuscript to a publisher.  Start approximately half-way down the page.  Single-space the heading, double-space the body of the text.  Keep these approximate margins and DO NOT justify them.  I generally do not allow hyphenations at the line endings.  Keep the font style simple.  Most editors prefer ten to twelve point font, though I’ve begun using fourteen on account of my aging eyes.  I’m betting the editors appreciate it too and since the word count is given on the first page, it’s a courtesy, especially for a short work.  (A novel is an exception since it would make a significant difference in the number of pages.)

A rule of thumb for word count is 250 words per page.  Most software programs can give an accurate count, which should be used, especially for magazine submissions which usually pay by the word. Check with individual publisher’s guidelines to see whether an editor (or agent) would like to see work submitted electronically.  I’d advise against using e-mail or the Internet to submit a manuscript unless you are specifically requested to do so, and you feel your work would be secure.
Notice there is no mention of copyright, Social Security number or rights offered.  Your work is automatically copyrighted when you create it, and the rights can be negotiated when a publisher makes you an offer.  The by-line under the title is given only when you are using a pseudonym.  It’s important to check and double-check grammar and spelling. (Remember, spell-checker does not work on homonyms–“I, eye, and aye” are all correct according to the computer.)

Indent paragraphs.  “Place quotation marks around dialogue,” she said.  DO NOT use quotation marks for internal dialogue.  This should be underlined or in italics, she thought.
“Remember” he said, “to start a new paragraph each time a different character speaks.”

Be sure to insert a header starting on page two, giving the title (or a significant word), your last name, and the page number.  (There is no need to number the first page.).  Make certain to leave space between header and text so the header is easy to perceive.  You can also make header font smaller to distinguish it from the regular text of your manuscript.

This format works for most submissions, including picture book texts, with the exception of poetry, which is usually single-spaced.
Assemble finished masterpiece with paperclip and send off with a cover letter to the appropriate editor.  Remember to include a SASE if you want your work returned.  Editors often prefer to recycle, so this may not be an option.  DO NOT mail with signature required on receipt.  Publishers do not have time to send someone to the post office for this.  Your ms. would probably be returned, unopened.  DON’T expect a publisher to keep track of their slush pile.  They receive hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts every year.

Be professional.  DO NOT use anyone’s name as a referral without specific permission.  DON’T say you’ve read your story to your children/grandchildren/preschool/dogs in the neighborhood and they loved it.  This is a sure sign of “beginnerism.”  Your writing should stand on its own merits.  Don’t suggest your manuscript was requested unless it was.  DO do your homework:  research your market and read guidelines so you don’t waste paper,  postage your time, or the editors’.  Multiple submissions are OK if you know the publisher accepts them.  DO, DO, DO inform editors immediately if someone else is considering it.  DO network.  Take classes, join critique groups, attend conferences. SCBWI, and READ, READ, READ.

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