Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission

Before Submitting

Make sure there is a market for the kind of book you intend to write before you even begin. If you write a book on a subject that nobody cares about then publishers won’t touch your manuscript with a stick. Find out if books similar to the one you intend to write are selling well by:

(a)    Checking bestseller lists online or in newspapers.
(b)    Asking how similar books are selling at your local bookshops.
(c)    Attending writer’s conferences and talks by people in the industry.

• The best way to find out if there is a market for your book is to check out the latest Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books) book or visit their website (

• Also ensure you submit your manuscript to a publisher who publishes books similar to your own. Submitting a children’s book, about a talking cat, to a non-fiction publisher would be a waste of time, so do your homework. Read the latest Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook (A&C Black), Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books), or check out to see what kind of books the various publishing houses publish.

How to make your book more publishable

Remove all spelling and grammatical mistakes. If the publishers find mistakes in your work, especially in the early chapters, they might conclude that the book requires more work than it is worth and reject it outright. Unpolished manuscripts also give the impression of an unprofessional author.

• Never submit a manuscript that you know can be improved upon. Go over your manuscript until you consider it perfect, then have as many people read it as possible, to spot any flaws you might have overlooked. Ask these readers to be critical of the book, so that you can get an objective opinion and correct mistakes in the text before the publisher reads it.

• Join or start a writer’s club, so that other literary people can give you constructive advice on how to improve your work, thereby, increasing its likelihood of being published.

• Read up on how to improve your writing. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Longman Publishers) is a short book and the one most publishers recommend for improving one’s writing. If you are writing a novel then try On Writing by Stephen King.


Formatting your manuscript

It is important to format your manuscript to the specifications of the publisher you are submitting it to. Publishers have stacks of manuscripts to get through and are likely to reject a book right away – without reading it – if it is not formatted to their specifications. Some of the usually requirements are:

• The text must be neatly printed or typed, never handwritten, on good quality A4 paper.

• The print should be on one side of the page only, and have a margin of at least 1 and a quarter inches (3cm) all around the text.

• Each chapter must begin on a new page.

• Be sure to double space between the lines. This, plus having adequate margins, provides space for the copy-editor to make last minute corrections to the text and give instructions to the printer.

These are some of the very basic formatting rules that most publishing houses require, but there is much more to it than this and it can vary from house to house. The best thing to do is go to the publisher’s website and checkout exactly how they want you to format your text. Reading a book like Formatting and Submitting your Manuscript (Writer’s Digest Books) will also help you understand what the publishers want.


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