Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission

You’ve written your book and have decided to submit it to an agent or small publisher. Before you just shoot your chapters or full manuscript off into cyberspace, make sure you’ve prepped it. Lack of preparation could mean you’re turned down…even if your story idea is good.

1. EDIT!

Edit your manuscript. I can’t stress this enough. After you finish writing, go through it again. Look for holes in your plotline. Look for wordiness. Are you using 5 words when you could use one? Give your book to beta readers and take their feedback to heart. Work with an author’s group. Make changes.


I admit proofreading your own work can be difficult. Your brain is so familiar with the story that it fills in what should be there. Use your spellcheck; while it is not always correct, it can help you make corrections in those little words that your brain corrects automatically, like teh for the or double words that your brain automatically edits away for for you. Annoying, isn’t it? Get some fresh eyes to go through it and mark problems they see, then double check those places and make corrections as needed.


Formatting your file can be challenging at first, but once you figure it out, it becomes much easier. Make a page break for new chapters, don’t keep hitting the Enter key until your text appears on the next page. Please. I beg of you. This can shift when the file is opened, leaving a lot of blank space in the middle of a page and your chapter may start at the bottom. 😛

Don’t use the tab to make your paragraph indent. Word makes it so simple to set your indents automatically, and most of the other word processing softwares also have easy ways to set this up. If you later decide to self-publish an ebook from your manuscript, you’ll be thankful you did this.

If you want to place a header in the manuscript, do it properly, so you don’t get your name or the book title appearing in the middle of a page. You cannot make headers by using a carriage return and using right justify.

Space your lines so they are easy to read. On a computer screen, 1.5 is a nice width. You can choose this easily with your word processing program. If you don’t know how, look it up in the Help section. Learning how best to use your word processor is an asset every writer should develop.


Choose a simple, easy to read font. DON’T send a manuscript all in italics or in a curly font. It is too hard on the eyes to read these styles for an entire book.

DON’T assume you can have large chunks of text in bold. Chapter titles, headings and subheadings, sure. Not large portions of the story.

DON’T send manuscripts full of typos. Learn your punctuation. If you have dialogue and you want to add a ‘said Todd’ to let the reader know that Todd is speaking, do it right.

“I’m going to the store.” Said Todd, putting on his coat.  THIS IS WRONG. DON’T DO THIS.

“I’m going to the store,” said Todd, putting on his coat. THIS IS CORRECT. DO THIS. You can also replace the comma in this example with a question mark or exclamation point if it is applicable to the dialogue.


Of course, you still need a good, solid story, but making sure you attend to these things before submission will help save your book from ending up in the slush pile due to careless errors.