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How To Submit a Manuscript for Publication

If you want to learn how to write a screenplay or how to submit a manuscript for publication, one of the most important things for you to consider is the formatting. Although quite obvious for most writers, this is the most common mistake that newbies often overlook. Literary agents and publishers have been known to be as stuffy as your English teacher or worst. They see every minute mistake, error and transgression and whip out their lassos to throw your manuscript out of the window. While you may have crafted a really compelling query letter which is soaked in perfume and niceties, the lack of attention when it comes to formatting may be your manuscript’s doom.

Ok, now that we’ve set that aside, we’re going to tackle the next most important thing. You need to pay critical attention to this and learn about what to do and not to do when submitting your manuscript. Don’t worry, if you pay attention to this really well, the agent or the editor will treat your manuscript with respect and actually read it. Being a literary agent myself, I’ve come across several promising but surprisingly poor manuscripts that seem to have been formatted by chickens. It’s the same mistake over and over again. Pay attention, these are the most important guidelines in learning how to submit a manuscript for publication.

  1. Two spaces are better than one. That’s right, we editors want them to be exactly double spaced. I know it’s sad because it’s a waste of paper, in a day and age when people could just use an iPad or a word processor. However, we find it more convenient to have several reams of paper with double spaced articles so we could scribble down our notes.
  2. Don’t forget the page numbering. Not only does it give editors an idea of how long the manuscript is, it also tells us which segments could be improved or totally erased.
  3. You shall not bind the manuscript. It’s not yet a book and we need to have our freedom to move pages around and maybe duplicate or triplicate one particularly spicy segment. Seriously, don’t staple it, bind it, use glue on it or whatever. Editors want them loose. If ever you really need to satiate your obsession with neatness use rubber bands instead. This is also the reason why rule number two is important. After shuffling numerous pages around and mish mashing them with other manuscripts, we want to be able to put them back together again.
  4. Use only one side of the paper. By doing so, editors or at least their assistants could actually use those older photocopiers without having to watch and turn every single page. Bear in mind that saving paper is not our priority here. Reading several manuscripts can be really taxing and our eyesight isn’t really going to get better. You can plant trees again but you can’t bring back a 20/20 vision just like that. Comfort and readability are two very important things for editors. Make sure that you give them enough white space so that they won’t feel like you’re actually and deliberately making them squint.
  5. Font size should be 12. It’s large enough for editors too read. By now, you must be beginning to understand how it must feel like to be a literary agent or an editor. We sift through hundreds if not thousands of pages just so we could check if they’re worth publishing or if there are errors in it. By keeping fonts and spacing exactly as they should be, you would have made our lives several light years easier.
  6. No plastic shrink wraps please. It would have been fun if the thing being unpacked is a cool new laptop or fruit, but it’s not. For some reason, many people seem to equate their manuscripts with yummy treats. Please, we like our yummy treats to be shrink packed and we don’t like our work to be packed in plastic. If you do, we just might be tempted to use a lighter to melt the plastic just so we could open it.
  7. Headers should have at the very least your name and the title of your manuscript. Keep it short and simple. Just like page numbers, this helps us actually keep track of those wayward sheets of brilliance. The worst thing that could happen is for an editor to mash up two totally different manuscripts and have them printed. It’ll not only confuse the reader but also spare you some grief.
  8. Make use of that thing called a cover page. Take note, if you really want to learn how to submit a manuscript for publication, having a cover page with the proper formatting would be like putting your best foot forward. It should have your real name, address, as much contact information you could put in and most importantly, the date when you copyrighted it. It sets the tone and acts like your calling card should the editor decide to scramble and try to find you.
  9. Keep it simple. Still on the topic of the cover page, an inviolable rule is simplicity. Don’t try to decorate your cover page with fancy graphics and cursive writing. Use the same font as you have used throughout your manuscript. You want to learn how to submit a manuscript for publication and not actually publish it yourself. Graphics and fancy stuff should only be relegated to your personal diary.
  10. Make it easy for the publisher to send your manuscript back. Arranging for return postage by including an envelope plus some stamps entices the agency to give you the courtesy of sending it back to you. It’s been said before but it needs to be said again: there are hundreds of manuscripts bombarding these agencies every single day. Returning even just 50% of them could cost a lot.

Learning how to submit a manuscript for publication is all about learning about the publishing process. This is not your high school essay where your teacher even asks for some pretty pictures of your summer vacation. Though you may be a very good writer, if you’re not able to show a professional demeanor, chances are publishers won’t want to do business with you. It would help a lot if you think about the whole process as an academic endeavor. Nobody submits their thesis with pretty flowers and chocolates.