Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Formatting

When you submit your manuscripts do you read the publishers submission guidelines? Do they make sense to you? As an editor I'm always amazed at how the manuscript isn't in the proper font, or the proper size for the font (which is why I decided to talk about this). How many underline instead of use italics. So I went looking. I didn't get far. I went to Loose ID, Samhain (which by the way are part of Ellora's Cave), Melange Books (where I edit and publish short stories), and Phaze (my publisher for my longer books. Phaze, Hardshell Word Factory, Awe-Struck are part of Mundania Press). Loose ID, Samhain, Melange Books, Phaze - none of them have the same information for submitting to them so it's not like there is a standard grid all electronic publishers use. Yet writing for two publishers I know there are basic things they all want.

So here's what I know:

Electronic publishers normally want 1 inch margins all around, left justified, Times New Roman font, one space between sentences (not the two you learned in school) and they want it in RTF. All manuscripts and synopsis are to be attached to your e-mail, not in the body of that e-mail. The only thing you should put in your e-mail is your letter.

If you plan on using italics in your ms, use them instead of underlining. The large conglomerates might still tell you to underline, but most small press/electronic don't.

Here's where things can change from publisher to publisher. Although RTF is a good universal doc, some will take Word. You need to check with the publisher you intend to submit to if you want to use Word to make sure they take it. Not all publishers will accept Word Documents, but it does seem to be an industry standard.

Not all word programs are compatible, even when you convert it to RTF. I just edited one that was done in Open Office - a free beta program and it didn't play well at all with my Word 7 program. It was saved as an RTF, but every time the author addressed the changes I suggested it messed with the formatting. A slight pain since I corrected all the formatting only to have it erased when the author sent it back to me. This is something you should be aware of when writing.

Most publishers want double spaced, but not all. Now a few minutes ago I said single spaced between sentences, and now I'm saying double spaced. So there is no confusion when you were taught to submit papers in school you were told to put  two spaces  between your sentences, where most publishers only want one, which is different than double spaced rows. Here's an example:

Mary walked in the bar. She was followed by three of her friends. (one space between sentences)
Mary walked in the bar.  She was followed by three of her friends. (two spaces between sentences)

Mary walked in the bar. She was followed by three of her friends. (double spaced from the line above)

Most want a point three indent in each paragraph, not point five, which is the default indent in most word programs. If the publisher doesn't have this information in the submission section on their website then the best thing to do is to use the default indent instead of the tab button so your editor can set it to the right indent without a problem.

I also recommend you use page breaks when ending a chapter. I used to try to line up the pages by hitting the enter key until I switched pages, but every time I had something edited that would change. especially if the document had to be converted to RTF or my editor had a different version of Word. It will make you life a little easier. I don't think the publishers care one way or the other. It's one thing I've never gotten a 'hey don't do that' on.

When you do a scene break most seem to like the *. Both of the publishers I work with want four of them, but that is where it ends. One wants no spaces and the other wants spaces between them.

I hope this helps you when formatting your manuscript. Publishers really appreciate it when you do the real basics, it makes their life easier and you never know when something this simple can sell your manuscript or get it rejected.

Barb:)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reminders! I'm amazed when people submit without reading the guidelines carefully. It's not rocket science, just good sense!

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