How to Prepare a Manuscript for Submission

I'd never thought I'd get to this point of actually having any sort of resemblance of a manuscript that could possibly be worthy of submission but I think I might have just made it. My latest venture isn't the first novel that I've written  but this is the first one that has potential.

But despite after writing it there's still so much left to be done for it to be ready. Compared to sending off short stories it seems a much more daunting prospect. To be honest I have so much fun writing my short stories that even if no one else likes them I'm not to be fussed
but obviously it's great when they are selected from the slush pile.

However my longer pieces are like my babies, the end product is so much more than words it represents many sleepless nights of working away and fretting, pouring my heart and soul into each of the characters to bring them to life, and the constant fear that it's been a huge waste of time.

This time however I determined to achieve this manuscript's full potential but just how do you go about preparing your manuscript for submission to publishing houses and potential agents?

Well so far I think I've narrowed it down to four broad areas which you will need to consider...


This is so incredibly important and a lesson I definitely learnt the hard way when I first started submitting short stories.

If your manuscript is presented in a professional manner you will be taken seriously so make sure your manuscript looks great because you don't want your work to stand out for the wrong reasons.

First things first, if you want your work to be taken seriously only use the following fonts; Courier New or Times New Roman. Seriously never deviate from these choices. The size should always be 12 and always double space.

Out there somewhere is this super awesome guy who has very kindly developed two word templates that are possibly used by millions of writers all over the world. His name is William Shunn and by using his template your formatting and presentation will adhere to most publishing companies and agents presentation requirements.

His templates are free to download and are just so useful.

Here are the links, and I'd just like to say, Thanks so much William Shunn!

William Shunn's Proper Manuscript Format 

William Shunn's Short Story Format

The Actual Story

Is it the best it can be? Is everything that you wanted to say or express in there. If not don't fret just leave it a few months and read it over again.

Consider the pace of your story, is it even throughout? Some parts may feel rushed whilst others might be too slow.

Is there enough description to make your story come alive, or is there too much? No one likes excessive info dumps.  Are the characters fleshed out enough? Do they have their own unique personalities?

And lastly is your plot water tight? Is the impending doom or peril fully resolved? Are there still any loose ends? Keep an eye out for those major plot holes.

To help with this it's a great idea in asking someone to read over your manuscript as they will be able to pick up on continuity errors and plot holes that you may have over looked.

The Line Edits

This actually makes me want to stab myself in the eyes. I love writing stories but I'm terrible with Grammar and Punctuation, like so bad! I also can't spell and line edits for me are a form of torture.

But it has to be done as most editors and agents are pretty clued up about grammar and punctuation etc and any silly mistakes are literally going to scream at them from the page. They will read your work dismissing you as unprofessional rather than consider the content of your work.

Read Your Work Out Loud

This sounds like a strange step but I've heard this method recommended by loads of really famous authors and once I tried it I found it really does work. Ok it will require a bit of getting used to as it is weird sitting in a room by yourself reading your work out loud. However it does give you a feel for the rhythm of your story and any awkward clanky sentences will jump out at you which would have been missed if you were just reading it in your head.

So after these four areas are taken care of you're finally ready to submit and well done you.

You may think the hard work is finally over but unfortunately now comes the process of actually sending your work out if you're not going down the self publishing route.

The bad news is that all the major publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts meaning they only deal with agents. However some of them do have occasionally open submission periods so check their website continuously.

But getting an agent is just as hard as getting a book deal.

However their are quite a lot of indie publishers out there who will accept unsolicited manuscripts and if your a dark fantasy horror writer check out my page detailing some of the horror/dark fantasy publishers that do accept direct submissions

Good Luck!

About the Author

S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome,  Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
She lives at  and  @sjbuddj 
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon


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