Sunday 23 August 2015

How to present your manuscript

Are you a budding writer hoping to get your novel published? Make sure you don’t fall at the first hurdle by messing up your manuscript.

Literary agents and publishers like submissions to arrive in a particular way. Not adhering to their rules is a big mistake. Remember that first sentence you spent ages perfecting? You don’t want to get rejected before anyone has even read it. So make sure your manuscript is properly formatted. This is not where you try to stand out from the crowd. Leave your writing to do that. They’re looking for a reason to say no – don’t give them ammunition. 

The exact requirements can vary from one place to another. You should look at the website of wherever you’re sending it and ensure you adhere to any specific guidelines. That said, the basics are the same across the board, so I thought I’d share a few of them here with you.

This isn’t a comprehensive list but rather a few key pointers, based on my experience. It should get you on the right track. It worked for me.

  • Double space the entire text. It might use more paper when you’re printing it out, but it’s much easier to read that way. And if you are printing it out, only use one side of the paper, which should be plain A4.
  • Use single – NOT double – quotation marks. This is the standard in UK publishing, although lots of people get it wrong, most likely because newspapers and magazines often use double quotes, as do books published in the United States. 
  • Steer clear of fancy fonts. Stick to 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Start each chapter on a new page, with the number or title in capital letters  (e.g. CHAPTER 12) around one third of the way down.
  • Use a one inch (2.54cm) margin on all sides.
  • Include a title page with a word count set right at the top, the title and your name centred in the middle, and your contact details set right at the bottom. Do NOT number this page.
  • Number the rest of the pages using a header that also incorporates your name and the book title (e.g.  Robertson / TIME TO SAY GOODBYE / 211). Set this right.
  • Each new paragraph should be indented by 1.27cm, apart from the first one of each chapter/new section, which shouldn’t be indented. Don’t include a space line in between paragraphs as you might do in a letter or blog post. That’s why you have the indent.
  • Feel free to write The End beneath the last line of your text. Although this doesn’t appear in published books, it’s normal in manuscripts. Including your contact details again after this is a good idea in case the title page has gone missing.
  • If you’re sending a hard copy of your manuscript or some part of it, don’t attempt to bind the pages together in any way. Agents and publishers hate that. Just pop it in a suitable envelope with (at most) an elastic band around the middle.
And there we have it. Follow my 10 top tips to sharpen up your manuscript and boost its chances of being published. Good luck!

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