The Writing Life
much of writing is subjective, formatting is
professionals generally agree with the
- The manuscript must be typed or
computer-generated. No handwritten
submissions, regardless of how
wonderful your handwriting.
- Use 8 1/2 by 11-inch white unlined
average thickness (no onion skin and no
card stock). Don't use cute
graphics or pretty flowers.
- Use an easy-to-read font, preferably
Roman in 12 point.
- Left adjust the print. Do not
adjust, center or fill the line to force a
- Leave at least a one inch margin on
all sides of
- Double space. Use your computer
settings; do not
manually enter the spaces. Don't skip a
line between paragraphs or
- Indent each paragraph five spaces
Again, use your settings.
- Do not skip a line between
- Center asterisks, dashes, or dots
intentionally leave a line blank.
- Unless your manuscript is a
submission for a
contest with different instructions, put
the name of the manuscript and
your name, separated by a slash, on the
upper left corner of every
page. (Skip the first page if you include
your name and info on it.)
- Unless otherwise instructed, put the
and the page number (use a number, not the
spelling) on the upper right
corner of each page.
- Do not staple the pages or use
small manuscripts, use a paper clip. For
larger ones, put in an
appropriately sized box.
- Spell check.
- Never send the only copy of your
- Verify that all pages are included
and that all
are in readable condition.
- Include a cover letter, unless
requested not to.
It can be short, simple, and to the point,
but should include the
author's full name and address, telephone
number with best time to
call, and email address. It should give
the name of the manuscript, the
approximate word count, and a statement as
to why you're sending it.
(Be specific. If for publication in a
magazine, list the magazine name.
If for a contest, list the contest name
and end date. If for a
critique, say so.) You may also mention
the reason for writing and
anything else pertinent or special about
the manuscript or the author.
Give special instructions, such as if you
do not want the manuscript
returned. Keep the cover letter to one
page, single spaced.
- If a query is enclosed, it should
take the place
of the cover letter. A query should have
one paragraph about the
manuscript, one paragraph about the author
(include any awards, special
qualifications and publishing history) and
one paragraph about what you
want (representation, published) and what
you are willing do to get it
(book-signings, speeches, sacrifice your
firstborn). Don't try to be
funny. It's almost guaranteed that the
professional won't share your
sense of humor and will reject your work.
- Include a stamped, self-addressed
sure to include ample postage, enough for
the professional to add three
or four pages of her own in addition to
your manuscript. If you live in
a different country than the recipient, do
not adhere the postage.
Instead, paper clip international reply
coupons or the funds to cover
the postage. This should be noted on the
- If a fee is required, send a check or
order, never cash. When you live in a
different country than the
recipient, send a money order in the
correct funds for the recipient's
country. For example, if you live in
Canada and you are sending to a US
address, get a money order payable in US
funds. Most banks, post
offices and -- last resort --
international airports, can handle this
transaction for a small fee.
- Never pay an agent or publisher,
unless you are
well aware of exactly what you will
receive for your money. Legitimate
agents and publishers do not charge
reading fees. Likewise, be wary of
an agent or publisher who recommends a
specific book doctor or editor.
It is likely that there is a kick-back
involved and you'll be paying
- Double check everything before
including the recipient's address. Seal,
drop in the mailbox and say a
entire books devoted to manuscript formats
and submission, but
these are the basics. Unless you need
specific information or guidance
for writing a query letter, you should be
fine. Also keep in mind that
some publishers have specific guidelines. If
you are working without an
agent, pay attention to these.
will never be published (or win a contest)
if you don't take that
first step and make a submission. Rejection,
however uncomfortable, is
For additional tips,
worksheets, and discussions, order your own
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Inspiration for Writers Tips and
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