I overheard a couple of comments a little while ago that made me think I should back up and talk about actually submitting a manuscript (MS) to an editor, either at a magazine or a book publishing house.
So, first steps first:
- You’ve read sample copies of the magazines where you want to send the story, article, poem, or essay, or browsed book titles from suitable publishing houses.
- You’ve studied Writer’s Market, even if you had to sit at the library for a couple of hours.
- You know about including a sassy — SASE: self-addressed stamped (new, not beat-up) envelope.
- And not to ever, ever send your only copy of the manuscript. (Even computers lose stuff, so print out an extra hard copy for your files.)
Now, what else? Else includes:
- Formatting the margins correctly (1″ on all sides).
- Putting your name and address in the top left corner, word count in the top right.
- Entering the title and your byline 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down the first page.
- The title of the manuscript and the author’s name need to also appear at the top of each additional page. Why?
- The manuscript can get dropped in the middle of an overflowing publisher’s office.
- The MS can fall out of an editor’s briefcase as she hauls work home to do every night and every weekend.
- When these things happen, the MS may not otherwise get re-associated with the first page.
- Page numbers belong at the bottom, or with the title at the top of each page. You don’t need to number the first page.
- Printing the manuscript on a laser or inkjet printer (not a dot matrix printer or IBM® Selectric® typewriter or earlier, no handwritten material, though all still have their uses).
The contents of the manuscript should be the best you can possibly produce at this time, which means you’ve revised it several times, if not twenty, before submitting it. But if you’re too much of a perfectionist, you won’t publish much!! Nothing will ever seem finished to you.
That revision process should include not only straightening out plot problems, or inconsistencies in hair color, name or age of characters and so forth, but typographical and more serious errors.
Never send out a manuscript that hasn’t been proofread by someone who understands the rules of grammar and knows how to spell, preferably someone educated who is also acquainted with the real world. That individual should have English, or whatever language is used, as their first language. Just be aware that the ability to speak a language well does not guarantee written proficiency in it.
Never, and I mean, never, send out a sloppy manuscript to “make the editor earn her money”! She or he will not read past the first couple of paragraphs, if that. Not unless she or he has been struck by moonbeams the night before.
You are the author. You are trying to sell or at least publish your work. It is your responsibility to send it out well-dressed, not looking as though it is a poor little waif who has rummaged in the thrift box on her way to school.
When the manuscript is finally polished, drop it in the mailbox or hit the Send button if the publisher has said they accept digital submissions. Good luck!