By Kay Springsteen
You have your story. You’ve had it critiqued. You’ve followed your publisher’s guidelines…well sort of. What exactly do they mean by first line indent, anyway? And even though they ask for 12 PT font in Times New Roman, your manuscript looks so much classier in 10 PT Book Antiqua. And you know it’ll get much more attention with a flourish at the top of each chapter. And maybe they asked for line spacing of double, but doesn’t 1.5 look much nicer? And of course, when they say nothing over 100,000 words, no one will REALLY say anything if your manuscript is submitted with 102,000 words, right?
Again, with my editor cap in place, would you care to know what would really make your publisher’s day?
Following the submission guidelines.
If their submission guidelines are present on their website, they’re there for a reason. If they want double spacing, give them double spacing. If they want 12 PT Times New Roman or Courier, send it in one of these fonts. As far as content, know the publishing house where you are submitting. If it’s a sweet house, they aren’t looking for threesomes. And I haven’t found a press yet that wants submissions that include graphic depictions of rape or even a hint of pedophilia. If the guidelines say “no cursing,” don’t try to sneak “what the hell” in there.
But very honestly, the best advice I can give is about something that occurs before you type the first words of your story. With your word processing program. Learn it inside out. Read a book on it. Take a class in it. Find out how to do the most basic of functions, from setting line spacing to learning what keys do what.
I can’t tell you how many people center something on a page by using the tab key. Or how many use the space bar and space in five times for the line indent. And at the end of a chapter, instead of a hard page break, they simply hit the enter key until they’re at the top of the page. It all may look pretty good when it’s submitted. But with the first edits, all of these formats are useless. A hard page break will remain in place and the chapter headings will always be at the top of the page no matter how much material you add or remove during edits.
Classes in software are generally very inexpensive, and often tutorials are all you might need and many of those are offered by the software companies free of charge with purchase. Using your software the appropriate way will cut down on your editing time because you won’t have to stop to reformat when you are polishing your manuscript prior to submission. But mostly, your publisher will offer you sincere thanks for turning in a manuscript that’s easy to work with.