If a book is really good, it deserves to be read again,
  and if it's great, it should be read
at least three times. -- Anatole Broyard


Presentation and Format

First, try to be considerate about the quantity of product that goes across the desk of an agent or an editor. It is immense and called the slush pile for good reason.

Make an effort to stand out from other writers. You'll want to present your manuscript with quality and foresight. Don't just toss it in the mail. Take time to edit, revise, and proof it for errors. By paying attention to details, you'll indicate you are a solidly professional writer. Here are some tips.

  1. Paper quality. Use high quality bond paper that is at least in a 20# (pound) stock for your manuscript. Send it clean, well packaged, and with a one-page cover letter. Computers do a great job of producing a quality manuscript. However, if you find it hard to give up the old Royal or IBM Selectric, be certain that the keys are clean, the rollers track smoothly, and the ink ribbon is new.
  2. Are copies okay? You may use copy paper but then it is a manuscript that looks, and perhaps is, one of many copies. That's fine. If you send a photocopied manuscript, add a notation that it is not a multiple submission. If you can afford it, spend the bucks for the quality grade paper. Do we need to mention that white paper is the rule? Sending pink paper marks the manuscript for the fast track into the "Oh, mah gawd toss that and get me the Pepto" file.
  3. Font type? Use either Courier or Times New Roman 12. Courier allows experienced editors to take a page count to estimate the size of the book. Times New Roman is acceptable and used frequently, even though the font "weight and size" varies with each letter in the alphabet (n, m, and w for example) making it difficult to estimate the length of the book.
  4. This may not be news, but each manuscript needs to be double-spaced with generous margins. Use 1- inch margins at the top and bottom. Use a one-inch margin on the left, and use 1- inch on the right side. Revisions and addenda from an editor's hand may pour onto the pages so give them room to write. For those editors who are left-handed, well, they have our sympathies.
  5. Pagination. Number each page consecutively in the top right-hand corner, with the exception of the first page. No need to place a number on the first page of the manuscript.
  6. Page Continuity. For a computer processed manuscript, include your last name (surname) at the top-left corner, place a forward slash "/" and then a keyword from the title. If you are working on that old Royal (hand-typing as it were) then use just your last name without the keyword. Often the title of a book changes, and with a computer, the search and replace function speeds the process.
  7. Printing. If you still are keeping a dot matrix printer (as a pet only by now--what, you named it?) do not use it to print your manuscript. Whether you have to beg, borrow, or use a friend's printer, do it. Some local printers (Kinko's and Speedy) accept e-mail files and will "print on demand" to save you from listening to your bubble jet, laser, or ink jet printer for hours.

Print this list (Select Control + P on your PC) Word Smitten recommends you follow these tips:
  • Use 20# paper.
  • Use quality white paper. For photocopied manuscripts add a note: Single Submission Only.
  • Use Courier or Times New Roman.
  • Double-spaced manuscript.
  • Pagination. Page numbers in right-hand corner. Continuity. Last name/title key word in left corner.
  • Print Quality. Crisp, high quality printer. No splotches. No ink spatters. No dot-matrix printers.
  • Extra tip: Keep a copy in your file. If you want the manuscript you are sending to be returned (sometimes it is less expensive to let it get go; at an average 7 cents per page it's your choice) send it with a self-addressed envelope with full postage (SASE).

More Tips
  • The Cover Letter - You've written the novel, so why is a one-page query letter so tough? We'll give you the tips for getting it right.
  • In our exclusive interview with Katharine Sands, Manhattan agent, she discusses how publishing companies consider the concept of "platform" to be critical for an author's success.
  • The book is written and you want to promote it? Read this interview.

Seven Tips
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Read our exclusive interviews with:

Katharine Sands
Manhattan Agent

Peter Dekom
Entertainment Attorney

Marcela Landres
Editor at Simon and Schuster

Scott Manning
Publicist for Black Hawk Down among other great books

Elisabeth Scharlatt
Editor at Algonquin Publishing


Wendy Lestina
Winner of
Word Smitten's
Flash Fiction