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Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission

Most self-publishing services have manuscript submission guidelines; and if you ask any editor, they'll tell you that it's the least-read page on their Web site. We're not talking about grammar and syntax here. The issues are usually things like tabs, using spaces to center or indent, extra carriage returns, oddball fonts and styles - all things that have to be fixed or eliminated before layout can begin. Microsoft Word is a fine word processor, but it's not a layout program. It's not clear that the folks at Microsoft are aware of this, but it's true.

We tend to think in 'pages.' Word doesn't. Word has a feature called print layout that gives you a nice page-by-page picture of your document on-screen, but in reality, your manuscript is one long file of characters and formatting codes. And since you are probably typing on an 8.5 x 11 'page' and your book will be 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9, one page on the screen doesn't equal one page in print. Everything is different - justification, margins, page breaks, even things you might not be familiar with, like leading (space between lines) and tracking (space between letters); and they're going to change when your book goes from Word to a layout program like Adobe InDesign. Lines and pages are going to break places you don't expect, that title you centered using the space bar is now off against the right margin, and on and on.

So here are some general rules to make the process easier and prevent heartache later on.

  1. Start with Word or Word Perfect. Be sure the file you submit is either file type .doc or .rtf. (rtf is Rich Text Format, and all major word-processing programs have Rich Text as an option under Save As.) Send your manuscript as a single file, containing everything you want published, in the order you want it, including the title page, table of contents, dedication, acknowledgments, etc. Two exceptions: Internal images. Those should be sent separately. (see below) And leave the page after the title page blank; we’ll insert copyright information.

  2. Separate chapters with a hard page break (usually ctrl-enter). Do not just enter carriage returns until you reach a new page. Your text won't flow in layout precisely like it does in your file anyway, but hitting the enter key until Word shows a new page on your computer screen will create a big break in the middle of a book page where you least expect it. And there's no guaranteed way to find all these breaks during the layout process, meaning some of them could wind up in your printed book.

  3. Clearly indicate chapters by using different fonts and formats for headings. Use your program's style formatting function to mark different heading levels, e.g. Heading 1 for all chapter titles, Heading 2 for section heads, etc. Minimizing the number of styles in your document will save time and reduce the opportunity for error. Learning to use the style function in Word will save you hours of grief in the future.

  4. Don't bother with page headers, footers or page numbers. Those will get added during the layout process.

  5. Use the font style and size you wish to see in print, e.g. Times New Roman 11 pt. We can reset manuscripts in different fonts, but it is time-consuming and may be costly for you. Avoid non-standard fonts. If you must use Wingdings or the like, be sure to tell us about it. You may be asked to provide non-standard font files, so if you don't know how to do that, don't go there in the first place. Books print and read best in common serif fonts like Times New Roman, Book Antiqua, Bodoni, Garamond, Bookman Old Style, Century Schoolbook or Georgia. Non-serif fonts are hard on the eyes

  6. should be used at the ends of paragraphs only, not at the end of each line. Use one extra return to indicate a scene break, but don't put an extra blank line after every paragraph. It looks amateurish. You may use * * * or the like for scene breaks.

  7. Don't position things with the space bar or tab key. Use the centering and paragraph-indent functions where necessary. What looks centered on an 8.5 x 11 page in Word will not be centered once laid out on a 5.5 x 8.5 book page. This will incur editing charges or get your manuscript returned to be corrected before we can accept it. If you want a standard indent at the beginning of paragraphs, click Format/Paragraph and set first line indent to .2 or .3.

  8. Only use hyphens in words that are normally spelled with hyphens or to set phrases apart. Don't break words from one line to the next using hyphens.

  9. Forget section breaks. Create your document as a single continuous section (this is usually the default in your program - don't override it by entering section breaks).

  10. Don't underline things you wanted italicized. Use the italics button in your word processor. Remember the typewriter? Underlining is an old-school publishing convention from back before computers.
    If you want to use two hyphens together to indicate an em (long) dash, you should set Word to make this correction for you under Tools/Auto Correct/Auto Format. We search for them as a rule during layout, but don't leave double hyphens in your manuscript if you don't want to see them in your book.

  11. Don't give away your age by putting two spaces after every period. That's another convention from the non-proportional Pica days on the typewriter. Computer justification routines treat spaces just like letters, and the double space will leave unattractive gaps in justified lines.

  12. Send images as separate files, not embedded in the document. It makes them easier to handle, and keeps them from getting converted to bitmaps by the word processor. Mark the intended position of each with the name of the actual filename of the image. Don't include instructions like 'place that picture of me and fluffy here.' We need .tif, .pdf or .jpg image files that are at least 300 dpi at the size they will be in print. This is important. If you don't understand it, ask your customer service representative.

If you have any questions about any of these things, ask your WingSpan customer service rep; we're always happy to help. Happy typing.

By David O'Neill Design