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Manuscript Format

If you're going to submit to publishers then you should know the way to format your work. Check the submission guidelines for your individual publisher or publication. Follow what it says. If it doesn't specify, basically you can't go far wrong with the following:

  • Use A4 or American letter sized paper (depending on where you are)
  • One inch margins
  • Put your surname / title / page number in the header
  • Print your name, address and contact details at the top of the first page
  • Include your word count
  • Put your title and 'by' line centred
  • For a short story leave a space and start your text on the same page as your name, address, title, by-line and wordcount
  • For a novel put the name, address, title, by-line and wordcount on the first page and start your text on the second page
  • Print on one side of the page only
  • Double space your lines
  • Use a 12 point monospaced serif font such as Courier. These days most markets also accept 12 point Times New Roman and some actively hate Courier, so check the publisher's guidelines to see if they have a preference. If not, either will be fine.
  • All words to be italicised should be underlined instead if italicising via your word processor unless the publisher's guidelines tell you otherwise. (I've come across a couple of publishers who want manuscripts with italics, but not many.)
  • Where you want a line of white space (i.e. between scenes) insert a blank line with a single centralised hash #
  • If submitting by post always enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope
  • If submitting abroad get the correct stamps rather than use an IRC. (Yes Brits can buy American stamps on the web.)

There's not one true manuscript format just as there's no one true way to write. Here are some other variations on a theme.

Writer Beware - Fings Ain't Always Wot They Seem to Be

Remember that money always flows TO the writer. Never pay a reading fee to an agent or a publisher. Never pay to have your book published (even a set-up charge or a cost-share on the print run). Beware of publishers who want to 'publish' your work in electronic format and/or print-on-demand and pay you a very small percentage royalty with nothing upfront. Some are good and will promote their catalogue, others are the equivalent of a vanity press. If in doubt ask around.

How to Get Published

Write well and submit what you write. If you never let anyone see what you write you will never get it published. Don't be disheartened when a piece is rejected (it's the story that's rejected not you personally). Turn the piece round and send it to another publisher or publication. Every editor is different and what one doesn't like may be meat and drink to another. Most likely your rejection will be a form rejection letter (most are), but if you receive a personal rejection or even a note asking you to submit something else, then it's a win! Do it.

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SFWA's advice on Self Publishing, Print on Demand and E-publishing

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