Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Submitting a Manuscript

In my albeit limited career as a full-time writer, I have learnt a few things that I thought I would like to share with you all today. These I have gleaned from personal experience, reading the many books on writing that adorn my bookshelves and from the various courses I have attended and I must admit I am a bit of a writing course junky.

So here is my list of what to do and what not to do when submitting a manuscript. Whether it is to publishers or agents, I believe the same rules apply. I hope you find them useful.


  • Be professional at all times.
  • Learn what you can do to make the editor's job easier.
  • Do your homework.
  • Find out what the editor you are submitting to wants.
  • Let the writing speak for itself.
  • Be willing to work with the editor on requested changes.
  • Always include a SAE large enough and with correct postage to return the manuscript.
  • If an editor goes to the trouble of saying something to you, take it very seriously.
  • Use Paper clips or elastic bands.


  • Don't put extra spaces between the paragraphs set them off by indenting at the beginning of each paragraph instead.
  • Don't put the creation date on the manuscript, a rights-offered statement, or the Copyright notice.
  • Don't bind or staple your manuscript.
  • Don't use ring binders, clamp binders, comb binders, brads, string, or anything else, which can't be easily removed.
  • Don't send a letter-sized envelope if you expect to get your manuscript back.
  • Don't attempt to draw attention to your manuscript by using coloured ink or coloured paper.
  • Don't use a fancy font.
  • Don't put each page of the manuscript in sheet protectors.
  • Don't try to write a ‘memorable’ submission letter.
  • Don't be cute. Your manuscript is key, not the frills.
  • Don't paste pages together, or turn a page upside down, or use any other clever device to find out if the editor has read the manuscript all the way through. Editors have seen these things over and over again.
  • Don't miss your deadline, even if the editor says it's OK. When an editor gives you a deadline, it means money is involved.
  • Don't be afraid to call your editor or agent to talk about questions or problems concerning business. That's what they're there for.
  • Don't take advantage. Remember editors try to be nice and usually understate things.


Jude said...

A handy list of points, Anita. I'd be a bit hesitant about contacting an agent directly after a rejection unless they'd asked me to do so, but maybe I'm being silly.

I think if they're interested they'll open channels of communication. I've contacted agents first off to get an idea about whether they're accepting certain kinds of manuscripts but after a NO and even a maybe I've just got on with it. Not sure what you think about the maybe response.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Hi Jude,

I wouldn't contact an agent directly after being rejected but, after a few months I might submit something else, through the usual channels.

I do spend time trying to find out the types of things their authors write though. I look at their website and catalogues, which you can pick up at book fairs.

I would count the maybe as a yes, as if they susequently decide they are not interested, they can always turn it into a definite no. What did you do?

Even when writing short stories for the women's magazines I very rarely re-submit the same story to the same magazine, unless I have edited it so much it is not really the same story. But, I will constantly send the same magazine new stories even if they have not replied yet to the previous ones.