Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Publishers Guidelines Oct 22, '08

I sent out one of my literary children today. I hope for the best and am prepared for a rejection or more likely, no response whatsoever.

It's a novella, about 28K, enlarged a bit and darkened to fit the writing guidelines for which the publisher asked.

I spent about 20 years in the graphic arts field. I know the why of things for publishing standards. So I follow them. They aren't arbitrary rules just to piss off writers.


Not following them accounts for 99% of rejections. If you're a NAME like JK Rowling or Stephen King, you could submit in purple crayon on toilet paper, likely used. Since most of us are not, be wise, follow the publishers' instructions.

If the publisher doesn't say what they prefer, write an email and ask. Better to appear ignorant and become enlightened rather than assume, do it wrong, look stupid, and be trashed.

"Oh, but why? I want to stand out so they'll pick me!" Often comes from newbie eager writers.

News flash--there are reasons for a standard submission in the industry. Sticking out shows you're new, you're ignorant, and that you're cocky and rude not to have spent a wee bit of time cooperating and doing as the publisher asks. So why would anyone want to work with you?

"But I've written the next GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL!"

Yawn. No one will read it unless you send it conforming to the guidelines.

1: Ease of portage: it's easier to handle a stack of 8.5" x 11" & A4 (European size) paper than to have poster sized writing or your anthology tucked into a do-it-yourself 5x8" book, with pullouts, pop-ups, post-its for 'the good parts' etc.

2: It is a courtesy to follow the rules when you're in someone's home. Sending a book is going into the publishers' home. You keep your feet off the furniture, mind your manners, and give respect.

3: Ease of readability--this is the mechanical part:
--standard paper size: 8.5 x 11"/A4 20#/75k bond--plain copier/laser paper, not coated, no watermarks. WHITE only. No color, no exceptions.
--printed with margins min. 1.25"/3 cm from all edges because publishers write in these margins, and having white space allows the eyes to rest.
--solid black ink, minimum 360dpi. It's a decent contrast against the white paper and easy to read.
--only one side of the sheet printed. Yes, a waste of trees, but much easier than flipping over to read the back side--that takes time, time the publisher would rather spend reading. When an editor makes corrections these would likely bleed through to the back making it difficult for the author to see what's what.
--send it in a snug sturdy box for a large book, or a snug envelope with a sheet of same size cardboard to help keep the pages flat.
--leave the pages loose, no staples, no paper clips, none of those brass T-shaped paper holders that come in different sizes and the middle of the T opens to bend back around the pages. They make it hard to read what's on the binding edge. Don't send in a file folder, spiral binding, report binder with a slip on edge, keep the pages loose.

Formatting standards--I found these on the web:
--Use a fixed width font like Courier at 12 point. This is a font in which the 'I' takes up just as much room as the 'Z'. This way the publisher can determine how many words in a close approximate count. This count can be then projected into how many pages for a 5x8" or 6x9" whatever size book. It is also used to calculate the amount of paper needed, the amount of ink, the printing press time, the hours the printer person will need to be working, binding materials and time, the number of books that will fit into a box, number of boxes on a pallet for shipping, shipping costs, etc. All this depends on the word count.
--Line break use # symbol --just one, centered. This is a symbol that means space.
--If you need to italicize for thoughts, or for flashbacks, songs, etc, use underlines. Italics often get lost when converting between software programs.
--If you need emphasis, "Mary--look out!" Use 2 hyphens. A single hyphen is known as an en dash, 2 hyphens make an em dash, touch the em dash to the letters on either side.
These are old printing terms from the days of lead type. An en dash is one letter space, an em dash is two letter spaces. Often word processing programs will substitute a solid line for an em dash. Again, that can get lost in conversions.
--Paragraph indent 5 spaces from the left. Just hit the space bar 5 times, see where it goes and you can set your margin stop to there.
--Always double-space between lines & sentences, & after colons. Again easy to read. Yes, making it easy on the publisher will be appreciated.
--Flush left type -- not counting the indents for paragraphs, and leave the right ragged. Justifying with even margins makes it hard to read--we've all seen lines scrunched up, because paper costs money and this can save paper. It also makes type look wonky when they stretch to fit across the column but that's the price you pay, or not.

Top of first page on the upper left corner:

Author Name -- the real one you want the check made out to
City, State, Zip
ten digit tel: (000) 000-0000
email addy (

Make the email a professional one, don't use your surfing email like because it looks amateurish.

If you belong to a professional writing organization, you may list your membership beneath this information if it is relevant.

Top of first page on the upper right corner:
word count (2,500 words)
Byline, max 2 words of your title, page # (Milton, Paradise Lost, page 2)


How can you NOT put that in? Easy.

Top of MS Word, Insert menu, drop down, Page Numbers, has a box that you can check or not if you want the first page labeled.

In the upper-right corner of the first page place an approximate word count. If your manuscript is between one and 1,500 words long, round your word count to the nearest 100 words. For manuscripts of between 1,500 and 10,000 words, round to the nearest 500. For 10,000 to 25,000 words, round to the nearest 1,000. For 25,000 or more words, round to the nearest 5,000

You do not calculate the wordage of your story by counting actual words. Figure out the maximum number of characters per line in your manuscript, divide this number by six, and then multiply by the total number of lines in your story. This gives you the word count. Round from there.

This is for printing, if your work is to be on an ezine, the MS Word count will be accurate.

Center the title in bold capital letters about one third to halfway down the first page of your manuscript.

Two single lines below your title, you should place your centered byline. Your byline is the name that will receive credit for the story when it appears in print. Not necessarily the same as your real name.

Begin the text of your ms four single lines (or two double lines) below your byline.

If a word is too long to fit at the end of a line, then move the entire word to the beginning of the next line. Only if a phrase is normally hyphenated may you break it up at the end of a line. Thus, you must always place "antidisestablishmentarianism" on its own line, no matter how much empty space this leaves at the end of the line above. Never include a hyphen that you don't want to have show up in the final printed version of your manuscript.

Do not place "#" or "30" or "The End" or anything of the sort at the end of the story. The exception to this comes when the last line of your story happens to fall at the bottom of a page, write the word "end" by hand and in blue ink in the bottom margin of the last page.

Yes, following the guidelines can be a pain in the ass, but once you do, you've cut wayyyy down on the reasons for a publisher NOT read your story.