How to Submit
by Scalar Consulting Group Inc.
from the website: Freelanceonline
format should I use for a manuscript?
All of the following
rules can be broken. However, any time you break one of them, you run
the risk of irritating an editor. To quote Strunk and White:
"It is an
old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules
of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find
in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the
violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably
do best to follow the rules."
be typed in black ink using a new ribbon or printed on a daisy wheel,
ink-jet or laser printer. Never write or print a manuscript by hand.
Each page must be doubled-spaced (one blank line between each line of
type) and each side must have at least a one-inch margin. Use white
medium-weight business letter-sized paper (either 8-1/2 x 11 or A4)
and type or print only on one side. Once the manuscript is typed or
printed, do not staple, bind, or otherwise attach the pages to one another.
What font should
A manuscript is
not an opportunity to show off your elaborate desktop publishing system.
Many publishers specify a font or type size in their writer's guidelines
and only a fool would ignore such a requirement. Editors read vast numbers
of pages and anything that strains their eyesight gets a deserved toss
toward the reject pile.
If no font is suggested
then the writer should choose one that does not distract from the writing.
Serif fonts, which have slight projections to finish off the stroke
in each letter, are been proven to be easier on the eyes than san-serif
fonts, which resemble block printing.
Whether the font
is proportional or monospaced also affects how easy it is to read. With
proportional fonts such as Times, the individual characters vary in
width ("w" is wider than "i.") With monospaced fonts
such as Courier, all characters are the same width. Proportional fonts
make a manuscript look more like a book and allow more words per page
but monospaced fonts give editors a more accurate feel for the space
required by the piece.
Size also matters,
at least for fonts. The usual size is "12 point" (also referred
to as "10 pitch" or "pica.") Pitch refers to the
number of characters per inch. Point size refers to the relative height
of the font; a point is a typographical measurement very close to 1/72nd
of an inch. Anything smaller than 12 point or 10 pitch and editors might
strain to read the words; anything bigger and editors may assume that
you are disguising a too-short article.
Although any legible
font might be acceptable, the safest choice is Courier 12. Work printed
in Courier 12 closely resembles typewritten work. Familiarity with Courier
allows editors to quickly extract word count and other important information
from manuscripts printed in it.
What about photocopies?
If you submit a
photocopy, make sure it's clean and clear; it also doesn't hurt to explicitly
mark it "Not a Simultaneous Submission" (if this is the truth),
as some editors assume photocopies are simultaneous. NEVER submit your
only copy of a manuscript; tragedies do happen. Photocopy the manuscript,
back up the disk. Not vice versa.
How should I format the first page and following pages?
First page header:
I. Wanna Write Approx. 2000 words
1000 Maple Street
Anytown, USA 00000
1/3 of the way down the page)
Title of Story
(Note that you
use your real name, not your pseudonym, as the return
address; the publisher wants to know who will be endorsing the check.)
to the header about which there is some debate:
- Your Social
Security number (Pro: Aids publishers in record keeping when they
cut you a check. Con: If they need it, they'll ask for it.)
- A copyright
notice (Pro: May be useful in establishing legal claims to ownership
of your work, should problems arise. Con: "This is a mark of
the amateur; editors have better things to do than steal story ideas.")
- Membership in
writers' professional organizations -- SFFWA, SCBWI, et al. (Pro:
Gets editors' attention in the slushpile. Con: Doesn't help, doesn't
- Rights offered
(more important for articles/stories than for books)
Writer's name/Title of Story Page X
take up more than one line; shorten the title to fit. Manuscripts *do*
get dropped; if you identify every page, you reduce the odds of your
story's being re-collated with the last third of "Marshmallow Mud
Maidens from Madagascar". (Richard Curtis, the renowned agent,
feels it's a mistake to include the story title in the page header,
since this requires you to retype or reprint the entire manuscript if
you change the title.)
How should I indicate that the last page of my manuscript is the last
It may also be
a good idea to put an "end of story" marker on the last page.
Use "# # END # #", "--FIN--", or anything else you're
confident the editor won't mistake for part of the story. (Some people
think that this marker is amateurish.)
How much of my manuscript should I include?
Research the rules
of the market you're submitting to. For short fiction (less than 20,000
words), you normally submit the entire manuscript. For novel-length
fiction, many publishers perfer to receive a couple of sample chapters
and an outline; if the publisher likes your sample, he/she will request
the remainder of the book.
normally commit to buying a manuscript from an unknown writer until
they've seen the whole thing. DON'T submit a portion of an unfinished
book, unless you are certain that you can finish the book very quickly
(within a month) if the publisher expresses interest.
How do I format a picture book? What about illustrations?
books are normally assembled by the publisher, who buys a manuscript,
then assigns an artist to create the drawings. Historically, most publishers
have strongly perferred *not* to receive manuscripts with illustrations;
the feeling has been that it was too difficult to accept one part of
the package and reject the other. Author-illustrators generally earned
their spurs by illustrating the works of others, and were then allowed
to create their own books. Some publishers are beginning to accept (but
not perfer) complete packages; check *Writer's Market* to find suitable
If you are submitting
an unillustrated manuscript for a picture book, you should generally
not attempt to indicate page breaks, double-page spreads, etc., or give
detailed illustration suggestions, as these are the book designer's
and illustrator's domain. Anything that you want to appear in the picture
should be part of the text. One obvious exception to this rule is irony:
if the text reads "Irene's room was always tidy", you're allowed
to insert a note like "(Illustrator: the room is actually a pit.)"
As always, you
should read many different picture books to get a feeling for the strengths
and limitations of the format. Bear in mind that picture books are almost
invariably 32 or 48 pages long, including title page and other front
How should I format a poetry submission?
According to the
_Writer's Market, 1997 edition, poems are submitted one to a page. The
format is single-spaced with two lines between stanzas.
How do I count the number of words in my manuscript?
Start at the beginning.
Point at the first word and say "One." Point at the second
word and say "Two." Repeat, increasing the count by one integer
for each word at which you point. <g>
Now, some more
- You could use
the "Word Count" feature of your word processor. Note that
all word processors do not use the same algorithm to compute this--Word
may give a different figure than WordPerfect.
- You can multiply
the number of pages in the manuscript by 250. This gives a very rough
- Figure that
1.5 typewritten/computer-printed pages equal one page of a book (another
- Count the words
on five random pages of the manuscript. Find the average number of
words per page (divide the count by five) then multiply this number
by the number of pages in the manuscript.
You will be paid
by the publisher's word-count, not yours; the publisher's algorithm
may differ. (And padding word-count is like double-parking in front
of Police Headquarters; you *will* get caught.)
What are the standard word counts for novels, short stories, et cetera?
- 0 - 250 words:
Flash or sudden fiction
- 0 - 2,000 words:
- 2,000 - 10,000
words: Short story
- 10,000 - 40,000
- 50,000 - infinity
(or durned close to it): Novel
A good length for
a novel (by consensus of this newgroup) is 80,000 words.
Certain genre publishers
require a maximum word count because they produce a standardized paperback.
Follow these requirements.
What is the best length for a chapter?
It depends. Although
chapters of a standard length (4,000 words, say) may be easier to outline,
plan, count, and edit, there are no rules on chapter length. It is easy
to find huge novels divided into 20 or fewer chapters and very slim
novels with 45 or more divisions.
When to end a chapter
and begin another one is one of the factors of story-telling. Sometimes
a chapter closes where a story would end: following a brief cooldown
after a crisis resolution. This gives a feeling of accomplishment for
the reader and a sense of intermission.
Sometimes the chapters
close before the resolution of a crisis, or after the introduction of
the next crisis. These chapter breaks give a sense of suspense--that
events are crowding in on the reader.
are kept consistent in length to establish a rhythm. Sometimes chapters
vary greatly in length, giving the reader a sense of a kaleidoscopic
world. Other times, chapters end and begin with a change in Point Of
View, the scene's setting in time or space, or at a radical change in
All depends on
what suits the needs of your story.