Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Formatting your manuscripts

Several people recently have told me they're unsure how to format a manuscript for submission to a magazine, so I thought I'd offer a few suggestions.

1. Always read the guidelines and follow any rules or suggestions regarding formatting (and everything else!) Unless the guidelines state otherwise ...

2. Use a plain, standard font in a reasonable size.

3. Put your name and contact details on the story document, even if you've used a covering letter or cover sheet.

4. Any covering letter should be brief. Editors are busy people and if the story requires masses of explanation then it probably needs to be rewritten.

5. If sending by post, print on one side only and number your pages.

6. If emailing, format as for printing and be sure to save the document in a standard format (e.g. .doc) so it can be opened, or include in the body of the message.

7. Double space. (That's the lines, not the words or letters)

Don't get too stressed over formatting. It's the story which is important, not how it's presented. As long as it doesn't break any submission rules and can easily be read, you'll be fine.


Emma Canning said...

Great advice, Patsy. And I love the picture too :)

Captain Black said...

Some questions that come up frequently:

* Margins?
* That (in my opinion silly) start half way down the first page thing?
* Staples versus paper clips versus nothing?
* Name and title on every page, in case the editor drops the manuscript and there are no staples nor paper clips?
* Paper quality?

I probably know the answers to most of these, but they might be worth spelling out for newcomers.

Maria said...

Thanks for sharing Patsy.

Rosemary Kind said...

Adding to what Patsy has said there is another important consideration.

For electronic submissions - do not use your computer like a typewriter!
1. Use the automatic line spacing within the package don't use the return key at the end of lines to create your line spacing.
2. Use the tabulation within the programme to set your indents, don't use the space bar or the tab key.

Patsy said...

@ Emma - thanks. Couldn't resist that photo.

@ Captain Black - I use the computer default for margins, start the story under the contact details and title (that gives a little space if some should be needed for notes) use paperclips (one mag removes them and stapled the sheets so I started stapling - they came back paperclipped with the staples removed!) put my name on each page and use the cheapest 'normal' paper. As long as it's good enough for the print to be read clearly, it should be fine.

@Maria - you're welcome.

@Rosemary - thanks for the extra tips.

Captain Black said...

Thanks, that's helpful, but…

"Computer default for margins" is meaningless. The result would depend on choices of operating system, word processor software, versions thereof, printer settings and who-knows-what else.

I heard that one inch margins where fairly standard, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Jan Baynham said...

Useful pointers, Patsy. Thank you.

Patsy said...

@Captain Black - yes it'll vary a little with software etc, but it's really not going to matter if your margins are 1 inch or 1.1 inches or whatever. The margins don't appear in the magazine.

@Jan - thanks.

lizy-expat-writer said...

Useful advice. And I think I must be seeing things - your photo looked like a chocolate wafer to me!

Sally Zigmond said...

Many years ago, I used to be a small magazine editor and also judged competitions. I was frightened of staples. They used to often lacerate my fingers. And no dress-makers' pins either. Stick to paper-clips (not tiny ones.) Use headers and footers to add your name, story name and page number.

As Patsy so rightly said, no editor uses a ruler to measure margins. As long as the typescript looks clean and clear, it's fine. Don't use blocked paragraphs either.

An editor can tell if it's the sort of story she's looking for even if there's a typo here and there. (Not too many though.) Write a d*** good story and it'll probably be accepted. Be professional and fingers crossed.

Patsy said...

@Lizy - maybe it's a sign you 'need' to eat a chocolate wafer?

@Sally - Thanks for the insights.