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How to Format a Story Manuscript for Submissions
by Samantha Stone

The day has finally come to send your masterpiece out into the world. Good.

Now, send it out in the proper style. If you're mailing a hardcopy of the manuscript – never your original – use the correct size padded-envelope or box, enough postage, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for the agent or publisher's reply. If sending by email, remember that most agencies and publishers won't open attachments; you may have to paste the submission directly into the email body. See the first tip below for more details.

Whether you're sending to a traditional hardcopy publisher or an online source, follow the 10 tips below for best results, and good luck!

1. Check the Guidelines

Read the publisher or agency's submission guidelines. These can be found on the publisher or agency's website. Check with the Better Business Bureau if you have any questions about integrity.

2. Send What is Required

In the writer's guidelines, publishers and agents will list what they want to see in a submission package. Send them that – don't think you know better. This can be a single page query letter, synopsis, sample chapters, or even the entire manuscript. Send only what is requested, and keep query letters to one or two pages. Be courteous and professional. Thank them for considering your submission.

3. Formatting

Send only clean copies of manuscripts. If emailing, send an uncommented or unmarked-up copy (no MS Word 'Track Changes' copies). Font should be Times New Roman or Courier size 12 (generally preferred) or Arial size 12 – whichever the submission guidelines request – double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around. Online submissions are usually accepted in Arial, Verdana, and Courier (or similar) font at size 12, spaced at 1.5, and with or without indentations or the extra line of space between paragraphs. Check the guidelines. Do not send a PDF version unless expressly requested. Hardcopy manuscripts should be on 20-lb, standard size paper. All font and ink should be black. Number all manuscript pages after the title page and include your name and title keywords on each page. Do not bind the manuscript in any manner. Your query letter should have your contact information and be addressed to a particular editor or agent, if possible. You should also copyright your manuscript, but it's not mandatory.

4. Be Professional

Use a cordial yet professional tone in your query letter. Don't chat. Use correct spelling and grammar. Don't exaggerate your writing prowess or guarantee a best-seller.

5. Reread Again

Check your manuscript again with fresh eyes to catch any last minute errors you overlooked all those other times you checked it. If possible, have a second set of eyes read through your submission.

6. Be Courteous

If you get any response whatsoever from an agency or publishing house, thank the person who sent that correspondence – even if it looks like a standard automated mailer. Drop a thank-you postcard back to them. It's one more time your name is in their office.

7. Be Patient

There's no easy way to learn patience, so get used to waiting. Cope with the wait by reviewing your other writing projects or making a back-up list of contacts.

8. Have a Second Novel

Editors and agents love to find new talent that they can get a few books out of. Be that writer. If they ask if you have anything else written, your answer must be yes, so make sure you've got another novel in the works. This shows you're productive and not a one-book author.

9. Accepting Rejection

Okay, rejection happens. Let it thicken your skin. Read any comments or suggestions about your work, decide whether to incorporate them, and move on to the next name on your list of places to submit.

10. Send it Out Again

When you've finished your rewrite – or if you're simply ready to let your novel brave the publishing world again – send it out. It will never get published sitting on your desk.

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