The following is reprinted with the permission of SF Amy
and Nick Neuro, moderators of America Online's Science
Fiction Writers Workshop.
* Note, this was prepared primarily for Science Fiction and
Fantasy writers, but the majority of the advice applies to
_any_ writer in _any_ genre.
MANUSCRIPT FORMATS & SUBMISSION HINTS
DO YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES?
Nope. I know of at least one case where a first novel was
sold based on a manuscript that was almost six hundred
single spaced pages, written on both sides. But why make
it hard for someone to like your work?
SOME OF THESE GUIDELINES SEEM REALLY DUMB.
Yep. But a lot of them were put in place before computers
or even electric typewriters were common. But when
you're trying to sell something, you don't tell your
customer you think what he's asking for is dumb.
WHAT SHOULD GO IN THE PACKAGE TO THE PUBLISHER?
The minimum is a manuscript and a SASE (#10
envelope with one stamp on it.). They'll send you their
response in the #10. Sometimes it is a letter on their
stationary. Sometimes it's the first page of your
manuscript or your cover letter (if you used one) with a
note scribbled on it.
If you want your manuscript returned, forget the #10 and
include a SASE (STAMPED not metered) shipping
envelope similar to the one your mailed the manuscript in
with SUFFICIENT POSTAGE to get the manuscript back
to you. NEVER send your only copy of a manuscript to
SHOULD I HAVE A COVER LETTER?
In a genre short story submission sent directly to the
publisher, there is no need for a cover letter unless you
have some special skill or experience that would increase
the editor's good feelings about your story. If you write a
story that draws on your occupational knowledge or
unique personal experience, by all means say so.
Likewise if you have professional credits such as other
work published, award nominations, or Clarion attendance,
again, say so. (In the case of literary publications, attendance
at an MFA program, for instance) It can help you get out of
the big slush pile and into the little one.
If you do write a cover letter, make it a brief (2 or 3 lines),
professional business letter to the editor. Don't try to flatter
the editors, tell them how to market your story or why this
is so much better than all the garbage they've been
publishing. Just hope they like it. It doesn't help to send
photos, gifts, inflatable toys, home-made cookies, living
creatures, sexual come-ons or even money (unless it's a
enough money so that the editor can retire for the rest of
his/her life <g>).
WHAT'S THE OVERALL FORMAT FOR THE MANUSCRIPT?
The manuscript should be printed on 8 1/2 by 11 white
paper, with a one inch white space around each edge. Use
a fresh ribbon/ink cartridge/toner cartridge if the text looks
gray. Editorial Readers have to slog through hundreds of
manuscripts per week. It's not wise to make them strain to
read your work. *ALL PRINT SHOULD BE A IN 12
POINT MONOSPACE SERIF FONT.* I'll say that again
because it is so important. *ALL PRINT SHOULD BE
A IN 12 POINT MONOSPACE SERIF FONT.*
Monospace means that every letter is of the same width.
A "W" is allowed just as much line space as an "I". The
best font to use is Courier, but Times and Roman are
acceptable. DO NOT use proportional fonts like
Garramond, Schoolbook, Lucida, etc. The AOL screen
font is a proportional sans-serif font. DO NOT use a font
that looks or acts like it for your manuscript submission.
If your word processor has "Widow and Orphan Control",
turn it off. "Widow and Orphan Control" refers to not
allowing the first or last line of a paragraph to be split
across pages. All of your pages should have their last line
at the same physical place on the page. If they don't, then
you probably have some text flow option turned on and
you need to turn it off.
In the upper left hand corner of the first page of your
manuscript you should put your name, address and phone
number, single spaced and left justified. This is your
"check" name. It's how the editor contacts you and who
they make the check out to.
In the upper right hand corner of the first page should be
the number of words in the manuscript rounded to the
nearest hundred words, right justified. Like, "6500 Words"
Putting something like "About 5,423 Words," well, don't
do it. It's 5,400 words, in that case.
Do NOT put "Copyright 1996" on your manuscript:
But, why? Writers Digest Tells Us So!
1) It's not necessary. Your manuscript is protected by
copyright laws by the fact that you wrote it. The
appropriate protection is for you to keep a copy
2) It will be formally copyrighted if & when it is published
by the publisher
3) It immediately marks you as an amateur
4) It also dates the story, doesn't it?
Five lines above the vertical center of the page should be
the title of your manuscript. It should be horizontally
centered and all in caps. The line directly below it should
be blank. The next line should be, "by
YourProfessionalName". This is your "nom de plume" or
the name that will appear in the magazine as the author. It
can be the same as your check name if you wish. Skip
two lines and start your story, the first line of which should
be in the vertical center of the page.
All story lines should be double spaced with 1/2 inch
indentations for the first line of each paragraph. Don't skip
an extra line between paragraphs.
Your first page should look like the next page:
Your Legal Name 6,500 Words
123 Nebula Blvd.
Clarion, Michigan MO210
MY MASTERPIECE IS CALLED
by Your Writing Name
It was a dark and stormy night.
Hans Kramped, the Norwegian explorer,
rubbed his palms together and blew on
them to keep them warm. Ice crystals hung
in the air like frozen memories of the
loved ones he'd left behind. Outside
wolves howled in the distance; their
moanful bay reminding him of midnight
runs on the family grounds with his older
sister before his stepmother and
stepfather sent her away to America. But
that had been several lifetimes ago. Now
there was only the ice, the cold and his
life size Barney plush toy -- and of
course, the book.
Would he have the courage to tell
the world the horrible . . .
You get the idea.
For all subsequent pages; in the upper left hand corner
you should have your Last Name, a "/" and the Title of the
Story, all left justified (or Title/Last Name). In the upper
right hand corner and right justified, you should have the
page number (starting with number 2). This is all so that
when the manuscript gets dropped and the pages
scattered, it can be reassembled with a minimum of fuss.
Section breaks should be shown by a line that contains
only a pound sign (#)in the center of the line. Treat it like
any other line of text. Don't add extra spaces above or
Like the next page:
KRAMPED / Hans Cramped Page 13
Hans dropped the hot iron on his
toe and hollered, "Ja, that's hot, but
you should see my salsa." Margaret's eyes
fired volleys of daggers at Hans, nearly
pinning him to the wall. "You never did
love me, did you?" she screamed, grabbing
her mucklucks and throwing open the
blanket that served as a door on their
Hans' heart fell. "Margaret!" he
cried into the cold arctic night. "You
can't leave me. I've almost deciphered
"I don't care. I'm going back to
Barney. At least I know he loves me." She
tried to fight back the tears, but
managed only to snort like a race horse.
"And I love him. There, I've said it."
She stepped out into the swirling
night and disappeared into the dark. Hans
ran to the door but she was gone. Still,
he would never forget her final, fleeting
words as chunks of wind-driven ice
scoured his face like the lonely sands of
It was nearly dawn at the Institute
when a roving band of students foraged
their way into Prof. Whasbo's office
looking for Ring Dings. He was as ill
prepared to meet them as they were to
find such an august faculty member
dressed in a chicken outfit and singing
the Yale Fight Song.
You get the idea.
When you get to the end of the story, skip three or four
spaces and put "THE END" or "END" in the horizontal
- END -
DO NOT staple, glue or bind the manuscript pages
together. Do not buy a nice little folder with a
plastic cover. Use a paperclip.
Do not fool with any of the "techniques" that some writers
seem to use to discover whether or not the editor actually
read their story, such as inserting fine hairs between the
pages, bits of rubber cement or scotch tape. This is an
embarrassing waste of time. Worse, many name
publications keep records of promising writers whose work
wasn't purchased. Although brief, these records often
indicate who you are, the story title, what grade of
rejection you received and maybe a little bit about what
they liked or didn't like about your work. Yes folks, there is
such a thing as a permanent record. Frightening, isn't it.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I SEND THE
Don't forget to keep track of where you've sent stories.
Don't send stories to multiple markets unless you tell
them and they have no problem with your doing so.
Although Dean Smith (Former Editor of Pulphouse) holds the
record at over 60 stories out at one time, it's easy to get
confused even if you only have two or three out. So pick a
tracking system that works for you and stick with it. And
yes, editors write stories too and yes, they sometimes
have their stories rejected too. So don't get discouraged
by rejections. Keep sending the stories out.
Amy & Nick