3.10.2016

Ready to submit? Use Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript to help!

Here's a glowing review for a seemingly dull book: Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, by Chuck Sambuchino and published by Writer's Digest Books. It goes into the nitty-gritty, boring old details of exactly how you present your precious writing to a potential agent or editor.

It's all in the details

It covers all major forms of writing, from article writing to nonfiction to short stories to novels to children's books, scripts, and poetry, and it details not just how to present your manuscript itself but also all the essential elements that go along with it: a query letter, a book proposal, an author bio, a synopsis, and more.

You might think the book would gloss over details, like that you'd have to infer from a generalized description of fiction submissions how to cater for a particular genre, but this book is all about details. I love books that are all about details! Are you writing a mystery novel? Covered. A graphic novel? Covered. An author-illustrated (or not) picture book? Covered. Need to know how to submit the acknowledgements page for your nonfiction book? Covered. An endorsements page for your novel? Covered. How about your radio commentary? Dude, it's covered.

Guiding your submission process

By far my favorite element of the book, though, is not the (admittedly dull) renderings of various manuscript formats — it's the query letters sprinkled throughout, marked up by agent and editor responses, to show both good and bad examples of how to submit your manuscript professionally. These are an invaluable mini-course in proper querying.




The book also guides you through the process of querying and publishing by giving you templates for follow-up cover letters, inquiries about payments, and all the arcane ephemera that can accompany a writing submission, and by letting you know exactly which of those ephemera are expected for each genre submission and at which point in the relationship with the agent or publisher. Of course, you should always check agents', magazines', and publishers' specific guidelines for what to include, but this book will get you well along the way to having all of the things they might ask for (query, bio, synopsis, sample pages, table of contents, etc.) available, ready, and polished.

At the end, the book even gives tips on keeping track of submissions, contacts, and income and expenses, and it provides forms you might need, such as release forms and permission to use copyrighted material in your work. As I said, this book is thorough.

The brave not-so-new world of electronic submissions

The third edition was published in 2009, and it does cover electronic submissions, though I'd say it could do a much better job in future editions of emphasizing electronic formatting over paper. Right now, the book tells you how you might reposition elements for electronic submissions, but I'd like to see it. I honestly can't imagine choosing to submit somewhere nowadays that doesn't allow or, indeed, prefer e-submissions or e-queries.

For instance, my understanding is that the common font choice has changed from Courier to Times New Roman (or similar), and since most agents or publishers will delete attachments, things like double-spacing, headers, and page numbers are now not as important as simply a neat presentation that works well in email. I'd be curious, too, whether there's any traction in say, sharing a link to a Google Doc or other modern improvement on the manila envelope-cum-SASE. That said, savvy readers can gather the point of what to include (detailed contact information, etc.) and adapt it for email — I'd just like to see electronic submissions illustrated on the page in the next edition.

Get your work ready to submit!

I recommend Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript to help you gather what you'll need, format it correctly, and get everything ready to go.

And then the hard work begins continues — actually submitting it! Good luck!
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