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About Writing Right: The Blog


Someone asked online the other day if it's important to format your manuscript before submitting to a publisher or an agent. Not coincidentally, few people responded. One, however, did and missed the boat by a mile. I stepped in with this.

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Unfortunately, the Queen of Wrong blew yet another one. I'm sure she feels from an egotistical point of view that her experience or preference equates to universal truth. It doesn't. Unlike Queenie, I'm not only a niche genre author but also an author of all genres, an instructor, a conventionally published author of more than ninety books and tens of thousands of articles, short stories, blogs, columns, and television and video scripts, but also a diverse professional editor. I've sent out probably ten thousand pitches and pieces in all genres in my half century of writing and publishing, and I've seen even more as a book, magazine, and newspaper editor. I know there's only one standard way of formatting a manuscript. And it's not placing your contact information in the right-hand corner of the cover page. Just the reverse.


Put your name, address, e-mail, and phone number single-spaced in the upper left-hand corner of the cover page. Put the word count ("XXX Words") flush right on the first line (opposite your name). On the line below that word count, also flush right, you may want to include the rights you're offering for sale: "First N.A.S. Rights" (first North American Serial Rights) for articles/short stories/blogs never before published or "One-Time Rights" for regional magazine/newspaper/blog publications as appropriate, or "All Rights" for book-length manuscripts.


Next, go down ten or twelve spaces and center the title of the piece on the page. (It's called the "title page" for a reason, see?) Add your by-line (the name you want to appear on the published piece as author) double spaced and centered below the title: "By Dick York" or "By Dick York aka Roger Korman" (if you're using a pseudonym).


That's the only way to format a submission if you want to let the editor or agent know that you're serious about your writing and have done your homework before submitting. Do it in any other fashion, and you'll have one strike against you in the recipient's mind from the start. And believe me, editors and agents see a ton of works with multiple strikes against them, all of which end up on the cutting room floor.


As for running heads, don't put one on the title page (it just looks dorky), but do put one on every subsequent page. Always. Place it in the header space, flush left, all on one line. And don't take Queenie's advice and construct the header as AUTHOR/TITLE/PAGE NUMBER. An editor doesn't give a damn who the author is. He keeps track of the work by its title first and then the author. So, construct the header as TITLE/AUTHOR (last name only is best)/PAGE NUMBER.


And never use a running foot. It screams, "Look at me, I'm an amateur and I don't give a damn about convention!" Unfortunately for those people, publishers do give a damn. For a graphic look at how you should format your book manuscript to comply with publishing industry norms, check out a link on my agent's site HERE: Look under "Free Agency Downloads" and click on "Sample Book Formatting Guide."


Finally, to answer Part Two of your question, U.S. publishers consider manuscripts from writers all around the world, provided they're submitted in English, of course. Something else Queenie forgot to mention. Sorry, Queenie, but someone had to set the record straight. Again.



And if all this doesn't help answer you question, relax. You can always sit back and ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack

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