the book doctor: preparing your manuscript


DO check the submission requirements of your chosen agent or publisher before sending any work. These are usually listed on the web site

DO select a standard font and size. Times, Times New Roman, and Palatino in size twelve are all sensible choices for printed manuscripts.

Rule of thumb: pick a font that looks like the font used in most published books. These are generally serif fonts (with curly bits on the tails). Often the font used is named on the copyright page.

DON'T choose a fancy font that will be hard on the reader's eyes.

Tip: sans-serif fonts are easy to read on-screen, but in books they are not as easy on the eyes as serif fonts.

Here is Times, a serif font. It is commonly used in printed work.

The rest of this page is in Verdana, a sans-serif font. It is often used in on-screen work.

DO format your manuscript so that it is easy on the eyes:

double spacing
at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) margins on all sides
indented paragraphs
no spaces between paragraphs

DON'T submit a hand-written manuscript.

DON'T use coloured paper.

DON'T write on both sides of the paper unless the publisher specifically requests that you do.

DON'T use single spacing.

DO add a header or footer with your surname, short title, and page number.

DO use the same font for the header and the text but in a different size.

DO format the script as it will appear in a book, with indented paragraphs.

Tip: check some of the books your chosen publisher has produced to see what sort of formatting is preferred. Copy it as closely as you can.

DON'T add a space between paragraphs.

DO put necessary information on your title page:

your name, postal and e-mail addresses, and phone numbers
word length rounded off to the nearest thousand
title of your work in capitals

Tip: begin each chapter half-way down the first page, and don't indent the first word.

DON'T add extra, unnecessary bits of information at this stage:

no fancy cover page
no acknowledgements
no dedication
no pseudonym
no cute ribbons to tie it up

DON'T forget to keep an exact copy and a disc copy for yourself.

DON'T include a copyright notice. It is insulting to imply that a reader might steal your work; and copyright laws make it unnecessary.

DO send a good, clean copy of your work to the reader. A tatty copy of your work suggests you have no pride in it.

DON'T submit by e-mail unless the publisher or agent clearly states that this is acceptable

DON'T send a hard copy if the pubishers want an emailed version.

DON'T EVER send your only copy.

DO run off a fresh new copy if the hard copy starts to look a little dog-eared after it has been to a few readers.

DO include a brief (one page) cover letter which includes

a short explanation of what you are enclosing
what you want the reader to do with it
why you think it is an appropriate work for the publisher's list

DON'T include comments that mark you as unprofessional, such as:

I would love your company to publish my book. . .
I am just a housewife, but I have always wanted to write. . .
This is a better book than the last one you published in this field. . .
I chose you because the other companies don't appreciate good work. . .
This is just the first draft, but I will make any changes you want. . .
I am sorry for bothering you. . .
This is an exciting and engaging story. . .
My mother/ best friend/ dog really enjoyed this story. . .

DO add a full synopsis (a one-page summary of the plot or the main subject areas of your work).

DON'T summarise half the story and tell the reader to read the rest to find out the ending.

DO include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for return of your work. A red postal bag is best for avoiding problems regarding postage costs.

Tip: enclose a pre-written, stamped postcard to yourself telling you that your work has been received and opened.

DON'T expect an assessor, editor, agent, or publisher to return your manuscript if you have not provided the necessary envelope and postage.

DO fasten your manuscript with two large, strong rubber bands.

DON'T bind your manuscript unless specifially requested to. Publishers may not like it this way.

DON'T send your manuscript in folders, files, boxes, or other stuff the publisher has to keep track of.

DON'T include pretty cover pages, cute ribbons, or other unncessaray items.

A professionally prepared manuscript will receive professional attention.



the book doctor
69 Sandville Place
Tasmania 7020

(03) 6239 9423