|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
FORMAT, FORMAT, FORMAT!
Does It Really Matter?
Read The Fine Print Baby!
It can be a hard learned lesson. You select one of Word's handy-dandy formatting templates, type blissfully away, and watch manuscripts disappear in the ozone. Some of these go out in hardcopy because there are still houses that haven't quite caught up with the digital thing. (I will probably pay for that quip.) Others are gone at the press of a key.
You wait, and wait, and...Then one day there it is. Crammed into a mailbox or as a simple dejection slip (No that wasn't a typo. Wait until you get enough of them!) in your e-mail. Somehow, they each give you the distinct impression that nobody has looked through them since your last loving gaze. How could that be?
Frequently this is because the recipient didn't take a look past the first page. Why? Formatting may be the problem to the answer. Despite their dominance in the world of computing, neither Microsoft nor Apple are the final arbiters of what form a publisher wants you to use.
Some publishers want all your author information on the left side, some on the right, and some want it in the middle. (God, that feels so good!) Others want your word count separate from your contact information, some want it all in one tidy pile. Some just want a common 12 point type, like this Arial, others, a standard Serif 12 point like Georgia. Some want double spacing between lines and double the double twixt paragraphs. Then there are those who want single space, only calling for double or three stars (***) between page breaks. Some will ask for biographical info, no more than a line, or one hundred words, or a paragraph. We haven't even touched on queries or submission letters!
Having worked in the editorial end I can attest to the fact that time is precious and first impressions can be the difference between a fair reading and sudden death! Why does an editor differentiate? Easy, one writer took the time to at least read the formatting guidelines the other didn't. That tells you immediately who took the process seriously and might be worth your time. Cold hearted? You try sitting at a desk hour after hour pouring through manuscript after manuscript and tell me if you don't look for a cut-off mechanism.
There are any number of good guides out in the world. One I use frequently is From The Editors of Writer's Digest Books: Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript. This covers an awful lot of ground and can save you untold headaches. It's written in tight, understandable language and is formatted really well. (Clever how I worked that in, no?)
The final part of the puzzle is simple. Read the guidelines for the particular outlet your approaching! Most publishers have them on their web pages, some still require you send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE for my newbies) requesting them. Yes it takes a while but what's that old saying, "You never have the time to do it right, but you always have the time to do it over." Sorry, I'm way to busy not to try for right the first time!
In the meantime, I haven't heard from many of you lately. Comments? Questions? I'm thinking of running a flash fiction or poetry contest. What do you think? What would be a good prize? (I have NO control over the Pulitzers. Don't even ask!) Also thinking about creating an e-book of some of these postings for a giveaway. Thoughts on that?
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
Want to follow or subscribe to this blog? There are gadgets for that on the right side of the page. You can leave comments in the form below. I can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also find links to some of the sites I visit from time to time on the right. I'm also looking for submissions to the Your Work/Your Love page. Authors retain all rights.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always...Hmm, must be medication time,
Dane F. Baylis