Because there are still new and aspiring writers who haven’t yet mastered the basics, and it’s so important that it will be worth it if I reach just one of them. (Also, I’m
procrastinating on mulling over the story I’m writing.) Because I’ve been on both sides of the submissions process, and I know what that has taught me. Because why would you spend countless hours perfecting your story and then throw it all away with a badly presented manuscript?
Some of those new and aspiring writers will already be asking, “Why is it so dang important, anyway? Who cares what my story looks like? It’s the story that counts!”
Agreed. But you know what? If your story isn’t presented properly, there’s a very good chance that it a) won’t be taken seriously or b) won’t be read at all.
I can already hear the cries of “But that’s not fair!” Maybe not, but that’s the way it is, and if you’re going to flourish in the publishing world, you are going to have to play by at least some of the rules. Remember the potency of first impressions. We are swayed by first impressions all the time in everyday life, from people we encounter, to products we consider buying, to websites we decide to visit for more than five seconds. The same thing applies to your manuscript, when the editor slides it out of the envelope or opens the file on the screen. First impression? It’s likely going to be either “I was written by a professional” or “I was written by an amateur.” It’s sad but true. And that first impression will go with the editor as he or she begins to read, and it can and will color what they think of your story.
Accept that, and then get on with learning how to deal with it. That means, learn how to properly present your manuscript, and do it.
The Big Caveat
Before I go any further here, I’m going to give you the Big Caveat. Always check the guidelines for the particular publication/editor you’re sending your story to. Always. Check. The. Guidelines. Some editors want you to format your manuscript in a particular way for them. Do it. If they want “standard manuscript format,” that’s what we’re going to talk about here. If they want anything else, be it specific fonts, sizes, line spacings, margins, headers, footers, whatever ~ give it to them. It shows that you’re serious, you’ve taken the time to see what they want, you’re professional, and you want to make a good first impression.
Are you ready? Next post, we’re going to talk about fonts. Yes, a whole post about fonts. Come back. It’ll be worth it.