Part v. Presenting the Final Manuscript

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Your book is written and edited. For most writers, the next step is getting published. Many things change in the publishing world, and these days, many agents and editors accept manuscript excerpts and manuscripts in digital format. It's important to learn how to prepare a submission-ready manuscript.

If you never intend to submit your book to publishers, you many not want to bother with this part. On the other hand, it's always good to have the information.

Make an Impression

Perhaps you met that editor or agent at a writing conference and impressed her with your personal charm. You pitched your manuscript so eloquently that now she wants to read it. Make a good impression by sending a manuscript that makes you look like a pro.

Attention to detail includes whether you send your work electronically or in hard copy, and what format it is in. Many agents and publishing houses have manuscript format guidelines right on their website that tell you what format is correct for that agent or publisher. If so, then follow what's posted to the letter. If not, here are certain specific guidelines for submissions. Most of them follow common sense.

Document Setup

There's nothing fancy about the format of manuscript pages. Below are some simple guidelines:

• Margins: One-inch margins all around.

• Font: 12-point Times New Roman or 10-point Courier is standard.

• Header at the top of each page: Flush left should be your name, the title of your book, your contact information (use two lines if needed); flush right should be the page number. See example below.

Jennifer Gioia—Edit like an Editor—

• Number the pages.

• Footer at the bottom of each page: Normally, there is none.

• Title Page: Centered in the middle of an otherwise blank and unnumbered page put the manuscript title, your name, the date, and your contact information (email, phone number, address).

• Line spacing: Double space between lines.

• Chapter openings: Start each chapter on a fresh page, space down a few lines then type the chapter title, then begin with the first paragraph.

• First line of the first paragraph of a chapter should be flush left.

• First line of every paragraph except for the first in a chapter should have a hanging indent of five or six spaces, or just hit the "tab" button on your keyboard.

• Single space between words.

• Single space between sentences in the same paragraph; double spacing after a period went out decades ago.

• To indicate italicized or bolded text, simply italicize or bold the font (underlining and double-underlining are not necessary).

• Insert two blank lines between scenes; you may want to add a special character like an asterisk (*) to be sure that the scene breaks show up when they fall at the bottom of a page.

• The electronic file should be a .doc file (Microsoft Word); all word processing software allows you to save to or export your file to this format.

• Don't worry about widowed lines; let the page breaks fall naturally where they fall.

Front Matter and Back Matter

There are a handful of parts that come with the manuscript but aren't a part of your story. Known in the publishing word as "front matter" and "back matter," they include the title page, acknowledgments, dedication, references, and any other materials that say something about your submission. You might not include all of these components with every submission, but if you do, format them correctly so that an editor knows what they are (and they realize you know what you're doing).

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