Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Formatting Submissions


Although the written content of your work is important, the presentation is a vital part of the whole package. Generally, editors will not waste time on a submission that is scruffy or not presented according to industry standards. Most publications have their own preferences, but if not familiar with them, it is best to follow the basic rules. These can be divided into two sections: traditional print and internet-based work.

Guidelines
If writing for a publication for the first time, find out if they have submission guidelines. This can be done by writing to them or doing an internet search. Simply enter the name of the magazine or newspaper followed by guidelines or submission guidelines. If they can’t be found, try the Writers Market website.

Fonts
Fonts can be divided into two groups: serif and sans-serif. The word serif refers to the little tails on the letters. Common serif fonts include Times New Roman and Georgia. Sans serif fonts include Arial, Century Gothic and Calibri. Serif fonts are easier on the eyes when reading several pages of text. For this reason, most publications request that work be submitted using 12 point, Times New Roman.

Text on the internet is normally divided into small blocks which are easier to read and here, sans-serif fonts are more common.

Paper
Use good quality A4 photocopy paper – minimum of 80gsm (20-pound bond paper, no onion-skin or erasable) – and print on a normal or fast normal setting. Never use draft mode for submissions. Print on one side only.

Margins and Spacing
Editors need space to mark alterations, write instructions and insert style notations. For this reason, they need a margin of at least one inch or three centimeters all round and the text must be set on double-line spacing for manuscripts, single-spacing for queries and synopses.

Layout
This varies from publication to publication. A standard layout is a centered headline, all paragraphs indented except for the first and justified to the left.

Layout for Websites
The main difference here is that paragraphs are not indented and a space is left between them. Blocks of text should be short and easy to read as people won’t wade through pages of writing when surfing the net. Use bold subheadings to divide the page up and catch the reader’s interest.

Headers and Footers
Type your name, telephone/fax number and email address in the top left corner of the first page. The bottom of the last page must include the word End and the word count. If the article is more than one page, include a header with the author’s last name, slash, title on the left and page number on the right – usually italicized to separate it from the rest of the text. Sometimes pages get separated and this helps identify what is missing. (This happened to me when I sold my first children’s story in 1992. My details were only in the covering letter and the magazine lost it. Thankfully, they held onto the story and when I contacted them, explained the correct way to submit my work.)

Photographs
If the submission includes photographs, don’t forget to include captions for each one. These can be attached to the back of each print with a small piece of adhesive tape.

The preferred format for photographs submitted by email is .jpg or .gif and the bigger the file, the better. It’s wise to check with the publisher for their exact requirements. Some now also want the photos submitted on a CD or DVD in highest quality. Many publishers require certain size images –some request extra large files, and others request extra small. The most common is 300 dpi.

Submission by Email
Some publications accept work by email. It is important to submit work in the way they specify. If using attachments, make sure they are in the correct format – if using a later version of Word, for example, you may have to save it as a document that is compatible with Word 97-2003. Some publications prefer a PDF as this ensures the layout is unaltered. Others ask that the text is cut and pasted into an email to help prevent virus transmission.

This may sound like a complicated process but like all things, it comes easily with practice. As you send more and more work out and get to know how publications operate, you won’t even have to think about the layout. It will become a natural part of your work.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.



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