Manuscript Preparation Guidelines
Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Type your manuscript; hand-written manuscripts are not acceptable, no matter
how legible your handwriting. DO NOT send stories on disk unless you are specifically
requested to do so.
- Always use black type; no other color is acceptable.
- Use a plain typeface with a size of at least 12 point. (We prefer Courier 12.)
DO NOT use bold or italic type at all; underline any words or phrases you want to
emphasize. Do not use a fancy typeface for the title; the editor wants to see your
writing, not your graphic design skills.
- If you write on a typewriter, use a good, black, non-smudgy ribbon or film cartridge.
For manual machines, use a medium-quality ribbon and change it as soon as the type
begins to fade.
- If you use a computer, print your manuscript on a letter quality printer, preferably
a laser printer. (If the letters look faint or "spidery," try increasing
the stroke weight.) DO NOT use dot matrix, or any printer that cannot produce clear,
sharp, black letters.
- Use a good quality, opaque white bond paper; 20-pound stock is both acceptable
and economical. DO NOT use parchment, colored paper, or corrasible bond!
- Use a paper clip to hold the manuscript together, NOT staples, rivets, or binders.
- A cover letter is not necessary; if you must have one, make it short and professional
(see the section on THE SUBMISSION PACKAGE, below). Never tell or explain the story
in your cover letter.
- Margins should leave adequate room for editorial remarks. Use 1-1/2" at
the top and left, 1" at the bottom and right. Do not justify the right margin.
- On the first page of your story:
- Put your real name, mailing address, telephone number, and social security number
in the top left corner, single-spaced. Your e-mail address goes here as well.
- Put the number of words, rounded to the nearest 100, in the right top corner.
- About halfway down the page, type the name of the story.
- Beneath the title, type your name or pen name.
- Leave a space beneath your name, and begin typing the story.
- Double-space your manuscript (put a blank line every other line). Single spacing
does not leave adequate room for editing, and makes your story harder to read. Indent
the beginning of each paragraph 1/2 inch; do not put three blank lines between them.
- Put the page number, and your last name, at the very top of each page, leave
4 to 6 blank lines, and continue the story.
- Do not use chapter headings in a short story.
- At the end of the story, type "THE END" (not "-30-" or "-00-")
so the editor will not wonder if she is missing the last page.
- Proofread your manuscript! It helps if your proofreader can spell; and he/she
should have a firm grasp of correct English grammar (as should you, by the way!).
Note that spell checking won't catch a spelling error if the mistake is a legitimate
word (for example, if you type 'pair' instead of 'lair').
- Be sure your story conforms to the writer's guidelines for a particular market.
- Make sure your stated word count is credible. A page of manuscript is about 300
words, so a 26-page manuscript claiming to be 5,000 words long is going to be regarded
Submission DOs and DON'Ts:
- Do not send simultaneous submissions! (That is, don't submit the same story to
two markets simultaneously.)
- If you send more than one story at once, include a separate SASE for each story.
If you don't, rejection for one story will strongly encourage rejection for them
- Do not send artwork with your story.
- Do not submit your only copy of a story! ALWAYS KEEP A COPY IN YOUR FILES!
- Keep a log of where you send your stories, so you don't send the same story to
the same market or editor twice.
The Submission Package:
- Use a 9" x 12" envelope to send manuscripts longer than 4 pages. For
manuscripts of up to 4 pages, a #10 business envelope is adequate.
- Do not include a cover letter unless you have explicit instructions for the disposition
of your manuscript, or unless you want your story considered for only one market.
A chatty personal letter or synopsis of your story wastes the editor's time. IF she
buys your story, THEN she'll ask for your biography!
- Send manuscripts by First Class Mail. DO NOT use Certified, Registered, or Express
Mail; editors do not want to wait in line at the Post Office to sign for them.
- If you want your manuscript returned, include a large, self-addressed, stamped
envelope (SASE) with the correct amount of postage in your submission package. Stories
without adequate return postage will be thrown out unread.
- If your manuscript is disposable, include a #10 SASE in your submission package.
- If you want proof that we received your story, include a self-addressed, stamped
post card in your submission package.
A good-looking manuscript never sold a rotten story; but I am convinced that if
an editor has two marginally acceptable manuscripts on hand, he or she will keep
the one that is easiest to read. A professionally presented manuscript encourages
the editor to regard you as a professional and to take your story seriously -- and
you can't ask for more than that!
Marion Zimmer Bradley's home page