Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Guidelines for Submitting a Manuscript

It’s time. You’re finally ready to submit your writing to a press. After many hours of researching and editing, it would certainly be a shame to see your manuscript returned to you, the dreaded rejection slip attached to the cover. In order to avoid this disappointing outcome, we’ve compiled a checklist to help make the process quicker, more efficient, and less frightening for the fledgling writer.

1. Proofread your manuscript one last time.

In the past, this was generally left to the hands of the editors at the publishing house. However, with the advent of self-publishing and many more manuscripts to sift through, well-proofread works are in demand. Your manuscript will stand out more if it is as error-free as humanly possible. It might seem unnecessary and even tedious if you’ve already performed regular edits throughout the writing process, but it’s still important. You don’t want your manuscript to be rejected over an easily corrected typo.

2. Make absolutely certain you adhere to the standard formatting guidelines.

The general expectations for a submission vary depending on the genre and audience, but there are hard rules that every writer must follow when it comes to formatting. They are as follows:

  • Your manuscript should always be double spaced. It’s easier on the eyes and more readable than a single-spaced text.
  • Consistently use a standard font size and type throughout the manuscript. When in doubt, it is always safe to use the default Times New Roman, size 12.
  • Put page numbers in your manuscript’s header. Manuscripts are big and easy to get out of order. If the editor can’t follow the flow of your writing because the pages are unnumbered and thrown together haphazardly, they will not accept it.
  • Include your last name and story title in the header as well. Ensure that the editor does not accidentally mix up your pages with someone else’s.
  • Only type on one side of the paper. Saving paper is tempting, but ultimately detrimental in the submission process.
  • If you’re submitting a paper copy of your manuscript, do not bind the pages together with anything permanent. Editors need access to individual pages.

3. Convey professionalism and keep track of your records.

Grammatical correctness and proper formatting do not guarantee acceptance. You should still present yourself professionally in order to stand out.

  • Just as one would for a job application, include a cover letter. This should include a brief synopsis of what your work is about as well as your personal contact information. Do not include any information that is irrelevant to the manuscript, such as childhood stories.
  • Always have a paper and electronic copy of your manuscript. Publishers have a significant pile of manuscripts to sort through. They might take longer than expected to send it back to you with initial proofs if it is accepted. In the worst possible case, it may be misplaced or even disposed of if rejected. Keep multiple copies on hand to avoid losing a significant amount of time and work.
  • Many editors also advise that you cover the cost of returning the manuscript. This can be as simple as paying for the stamp. Whether the manuscript is accepted or rejected, you must maintain a professional demeanor. Editors will be much more willing to work with you in the future if you make their lives (and jobs) easier by covering the postage cost of a returned manuscript.

4. Be sure your manuscript matches the publisher’s genres.

If you’re submitting a creative writing piece about a woman who hears whispers in the walls of her home, it would be best to focus on a magazine such as Cemetery Dance, which solicits and publishes only horror stories. Always make sure that the content of your work—the genre, writing style, and theme—matches whatever publisher you are considering. If you are uncertain about a press, visit their website to find out more about them. It doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with their catalog as well!

5. Keep these final words in mind: Caution, Organization, and Persistence.

  • Avoid any presses that require you to pay them. These ‘vanity presses’ tend to prey on the inexperience of new authors.
  • Create a system where you can keep track of where each manuscript is sent and what further action needs to be taken on your part. Be sure to note the date.
  • To quote every successfully published author: Never stop trying. Write every day, send manuscripts to as many publishers as possible, and learn from every rejection that you may receive.

What tips have you learned when submitting your manuscript? Let us know in the comment below. Interested in more great content? Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

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