Useful tips every writer should know
Many talented writers have their work rejected simply because they don’t follow the standard guidelines set out in the publishing industry.
The requirements offered here are to be used as general information only. It’s the writers’ responsibility to check and follow individual publisher’s guidelines prior to sending work to them.
Documents must be presented with a professional look. Here are the standard requirements often adopted by many publishers:
- 12 pt font size
- 1.5 to double spacing
- black text on white background
- A4, which is 29.7 cm X 21.0 cm (Australian standard).
Some publishers accept manuscripts sent electronically now, but if you are sending a hard copy then follow these additional instructions:
- single sided, meaning use one side of a page only
- A4, 80 gsm, white paper – make sure it’s clear of dirty smudges, food particles, etc.
Don’t bind your documents professionally or by any other means (including stapling, gluing, or within plastic pockets presented in a folder of any description). If your work contains many pages then secure them with an appropriate sized elastic band around the middle. If your work contains fewer pages where an elastic band would cause it to curl or tear then use a single paperclip on the left hand corner.
Don’t waste your time trying to create a pretty cover – you’re a writer and that’s not your job. Besides, the publishing house will organise that part of the procedure along with other marketing aspects. Once your work has been accepted then you can share your ideas as to how you see a cover, but remember it’s ultimately the publishing house’s decision. They are in the business of selling books and have been doing so for many years. In other words, learn from them; don’t annoy them.
The front cover should contain the title of the work and the author’s name centred and in the middle of the page. The wordage is displayed on the bottom right-hand corner, and the type of work in the top left-hand corner. That’s it. If you have something else to say then save it for the accompanying letter.
Each page of your manuscript should have the title of the work and the author’s name along the top of the page. Insert it as a header for Microsoft Word documents. Number each page, this can be presented on the top right-hand corner (use the header again) or on the bottom and centred (use the footer in Microsoft Word documents).
For Australian publishers, make sure your page is set up for Australian size A4 (29.7 cm X 21.0 cm). Some default settings may produce letter size, so make sure you use the A4 sizing, which shouldn’t be confused with the American A4 standard size.
Dealing with publishers
While publishers have their own guidelines in regards to how they should be contacted, we hope this information is helpful. We recommend checking the intended publisher’s website for guidelines before submitting your work. Incorrect submission methods could cause your work to be tossed in the slush pile. A slush pile comprises of rejected manuscripts. Some manuscripts that end up there haven’t even been read. They may have been tossed in simply for not using the right font. Remember: a quick glance from a publishing house’s employee could depend on whether your work is read or not, so make sure you follow those guidelines.
Publishers receive thousands of manuscripts every week, naturally they will want to ‘thin the herd’ and what better way than to toss every manuscript that doesn’t fit their basic requirements?
Try to obtain the submissions manager or editor’s name, and make sure you spell it correctly. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself in this attempt. If you do end up calling the publisher then ask the receptionist for the correct details, but this should be a last resort. Publishing houses are extremely busy, and that includes the receptionists so be mindful.