As a writing mentor and manuscript assessor, I have the privilege of reading many manuscripts from authors at various stages of their career. I can only imagine how many manuscripts publishers and editors must read each year. It would literally be thousands!
It’s tempting when you submit a manuscript to make it want to stand out – perhaps by using coloured paper, funky paper clips, including illustrations or printing the manuscript in colour or all capitals.
Just so it’s a little different.
Just so it captures the eye of an overworked editor or publisher.
In our highly competitive publishing industry it makes sense, doesn’t it?
Well … I used to think it sounded like a good idea, but I quickly learned that you shouldn’t do any of these things. Instead, what will make your manuscript stand out is if it looks professional and adheres perfectly to the publisher’s submission guidelines.
Adhering to a publisher’s submission guidelines not only makes your manuscript neat and easy to read, it also shows that you’ve done your research and read the instructions on the publisher’s website. Making sure your manuscript fits these guidelines is your first test.
You definitely want to show the publisher that you can pass this simple test!
All publisher guidelines are pretty much industry standard, perhaps with a little variation here and there. Writing competitions will also have similar guidelines.
Once you’ve conquered the ‘template’ layout for a manuscript for one publisher it can usually be applied to other publishers. This may mean you need to become familiar with Microsoft Word, but if you want to be an author and write manuscript after manuscript, then it’s simply part of the job. Microsoft Word has a Help function, which can assist in this and you can also use google to search for instructions on how to format your manuscript.
Submission guidelines can be found on any publisher’s website, usually under the ‘Submission Guidelines’ tab but sometimes under tabs like ‘Contact’ or ‘For Authors’.
Most publishers now accept electronic submissions, either through an online form, which you fill out and attach your manuscript to, or via an email cover letter with your manuscript attached. Even though your manuscript won’t be printed out, the publisher will still want their guidelines adhered to.
Generally speaking, industry standard components of any manuscript should be:
Typed - as a Word Document or PDF
Times New Roman
12 point font
Contact details included
On the first page of each manuscript, I include a cover page. The details on the cover page are:
1. Manuscript title
3. Author Name
4. Word Count
Which I usually have centred in the middle of the page.
Then, in the footer on the cover page I include:
On all other pages, I ensure that the manuscript title, my name and my email address are in the header while page numbers are included in the footer.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that these things are minor and therefore don’t matter. They’re absolutely crucial when setting out your manuscript.
If you story is presented in a clear, neat and professional way that shows you CARE about your story and where you’re sending it, the publisher will notice and respect this. They will also have more respect for you as an author. They can then focus on reading your brilliant story and won’t be distracted or disappointed by sloppy, inconsistent layouts.
Whatever the guidelines stated on a publisher’s website, please read them carefully and stick to them. It’s the first step you can take to give your story the best chance of making it through the submissions process.