Presentation and Format
try to be considerate about the quantity of product that
goes across the desk of an agent or an editor. It is immense and called
the slush pile for good reason.
Make an effort to stand out from other writers. You'll want to present
your manuscript with quality and foresight. Don't just toss it in the
mail. Take time to edit, revise, and proof it for errors. By paying
attention to details, you'll indicate you are a solidly professional
writer. Here are some tips.
- Paper quality. Use high quality bond paper that is at least in a 20# (pound) stock for your manuscript. Send it clean, well packaged, and with a one-page cover letter. Computers do a great job of producing a quality manuscript. However, if you find it hard to give up the old Royal or IBM Selectric, be certain that the keys are clean, the rollers track smoothly, and the ink ribbon is new.
- Are copies okay? You may use copy paper but then it is a manuscript
that looks, and perhaps is, one of many copies. That's fine. If you
send a photocopied manuscript, add a notation that it is not a multiple
submission. If you can afford it, spend the bucks for the quality
grade paper. Do we need to mention that white paper is the rule? Sending
pink paper marks the manuscript for the fast track into the "Oh, mah
gawd toss that and get me the Pepto" file.
- Font type? Use either Courier or Times New Roman 12. Courier allows
experienced editors to take a page count to estimate the size of the
book. Times New Roman is acceptable and used frequently, even though
the font "weight and size" varies with each letter in the alphabet
(n, m, and w for example) making it difficult to estimate the length
of the book.
- This may not be news, but each manuscript needs to be double-spaced with generous margins. Use 1-½ inch margins at the top and bottom. Use a one-inch margin on the left, and use 1-½ inch on the right side. Revisions and addenda from an editor's hand may pour onto the pages so give them room to write. For those editors who are left-handed, well, they have our sympathies.
- Pagination. Number each page consecutively in the top right-hand corner, with the exception of the first page. No need to place a number on the first page of the manuscript.
- Page Continuity. For a computer processed manuscript, include your last name (surname) at the top-left corner, place a forward slash "/" and then a keyword from the title. If you are working on that old Royal (hand-typing as it were) then use just your last name without the keyword. Often the title of a book changes, and with a computer, the search and replace function speeds the process.
- Printing. If you still are keeping a dot matrix printer (as a pet
only by now--what, you named it?) do not use it to print your manuscript.
Whether you have to beg, borrow, or use a friend's printer, do it.
Some local printers (Kinko's and Speedy) accept e-mail files and will
"print on demand" to save you from listening to your bubble jet, laser,
or ink jet printer for hours.