You've written that short story or novel.  Now what?

Completing a story is only the first step toward publication. Now you've got to sell it. Whether you've written a short story or novel, manuscripts share many characteristics. There are also some important differences, so be sure to check out the appropriate sample manuscript below.

All manuscripts should follow these basic rules:

  1. Use plain white 8 1/2 by 11 inch 20-pound bond paper (standard laser or copier paper). Odd sizes and colors mark the writer as a beginner. If you're using continuous-feed printer paper, separate the pages.

  2. Typed. Almost all editors and agents will return a handwritten manuscript unread. Use a fresh ribbon in typewriters or ribbon printers. Printed text should be dark black and easy to read. If you're using a computer, use a monospace font such as Courier 12 point.

  3. Text should be on one side of the paper only. On word processors, left justify text. Double-space between lines of text. Indent paragraphs, but do not leave an extra space between them. Leave two spaces (not one) between sentences. Do not use italics; Underline text that should be italicized. Use two hyphens (--) to represent a dash, and space out ellipses ( . . . not ...).

  4. Margins should be 1-1 1/2 inches on all sides on every page.

  5. Do not use staples, paperclips, folders, or binders. Manuscript pages should be loose.

  6. Include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) with sufficient postage to return your entire manuscript, OR include a #10 business-sized envelope with a first class stamp and mark your manuscript DISPOSABLE at the top of the first page. If you're submitting to a market in another country, you may need to use International Reply Coupons.

  7. Read and follow the publisher's or agent's guidelines BEFORE submitting a manuscript. You can find links to publishers' guidelines on the Writing/Publishing Resources page.

For specific information and to see sample manuscripts, click on one of the following:

Copyright© 1999 Hamilton Mac Alester