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Back To Basics – How To Present Your Manuscript!

July 13th, 2015

mf-fbAlright, I know … for most of you this will be like a trip back to primary school. Some will ‘tut,’ others will suck their teeth. But even for those of us who’ve already cleared the first hurdle (and actually had something published) there’s no harm in going back to basics. So, here are ten top tips on presenting a manuscript. This is how to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

  1. Never, ever send a hand-written manuscript to an editor. If submissions aren’t type-set and neatly presented on good quality A4 white paper, they’ll go straight in the ‘out’ tray (no matter what kind of genius you are.)
  2. When you’re formatting work for submission, always use double line spacing and leave decent margins (an inch and a half is best) at the top, bottom and both sides of the page. If the work’s going to a print-based magazine by email, still use double spacing, but if it’s for ezines on the Web, use single spacing.
  3. Fancy fonts like Handwriting and Chalkduster, are great for letters to friends, and may be appropriate for certain kinds of fiction, but generally they’re seen as unprofessional. Plain fonts like Times New Roman at size 12 are preferred by most editors.
  4. If you indent your work, leave between 5 and 10 spaces at the start of each new paragraph, but don’t leave any blank lines between one paragraph and another. If you use block layout, then leave an extra line between paragraphs.
  5. At the top left hand corner of the first sheet give your name, address, telephone number, email address and the date. At the top right give your piece a single word ‘catchline’ based on what the story is about. An astronomical story could have the catchline ‘Galaxy,’ so the first page would be ‘Galaxy 1,’ subsequent pages ‘Galaxy 2,’ ‘Galaxy 3,’ etc. Put the title of your article and your byline (name or pseudonym) in a central position across the page about a third of the way down. Then start your article.
  6. To reduce the risk of separation and work going astray, always put ‘mf’ or ‘more follows’ at the bottom of each page. On the final page type ‘end’ or ‘endit’ to show that it’s finished, and don’t forget to number each page.
  7. If you’re sending work in by post always attach a cover sheet with your contact details, the date, and what rights you‘re offering. In the centre of this page give the title of the article, its word length, and your name (it’s essential to give the word length).
  8. Also for postal submissions: include a sae – stamped, (self) addressed envelope, so the editor can return your work if they don’t want to use it.
  9. If you’re submitting a piece by email, check the publication’s guidelines to see whether they prefer it pasted in the body of the email or as an attachment.
  10. Finally, we’re all human, and everybody makes mistakes … nonetheless. No matter how complicated your piece, there is never an excuse for corrections or errors in your manuscript. If a name is spelt wrong or there’s a comma in the wrong place it is YOUR fault. So always check and double-check for typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation before you send anything.

And there you have it – the rules and reg’s. Dull and dreary they certainly are – not what any of us love about writing. But if you want to get a foot in that professional door, you have to follow them. To mis-quote Switch from The Matrix (one of my fave sci-fi movies), when you’re submitting work to editors, “It’s their way, or the highway.”

Keep on writing!

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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