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How to Format Your Manuscript

by Sandra L. Cook, ©2001, All Rights Reserved

Preparing your manuscript for the publisher is like preparing a term paper.

"Ahhh!!" You scream!

Do not fear, because it isn't THAT scary. Like a term paper, once you have the content written, the presentation mechanics are the easier part.
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Preparation Basics:
- Use plain white, decent quality, standard 8.5x11 paper.
- Text should be typed in one standard font style.
- Double space your lines.
- Allow at least one inch margins all around the page.

Do NOT type a separate sheet for each page you anticipate in your published book unless an odd layout is required; submit your story as a single piece leaving page deliniation to the publisher.

Do not submit illustrations with your story. You may point out that you are an illustrator if you wish to illustrate your own work; in which case you may submit an illustration sample. Publishers generally prefer to select an illustrator so it is unnecessary for you to do so.

Your submission package should consist of three elements prepared in a manner similar to the following:

1) Cover Letter:

The question often comes up regarding cover letters. Should you include one? In my opinion, you ALWAYS, always, always send a cover letter. Why? Because it is a more professional approach. Even if the editor gives it a cursory glance, tosses it aside, and delves into your manuscript.. If they like your manuscript, they will scrounge around looking for the priceless information contained in your cover letter. They'll be digging through stacks of manuscripts with beads of sweat oozing out of their pores, desperately vowing never to toss another cover letter aside! (Okay, back to reality ;-) The cover letter gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and show a bit of personality that may not come through in a tightly written manuscript. Write a concise, informative cover letter and make it the first paper the person opening your package sees.

2) Title Page:

In the upper left corner of the first manuscript page provide your name, address, email, and telephone number. In the upper right corner provide the word count of your text. Mid-page, centered, provide the title in all capital letters. Double space after title and begin your story or chapter text

3) Subsequent story/chapter text pages:

In the upper left corner label with the following information in this basic format: your-last-name / story-chapter-title. In the upper right corner provide the current page number. Double space and continue with story/chapter text.
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After you have professionally formatted your script, you are ready to prepare your envelope or box. For the best presentation, do not fold your manuscript; use an envelope large enough to send it flat. Use a box if you are sending a large number of pages.

It will look more professional if you type your recipient's adress as well as your return address. Also, always include a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) for the publishers' reply. Without a SASE, you're unlikely to get any response at all!

If you've done your market research and have found publishers who'd be interested in your work, you are ready to send off your submission package. Then... off to write the next story!

If you want more detailed information about formatting your manuscript for submission, there are a few excellent books available to aid you in our Bookroom.

Best of Luck and Happy Submissions,

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