Thou Shalt ~ Do all you can to make it great
The editing process can be painful, or quite enlightening, depending on your point of view. I have personally found that editors that approach the process with a steady hand, talent, and the ability to point out silly errors as well as gross errors without offense are really a gem well found.
Not only do publishers expect manuscripts that are polished in grammar, structure, plot or content and punctuation, there are formatting rules that should be followed to ensure that your piece has a chance to float to the top of pile. Errors and carelessness can extend the editing and formatting time for a manuscript substantially, even if the story is strong and well written.
We asked one of our editor friends (with whom we have had experience) to provide a list of the basics in a format that you might recognize. Have fun; but give heed.
From Cindy Koepp, author, editor, and really funny lady.
The Ten Commandments of Manuscript Submission
In the time of the indies, there arose among the writers a cadre who believed in their hearts that all rules are evil. Indeed, these writers believed that their writings were so perfect that adherence unto the Guidelines of Submissions for the small presses was a thing to be mocked. Verily, I say unto thee, these misguided souls did sin mightily in this manner: they submitted manuscripts of such a horrid nature that there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Hear, O Writer, these words of wisdom lest you, too, find thy work in the great pile of rejections from whence no work shall be published unless it be first improved greatly.
- The number of spaces at the end of thy paragraphs shall be 0. Neither 1 space nor 2 spaces shalt thou add, and at no time shalt thou consider 3 spaces, for that would be just silly.
- The number of the spaces after thy punctuation shall be 1, and 1 shall be the number of the spaces after thy punctuation. There shall not be more nor less than 1. Two is right out!
- Thou shalt use no tabs in thy manuscript. Nay, not thee, nor thy editor, nor thy proofreader shall permit a tab to exist, for tabs are an abomination in all thy works. Thou shalt use the indent only, that thou mayest live long on the best seller list.
- Thou shalt use the font that the guidelines require, and if the publisher provideth no guidance on the choice of fonts, then thou shalt use a font that possesseth the appearance of a professional. With serif or without serif thou mayest choose, but thou shalt avoid strange fonts that resemble the dripping of blood or ancient calligraphy or any other thing that hath not the appearance of the professional. Indeed I say unto you, Comic Sans shalt thou shun, for it is a strange font. Likewise, anything that causeth fatigue of the eyes shalt thou avoid. It is a plague upon thy work.
- The margins of thy works shalt always be as described in the publisher’s guidelines, and if the publisher provideth no guidance, thou shalt set thy margins at one inch all around. Two inches shalt thou not set, neither shalt thou set thy margins at a half inch. This thou shouldst do to show respect unto the white space of the document for white space creates less strain upon the eyes and permits the editor who works on real paper to have space to write comments. In like manner, thou shalt not use full justification of thy text. Thou shalt leave the right edge ragged for it is easier on the eyes to have consistent spacing throughout the line and not too much spacing here and too little there. Have respect unto the white space.
- The line spacing of thy manuscript shalt conform unto the guidelines given by the publisher, and if the publisher provideth thee with no guidelines on this matter, thou shalt set thy line spacing at two, for that is the standard of the industry. Therefore, thy works shall be considered well.
- At no time shalt thou send thy first draft. Neither shalt thou send thy second draft, nor thy third except that thou first thoroughly edit thy work and act upon the feedback of the skilled beta reader. For if thou shouldst dare to send thy unedited drafts, thou shalt have the appearance of the novice, and thy manuscript shall be rejected.
- Thou shalt proofread thy document for spelling, grammar, and word choice. Nay, thou shalt not rely solely upon the spell-checker of thy word processor for it is an ignorant thing and knowest not whether to use two or too or to. Neither knowest it the difference between your or yore or you’re. Thou shalt proofread with thine own eyes, or thou shalt ask thy friend who possesseth the skill of a proofreader to check for thee, lest thou lookest like a buffoon unto thy editor and becomest thou the butt of his jokes.
- Research the press unto which thou wouldst send thy manuscript. If thou sendest a western unto a romance publisher, thou shalt be greatly disappointed unless thy western possesseth a very strong romance subplot. Likewise, if thou sendest thy science fiction unto a publisher of cookbooks, thou shalt be much disappointed. Verily I say unto thee, check also that the press is of good reputation because there are many who conduct business with unwashed hands.
- When thou dost prepare thy manuscript for submission, thou shalt first consider carefully the allowable time of submission. Thou shalt not submit thy work early; neither shalt thou submit thy work late, but thou shalt submit thy work only during the open submission time. For if thou submit thy work out of season, then thou shalt immediately receive Automatic Rejection, if thou receiveth any response at all. Then thy manuscript, upon which thou hast worked diligently, shall be relegated unto the outer darkness of the rejection pile from whence no work is published unless it be resubmitted in the proper time.
Think thee not that these are frivolities. If thou wouldst see thy work published through a traditional press, then thou shalt consider carefully the Guidelines of Submission put forth by the press unto which thou dost submit thy work. Failure to follow the Guidelines of Submission shall result in great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Cindy Koepp is originally from Michigan. She moved to Texas as a child and later received a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. Her recently concluded adventures in education involved pursuing a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has three published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press as well as an optician at monster-sized retail store.
Cindy can be found — and further enjoyed at: