Friday, October 3, 2008

Does Your Manuscript Stand Out in the Wrong Way?

Only good writing will make your manuscript stand out in the right way from the mountainous slush pile. Below is a list of things editors DO and DO NOT like to see. They've seen everything on this list and more!


Don't assume the manuscript submission information in your current Writers' Market Guide is current! By the time you're ready to send your query, proposal letter, or manuscript to the submissions editor, the information could be outdated. I know it's an exaggeration but I like to say that publishing houses have been known to change editors like we change our socks! It gets the point across.

Do go to publishers websites for the most recent guidelines and the name of the editor currently accepting submissions. Up-to-date guidelines and information on editorial changes can also be obtained from The Children's Writer, the SCBWI Bulletin, and The Children's Book Insider.


Don't send brightly colored (or even pastel) envelopes meant to draw attention to your manuscript. Decorated envelopes with stickers, drawings of smiley faces, or cute sayings are not acceptable.

Do use a plain white #10 envelope if your manuscript is four pages or less. Fold manuscript and cover letter into thirds. I like to use a 9 X 12 manila envelope for longer manuscripts. Include a SASE.


Don't send your manuscript Express Delivery. It will not get your manuscript to the top of the slush pile. A "better" and faster package does not mean a better manuscript. It will only frustrate an editor because the guidelines were not followed.

Do send your manuscript in a plain envelope with the correct postage.


Don't fax a manuscript unless guidelines tell you it's acceptable. That rarely happens. Faxed manuscripts are difficult to read.

Do follow the manuscript submission guidelines. Very few accept fax or e-mail submissions. Most require snail-mail.


Don't send art samples with your manuscript unless you are a true professional illustrator. This is a surprise to many new writers who think they must find an illustrator to go with their manuscript. The same goes for sending drawings from your sister-in-law, best friend, or anyone else who you think is a pretty good artist. Pretty good doesn't make it. Professional does. The standards for book illustrations are extremely high. Publishers have their own set of illustrator guidelines for professionals. Illustration decisions are up to the publisher.

Do write a manuscript that lends itself to visual pictures. Editors are pros at envisioning imaginative illustrations for a great story. Occasionally it may be necessary for you to describe a scene of it's not self-explanatory. Here's how you do it---describe the scene and put it in [brackets].


Don't staple your manuscript together. Do not bind your manuscript in any way to make it look like a book.

use a large paper clip.


Don't use fancy or an extra LARGE font.

Do use the generally accepted fonts in black: Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Don't try to squeeze in more words by using a 10 or 11 font! Font number 12 is easy to read and the accepted font size.


Don't try to squeeze as much as you can on each sheet of paper by leaving extra small margins. Nothing less than an inch will do. Don't use single spacing in your story. Use double.

Do leave good margins of an inch on each side and about an inch and a half on the bottom of your manuscript. Do use double spacing in your story. Follow complete manuscript format samples found in most how-to-write for children books.

I'll save info on writing cover letters and queries for another post (o:

Your manuscript needs to look professional. It will give you some credibility and perhaps a second look from an editor!

Copyright 2008 Sheryl Ann Crawford

1 comment:

Nancy I. Sanders said...

This is great advice, Sherri! Thanks for reminding us of these important tips. Love, Nancy