Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Writing Tips - Submission Guidelines

Tell me a story - writing tips

First impressions are the ones that count, isn't that what everyone says. The way an editor perceives a piece of work could decide its future forever. Don't let your be rejected because it doesn't look right.

How to format a book - Mother knows best

You know what they say, mother knows best, and my mother used to say ‘first impressions count’. It was instilled into me as a youngster - wash your face, wear a good outfit - how inhibiting life was. How I loathed obeying the rules. It was for a reason though. Mum knew just how much those first impressions meant. 

Cruel but true.
It’s just as true when you need to format a book. The way an editor first perceives a book decides its prospects with that publishing house forever – it might sound severe, but I’m afraid it’s true. I know Mum would have understood.

Publishing houses might vary slightly in the way they want an author to format a manuscript but there are certain standards that seem to go clean across the board.

What new writers need to get to grips with are the basics, the conventions that apply to every genre. The submission guidelines might be adjusted here and there depending on the publisher, but they won't change enough to make a significant difference.

You have to understand that publishers and agents aren't just looking for a sizzling new author with a different voice; they want to know the author is professional. The way you present your manuscript tells them everything they want to know.
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Make or break
A quick glance at your book will make or break it. Editors in publishing houses are innundated with manuscripts, and they are only human - little things can sway them. Wouldn't it be terrible if it was tossed to one side without being read, simply because it didn't pass an editor's eye-test or it fluffed on the submission guidelines.Your precious plot down the drain because of silly stuff.

Put yourself in their position, you have pile of manuscripts to examine, some of which are scruffy, some presented in a pristine manner. You have limited time. Which are you going to look at first and which are you going to ignore?

Whether you format a romantic suspense or fantasy – you must give it your best shot. A few simple submission guidelines can at least give your work a fighting chance. Ignore them at your peril. 

How to format a book – Submission guidelines
  1. Use clean, WHITE, A4, 80gm paper when you format a book. If there are thumbprints, print another.
  2. Make sure your printer gives good quality type - give it new toner or ink.
  3. Print on ONE side of the page only
  4. FONT - use 12pt Times New Roman.
  5. Leave good margins all round, at least 1" - 1.5"
  6. Indent all paragraphs EXCEPT the first of each chapter
  7. Use DOUBLE line space (some publishes allow 1.5 space, but if you're not sure use double)
  8. ONLY use left justification
  9. Avoid widow and orphans
  10. On the first page, present all the details an editor needs - In the middle of the page about one-third down, the TITLE, below that your REAL NAME, below that your PEN-NAME, Below that the WORDCOUNT, give a few spaces then put your ADDRESS and TELEPHONE number and E-MAIL
  11. When you format a book, every page must have a strap - a shortened book name in the header, a couple of words should suffice.
  12. Every page must have a page number in the footer. It must be continuous, it must NOT start fresh with each chapter
  13. When you format a book, start each chapter of  with a NEW page, and type the chapter heading in capital letters
  14. DO NOT fasten the pages together, DO NOT pin them, DO NOT punch holes in them. DO NOT tie your manuscript with fancy bows and ribbons. If you must, place a large elastic band around, nothing else.
  15. When submitting your manuscript make the covering letter BRIEF and to the point, and don't talk about your kids or last holiday.
  16. Enclose a BRIEF synopsis - aim for less than one page, certainly no more than two - less is more!
  17. Do NOT underline any words.
  18. Use a SINGLE space between sentences.
  19. Don't forget to SPELLCHECK your work before submitting.
  20. If your manuscript is non fiction and you're including photos or artwork, protect them with cardboard.
I don't know about you, but I hate it when I finally seal the jiffy bag on my precious story. It's a final committment, a statement. There's no turning back after that. It's all in the hands of some faceless editor. How can I persuade them to even LOOK at my book. 

Linton Robinson, freelance writer says, "I'd like to point out a few things like, Americans don't have A4 paper, also, as many publishers actually specify Courier as Times New Roman.  It's always a good idea to check with the people you're submitting to."
- Thank you for that, Linton.

The sweet scent of success

When you know how to format a book correctly, at least it won't be thrown out for lack of first impression.

One thing I've done in the past and will continue to do, I put a light spray of quality perfume on the inside of the jiffy bag and let it dry. At least when opened, MY work has a pleasant fragrance, which might just invoke a subconscious impression .... fingers crossed.... .

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