Manuscript Format

Most publishers and editors ask that you submit your stories in “standard manuscript format”. What does this mean? This question is asked many times at writers’ workshops and groups and there are several answers depending on whom you ask. The following are taken from The Alchemy Press‘s website. Note: The Alchemy Press is currently closed to all submissions. The following is useful advice when contacting almost all publishers.

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The Alchemy Press is not particularly demanding (although other publishers and editors may be more so); nevertheless we suggest the following, simple guidelines:

  • Double-spaced text. Despite the relative ease at reformatting text on computers, it shows courtesy to the editor to present a manuscript in a format that can be easily read on screen and paper
  • Use a standard, easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman or Arial at 12 point. Do not use fancy fonts. We are not keen on Courier.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph. However, the first line of the first paragraph of new sections or chapters may be left without the indent
  • Do not use the space bar for paragraph indents and avoid using the tab key – use the ruler guide instead
  • Left justify only
  • Do not use an extra line between paragraphs; this is acceptable between section breaks and chapters
  • Indicate section breaks and chapters with *** or similar (or the chapter title)
  • Do not use extras space between sentences: one press of the space bar is sufficient
  • Use margins of 1.0-1.5 inches (2.5-3.0 cm) all round
  • Use italics or underscore for titles of films, books, etc
  • Be consistent with the use of speech marks and other punctuation, spelling, etc
  • Include the author’s contact details (address, email) on the first page (repeating this information on the final page is useful, especially on longer manuscripts)
  • Send the document as a Word or RTF attachment; do not paste the story in the body of the email
  • The email subject line must include information that readily identifies your submission; eg: story title and your name
  • Name the file with the title of your story or something that is readily identified. Manuscript files go missing (they really do) if called something like “tgth43”
  • Send your manuscript to the e-address listed in the guidelines for the anthology to which you are submitting; general queries can be sent to the main press via the contact form (if provided)
  • A short covering letter or email is all we need. Address your submission to the editor by name if provided – it helps to be polite. We don’t require a complete list of previous publications. A link to your blog or website will be sufficient. A brief biography of 50-100 words will be required if your story is selected for publication
  • Read the submission guidelines: this is very important. If they state a maximum story length of 6,000 words do not send a submission of 8,000 words without checking beforehand. If there is a theme and/or other requirement, ensure your submission meets them
  • All submissions will be read after the stated submission period ends and then the selection process should take six-eight weeks. Please bear with us
  • Frequently, stories will be accepted subject to editorial suggestions/requests. Any such suggestions are intended to help the writer improve the story so consider them carefully. If you do not want your story edited do not submit it.
  • Should your story be selected, the final format will be altered to conform to the house rules for spelling (British English), numbers, dates, etc

These guidelines are not meant to be onerous. In fact, they will help the new writer develop his or her trade, to learn how to send professional-looking manuscripts to all publishers. Smart, clean manuscripts are more likely to be read than ones presented in an idiosyncratic format.

Copyright (c) Peter Coleborn