Two three-foot high piles of manuscripts teeter on his desk. These represent a fraction of the manscripts he’s received in response to a “call for submissions.”
Every editor hopes to uncover a gem – the manuscript that will rival the works of Alice Munro, Charles Krauthammer, Donna Tartt . . . This editor’s hopes slump. He’s frustrated and maybe saddened.
The twin towers of paper on his desk are destined for the shredder. And it took the editor only a few seconds per manuscript, a quick glance, for him to reject each one.
Did he reject the works because of purple prose, weak plots, one-dimensional characters?
In fact, the editor didn’t read the manuscripts. Didn’t need to.
The writers didn’t follow submission guidelines.
If that seems harsh, consider that every profession has standards. Publishers’ submission guidelines are the standards we writers must follow if we’re serious about the business of writing.
You’ll notice some of the guidelines listed after the video below are slightly different from the guidelines on the excellent video How to Format Your Fiction Manuscript, which goes to show that it’s important to seek and follow each publisher’s guidelines. ,
And, yes, there are still agents and editors who do not accept emailed submissions.
Ignoring submission guidelines is a sure-fire way to put your work at a disadvantage, and possibly have it rejected immediately.
If a publisher’s guidelines differ with any of the guidelines below, use the publisher’s guidelines. For example, Melange Books LLC requested that Ken’s War, my YA novel slated for publication in 2014, be submitted in rtf (Rich Text Format).
Writing contests always have specific rules writers must follow for eligibility.
Cover Letter and Query Letter Checklist
__ Return address – your name, address, phone number and email address.
__ Address to proper editor, spell name correctly.
__ One-page letter (two if absolutely necessary) of 3 – 4 paragraphs.
__ Letter is concise, polished, courteous, written in business format, yet “human”.
__ Check spelling and grammar. (Donut really on word processor’s spill chick.)
__ Cover letter – SASE large enough with sufficient postage for return of ms or a contract! If you don’t want the manuscript returned, write “disposable manuscript” on it.
__ Queries – business-size SASE for agent’s or editor’s response.
__ Follow writers/submission guidelines.
__ 12p font, Times New Roman, double spaced on 8 ½ x 11, one side only.
__ Proofread for spelling and grammar. (Due note relay on computer spill Chuck.)
__ Capitalize first letter of first word, and rest of words unless small (to, of, in) in chapt titles.
__ Approx 1 inch margins all around.
__ No italics. Underline instead.
__ No handwritten corrections.
__ Mag/newspaper ms: Top left corner – 1st p single-space name, address, tel, fax, cell, email. Mr/Miss/Mrs if first name is unisex. Top right corner – wc, rights offered, dept or column if applies. Drop down ½ way. Center title, By and name. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number.
__ Book ms: Title p with title, address, cell, email, wc. Half way down: center title, By, name. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number. New p for new chapt, drop down 1/3 –1/4 way.
__ End at end.
__ No “widows”.
__ Cover letter introduces ms. (See Cover Letter Checklist.)
__ Big envelope or ms box (no paperclips).
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