The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Sixteen

33495349We’re past the half-way point in the The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. Can you believe it???

Me neither. 🙂

Today’s book is Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino.

Increase your chances of publication by submitting your manuscript the right way–let Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript be your guide. Featuring more than 100 example query letters, proposals, and synopses, the 3rd edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript gives you more detailed and concrete instruction than ever before! This new edition features expanded instruction for e-mail submissions, updated formatting and submitting guidelines, insider tips from agents and editors, and much more.

Author Bio:

ChuckBy day, Chuck Sambuchino is an editor for Writer’s Digest Books (an imprint of F+W Media). He is the editor of two annual resource books: Guide to Literary Agents, as well as Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market. He also assists in editing Writer’s Market ( Chuck is a former staffer of several newspapers and magazines – most notably Writer’s Digest. During his tenure as a newspaper staffer, he won awards from both the Kentucky Press Association and the Cincinnati Society of Professional Journalists.

By night, Chuck is a writer and freelance editor. He is a produced playwright, with both original and commissioned works produced. He is a magazine freelancer, with recent articles appearing in Watercolor Artist, Pennsylvania Magazine, The Pastel Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and New Mexico Magazine. During the past decade, more than 500 of his articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines and books. To read his blog, click here.

If you are new to the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

Today’s  questions are…

How much do you concern yourself with proper formatting? Does worry or anxiety about formatting dog your submission efforts? Or do you just wing it when it comes to formatting?

Answer in 50-200 words, please. 🙂

Before you go! WE HAVE A CAUSE TO RAISE MONEY FOR THIS YEAR! Please read the story about the Applin family here and consider making a small contribution at some point during the giveaway. We’re aiming for $100/day collectively. Please help us help the Applin family adopt two beautiful children from Russia. 🙂


46 Responses to “The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Sixteen”

  1. 1 Renee Roberson September 16, 2009 at 4:38 am

    I’d say I definitely concern myself with the proper formatting. I’ve read countless examples of query letters and I study the formatting of everything from the novels I read to press releases that come across my desk for future use. A few months ago, I put together my very first non-fiction book proposal and could not have done it without the help of “Bulletproof Book Proposals” by Pam Brodowsky and Eric Neuhaus because it was chock full of formatting examples! Hopefully one of these days all this attention to formatting will pay off for me. “Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript” would be a wonderful addition to my bookshelf!

  2. 2 Kathy Bitely September 16, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Formatting is not my concern initially, especially with the first draft. I’ll straighten things up a bit more in the rewrites and shape it as may be required. For some of my work I can’t be thinking of “requirements” until my thoughts are on paper. But for other efforts I will read what the publishers are looking for and write accordingly.

  3. 3 Karrie Z Myton September 16, 2009 at 5:33 am

    I know I need to concern myself more than I would naturally. I always despised APA formatting when I was in college and the professor would often mark things wrong.

    But, as a writer, I know that getting it right could make a difference between making the sale and not. So I work hard to get it right AND ask my more meticulous friends to help me out.

  4. 4 Jaymie September 16, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I would say that I worry some about formatting. But I really need more finished pieces to actually format! I don’t want something I write to be ignored or rejected because I made a rookie mistake or looked like a novice (which I am, but I would prefer to look like a professional who knows what she’s doing!) and had things poorly presented. I would prefer to get it right rather than wing it and stew in worry.

  5. 5 jennifer September 16, 2009 at 5:48 am

    I wouldn’t exactly say I wing it, but I also try not to get too stuck in protocol-anxiety. If I did, nothing would ever get finished and sent out. The one thing I do try to do is be consistant. If I don’t know exactly how to format something I make an educated guess, and then I stick with that for everything I do, so that at least everything looks uniform. I could certainly use this book, though, to clean up my act, so to speak. I’m typing with my fingers crossed (very tricky).

  6. 6 Kris Lozano September 16, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I think my desire for proper form definitely presents a roadblock to my submission. I’m a self-pronounced ‘grammar snob’, unfairly judging others by their use of bad punctuation, grammar and spelling. I’ve recently had a bit of an epiphany on this subject when my slightly dyslexic husband was publicly humiliated for his spelling by another ‘grammar Nazi.’ (Impending blog post to follow 🙂

    I realize that, while form is important, especially within the writing industry, I will not allow my fears of imperfection keep me from submitting my work.

  7. 7 Cara Holman September 16, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Formatting a manuscript is just one piece of the submission puzzle. I submit almost exclusively via email or the publication’s website, but the same rules apply as when I do send in a piece via snail mail.

    I do my homework well. First I read as many examples I can of the type of story the anthology or online journal actually publishes, to catch the style and determine if it’s really where I want to send my work. The actual writing part is the most fun of course! But I am still meticulously careful about re-reading the submission guidelines more than once, to make sure that I haven’t left anything out, and that all my i’s are dotted and my t’s are crossed. Only then am I ready to submit.

    When I send my manuscript out into wide world of cyberspace, I can do so with peace of mind, knowing that I’ve done everything I could reasonably do to give it the best chance for publication!

  8. 8 laura September 16, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I am not certain what formatting is. Maybe I’m too inexperienced, or just haven’t gotten to the point where I’m ready to consider submitting a book proposal (and I’ve both fiction & non-fiction ones in the works). Or maybe I’m missing the point entirely.

    So, I don’t concern myself with formatting, because I both am uncertain what it is, and because I’m not far along enough to be ready to submit a book proposal. What I do know is that I’m adding this book to a list I’ve got going of books recommended by you that I need to read (and probably buy).

  9. 9 Brandy September 16, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Actually formatting really distracts me. It is hard for me to write when I feel like something isn’t done perfect or correctly, so even if I am trying to move on, it is constantly there in the back of my mind. For instance, formatting dialogue, that is one of those things that always stops me in my tracks. Like Jaymie mentioned above, I don’t want to have my work turned away for making “rookie mistakes”.

  10. 10 Meryl Evans September 16, 2009 at 8:14 am

    As a frequent contributor to blogs and online publications, formatting matters. When it comes to emailing queries and such, the only formatting I do is adding a blank line every few sentences because it’s very hard to read a block of text in email. If I need special formatting (like underlines for titles in email), I use “” or CAPITALIZE THE TITLE (if it’s not too long).

    It’s all about the medium.

  11. 11 Pat September 16, 2009 at 8:21 am

    My first concern is making certain that the piece I’m working on is polished and perfected. Then I look at the possible contests or submission opportunities. After choosing what seems most appropriate, I check their guidelines. Most of the time they will spell out specifics on formatting expectations. If not, then I search for the most often recommended format and go with that.

  12. 12 Cheryl M September 16, 2009 at 9:10 am

    In general I write an article and then go back and format according to a particular publication’s guidelines. It seems like with e-mail submissions there is a chance that even if you format it well the recipient may get something different. But since some places don’t accept attachments what else can you do?

  13. 13 Brianne A September 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I think proper formatting is a pretty big concern. If I have worked really hard on something, I want to make sure that it’s submitted correctly so that it has a better chance of being seriously considered. I also want to make sure to leave a good impression, especially if it’s a publication that I would like to do more work for in the future.

  14. 14 Michele September 16, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I’m not at the point in writing my book where formatting is even a consideration; I’m still working on pushing out the content. That said, I do teach college courses in English Composition, as well as Business Management, and I tend to be a stickler for proper MLA or APA formatting with my students. This isn’t because I have a penchant for formatting standards (frankly, they bore me to tears), but I do appreciate a well-formatted document because it lets me focus on the content. With that in mind, I envision an agent, editor or publisher receiving my work and appreciating my attention to detail when it comes to formatting. Although I doubt they’ll grade me for my efforts, I do believe that a well-formatted manuscript has a better chance of success over one that is sloppily formatted.

    Bottom-line, I could use this book! Otherwise, my book manuscript might turn out reading like an academic research paper. 🙂

  15. 15 Dawn Herring September 16, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I’m always sure to read the submission guidelines for any market I plan to submit to so I know what is expected. Most of the time, the guidelines are similar with the same margins and spacing. I figure as long as I do my homework and follow the rules, I’ll be fine with formatting submissions.

  16. 16 Maribeth September 16, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I am very particular with my formatting. I get major anxiety when thinking something could be well written and still rejected because the formatting was not correct.

  17. 17 Carrie Ure September 16, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I would say that my formatting concerns border on obsessive, but that is what makes me a good editor as well. I love the process of making everything perfect. I also enjoy following instructions and pleasing others. I’m working on loosening up in the areas where I can, say, informal emails and letters. For my professional writing I prefer to err on the side of perfection. I hope this pays off in the long run. I will definitely buy this book!

  18. 18 Lisa S. September 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I really haven’t submitted a lot of my writing at this point in my career. So I really have not worried too much about formatting. I prefer to get my ideas down and a piece written first. Then rewrite and make all of my changes before even considering formatting. Although I know it is important to make a postive and professional impression with editors. I am always conscientious about making sure my piece looks neat with no errors. I just need to be more detailed about the specific formatting requirements.

  19. 19 Carol J. Alexander September 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Proper formatting is important to me. I feel that they print writers’ guidelines and formatting preferences for a reason. If I do not do what is requested, then someone on staff will have to do it. They have to pay that staffer to do what I should be doing. If somehow I’m having an off day and forget an important detail in following the guidelines, then I would expect the editor to reject my submission.

  20. 20 Valerie Willman September 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Generally I wing it. But I have skimmed over Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon to get the skinny on it. So, I suppose that a small amount of research has been done — thereby negating the ‘winging it’ comment.

    But I don’t worry about it.
    That’s what I meant.


  21. 21 Fawn September 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I am trained as a technical writer (as in making writing readable, usable, and efficient, not writing about techie stuff), so format is an obsession of mine. I was just wondering to myself yesterday how much time I would save myself by not re-reading every email (sometimes twice) before I send it. I don’t have a lot of experience in formatting query letters, written or digital, so this book is really interesting to me.

    Oh crud, I just lost 30 seconds of my life re-reading this post before I hit submit…

  22. 22 Beth Vogt September 16, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Confession: In one of my critique groups, I am lovingly known as The Evil Editor. At least, I think it’s “lovingly” said.
    Even in the rough draft phase of a writing project, I like to have a basic format–it gives me a sense of order even as I am “throwing up on the page.”
    And before I submit a final draft to a publisher I am meticulous about format. It’s one of the ways a manuscript sings. Yes, I want my writing to be clean, concise, compelling–and occasionally, I’ll use alliteration to achieve that. Ahem.
    But, all my best efforts can get lost in a messy manuscript–skewed margins, improper headers/subheads, incorrect formatting of any type.
    For me, format counts, from start to finish.

  23. 23 Mar Junge, c3PR September 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    People do judge books by their covers. Manuscripts,too. Appearance and image are extremely important. Besides, proper formatting is the sign of a professional writer. But there’s no need to worry or be anxious. Simply pick up a good resource book like Chuck’s and follow the guidelines. I do a lot of grant writing. My mentor taught me that when a foundation suggests the grant proposal be prepared using a certain font, type size, column width etc., follow those suggestions religiously. The way the foundations look at it, if you can’t follow rules, you probably don’t run an efficient nonprofit. Now think about how book manuscripts have to go through several layers of approval before getting to the right editor. Picture the underpaid, overworked intern going through the slush pile. With no time to read all the submissions, the first to get tossed are the sloppy, unprofessional-looking ones. Proper formatting gives you an advantage.

  24. 24 Joanna September 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    So far formatting hasn’t been a huge deal because I write articles, not books. But as an English nerd, I am a stickler for details where spelling, grammar, and punctuation are concerned. I use the Chicago Manual of Style and Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as my references and then rely on my editors for formatting guidance, as their pubs will often have their own styles. It seems to serve me well. That said, I have never submitted a book proposal, and I’m guessing if I didI would need to be more concerned with formatting.

  25. 25 writethejourney September 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I care about creating a finished piece that looks clean and reads nicely. I wouldn’t say I’m overly concerned about formatting as I’m composing text. But once the content is done I go over and over a piece and check formatting rules if I’m unsure.

    I once read a blog post (or maybe a comment) in which the author emphasized that proper grammar and punctuation are important because it’s a caring thing to do for the reader. That made a lot of sense to me. So I try to be sure and compose content in a way that reads smoothly, being aware that this includes not only the wording but also the nitty-gritty of formatting.

  26. 26 Sarah Lindsey September 16, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I greatly concern myself with proper formatting. In fact, I’ve spent hours upon hours reading, studying, and researching to make sure that I am formatting my work properly. So far, I have focused on writing articles (including many cover letters and queries), blogging, screenwriting (for fun), and a little copywriting (to pay the bills). Needless to say, there’s been a lot of formatting involved with my writing projects. “Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript” sounds like an awesome book, especially with all the examples it contains…I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

  27. 27 Daree Allen September 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I am diligent about my formatting and meeting the submission guidelines/requirements. I triple-check submission guidelines and make sure that my formatting, if mentioned, is presentable. I’m actually more worried that my proofreading and editing didn’t catch something than my formatting style, since I always make last-minute changes.

    I only use one or two fonts (when printing a hard copy or using html email, a standard, serif font is best for body text because it’s easier to read, and sometimes I use a second, sans serif font for headings). If I am submitting something via email, I will email it to myself at 3 different email accounts to gauge how it will look to the receiver, before finally sending it off.

  28. 28 Lorraine Wilde September 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm


    I think I was born a perfectionist so it’s been a life long struggle to strike a balance between the upsides of this “disorder” and letting go enough to actually complete a task.

    Its taken me approximately 6 weeks to write my first book proposal for my memoir, “Egg Mama: An Egg Donor and Her Extraordinary Family” ( I’m afraid to guess how many hours of that time I’ve spent on things like margins, paragraph structure, and dialog punctuation. This proposal also includes minor graphics, which seem to have been the greatest time suck of all.

    But in the end, I’m pretty proud of it, even if I never find an agent or publisher. I’m not sure how proud I’d be if I sent it off with known errors and then failed to get a positive response.

    The perfectionism comes naturally, but the moderation of it is hard work that I’ll have to continue throughout the process.

    Thanks for reading fellow Writer Mamas!


  29. 29 Kelli Perkins September 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Being that I am still fairly new to the writing biz, I am a little paranoid about formatting properly. I’ve read that some editors won’t even take the time to read your submission if it isn’t formatted the right way. Who can blame them? They are busy people. I also pay close attention to posted guidelines on websites and make sure to follow the specifications listed in publishing resources like CWIM. Still, I know have a lot to learn so today’s book would be extremely helpful!

  30. 30 Joyce Lansky September 16, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    There is definitely a right way and wrong way to do things in the publishing industry, so I do my best to try to do things properly; however, what is “proper?” I think this book would be an invaluable addition to my “how to” books.

    Although I don’t worry or have anxiety over my submissions, I’d like to do things correctly and believe my query isn’t all it could be… why else would anyone reject me? 😉

  31. 31 Janel September 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I have been a rule follower my entire life. When a publication states how they want submissions formatted then that is how I’ll format my submission. Editors have their reasons for requesting a certain format. Why take the chance that your work won’t even be looked at for not following instructions? To take that one step further, how professional do you look when you don’t follow directions?

  32. 32 Linda Harris September 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Since I’m both a writer and an editor, I’m quite a stickler about formatting. The way I figure it, while formatting won’t get my manuscript accepted by itself, if it’s formatted correctly, it makes an impression. The editor is more likely to read it than if my formatting is sloppy. And if he or she says “Yes” then there’s less for the publisher to do in making the manuscript conform to house style. I like to make my manuscripts as “clean” as possible.

  33. 33 Teri Y September 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I took a course where if your manuscript wasn’t formatted correctly, they’d kick it back. So now when I write, I already have it in the format that most agencies request. (I found out the formatting info online).

    But, honestly, if a persone has a great story and at least their query letter is in the most accepted format, then it doesn’t matter what the manuscript looks like, maybe at least double spaced and pages numbered.

  34. 34 Noah Ringler September 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I’m enough of a careful gal to read any tips and guidelines a publication offers very thoroughly. I don’t want someone to be prejudiced against my article because I didn’t format it their preferred way. Or think I’m not professional because I didn’t follow their rules. That said, I find I learn the most from editorial feedback. Each editor/publication has some stylistic aspects or ways they want a submission to look. Once I learn that, my next submissions don’t need as much of their oversight.

    Does feel like it can be hard to break into new markets. I wonder if formatting is as aspect of that. How do I know if I have the writer equivalent of spinach caught between my teeth?

    If I get going on a book proposal, I think I’d really need to learn more about formatting for that, as well.

  35. 35 Janet September 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I think formatting is very important, especially for the beginning writer. Maybe, after you become a household name in the writing world you might not have to concern yourself as much with it. I try my best to send in my stories right per the publisher’s specifications, I think a person would be very unprofessional not to. If you want to be published, you need to follow the rules and be persistent.

  36. 36 Pam Maynard September 16, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Proper formatting hasn’t been at the top of my list of concerns. I am more into content, dialogue, creativity, creation and getting my story straight (literally)
    I am more worried about getting my ideas all together to submit, not about the formatting itself. I have references to use for formatting. I know where to go to get help with formatting and I do so when I need to. I don’t wing it when it comes to formatting. I pull out my books, notes and call on my writer friends! I worry more about finding the time to write something that needs to be formatted!

  37. 37 Amie September 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    When I’m working on writing, I try to think like a writer and when I’m working on submitting, I try to think like an editor. Sometimes it comes more naturally to think like an editor when I’m writing – slashing everything to bits before I’ve even begun, and think like a writer when I should be editing and formatting.

    Having a design background helps me to disassociate myself from the words and see them as symbols on a page. Formatting becomes more of a visual game that way. In writing, there’s an art to knowing when to break the rules. In formatting, following the rules becomes the art.

    The rules change from publication to publication, so I try to do my research. I put as much worry and work into a piece as I can and then when I hit the send button, I try to take a deep breath, relax and apply all my energy to the next project.

  38. 38 Deb September 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I think proper formatting is as important as using your spell check. Why get rejected before that piece you’ve worked so hard to write is even read? I read a publication’s guidelines a thousand times, check my piece two thousand times, then email it to myself if I’m also submitting via email, and then check it again. There does come a point where you just have to hit the send button and quit worrying!

    Of course many editors expect us to already know formatting and therefore don’t tell us what they want, so this would be an excellent book for the reference shelf 🙂

  39. 39 Julie S September 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I never, ever consider formatting (with the exception of word count and side bars) in the beginning. I am too focused on gathering information and getting that information onto paper. Formatting is at the very end of the process. Once I am pleased with the article, I pull out the writer’s guidelines. That is when I check for proper spacing and other nuances required by specific editors.

    With that said, I guess I try to meet in the middle. I don’t want improper formatting to work against me. Conversely, I don’t want to be so focused on formatting that I forget to do a good job with the writing!!

  40. 40 brigidday September 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Hmmm, formatting. Another thing to educate myself on. I still have so much to learn. If I were submitting something tomorrow, I would try to find a template of some sort to follow. After reading many of these comments, I will certainly be paying more attention to formatting in the future.

  41. 41 Jessica Varin September 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I adhere strictly to format. As an emerging writer with a short list of publications, I can’t afford to come off as unprofessional. I wrote my first query letter recently with a copy of “Writing Query Letters” open on the table.

    I learned to write in my high school chemistry class. We were docked points for improper formatting and spelling on lab reports. Content, clarity, and format are important no matter what you’re writing.

    I want my writing to be read. Improper format detracts from that goal.

  42. 42 Liz September 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    How does this work for me? First step, get words on the page. Next step, make sure those words are spelled punctuated and grammatically correct. After that, revisit the submission guidelines – have I met them? Often submission guidelines will contain information about format – I check and re-check these requirements. After all the steps above, I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity simply because I forgot to double-space a submission. The key for me is to look at this piece as the last step so that it doesn’t interfere with my creativity.

  43. 43 Tonja September 16, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I think proper formatting for a submission is just as important as the submission itself. It is the cover letter to a resume. I tend to obsess about the formatting because I know the impression that is left will decide the future of my manuscript. For this reason, I rely heavily on resources available that guide me to what is acceptable and what is not. Once I have a format in mind, I then take special pains to customize each and every communication to the specific audience. It is important for the recipient to know that I am conscientious about who I submit to and why. I try to include something that is relevant so they do not feel they are getting a generic communication. Because of this desire to perfect that first communication, it becomes a very time consuming effort. I will admit that there have been times I have ended up not submitting something because it was very hard to clearly wrap my head around the intended recipient. I know it sounds lazy and lame but it is a perfect example of my style that can be a hindrance at times more than a help.

  44. 44 adanceluvr September 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Everything that goes in front of a professional reader’s eyes must be as perfect as you can make it. Why risk losing an opportunity by sending a query and sample pages that aren’t formatted in a professional manner?

    To answer the question, I don’t worry about the formatting because I make sure it follows the guidelines an agent/editor posts. Most commonly, they ask for one-inch margins all around, a slug at the top with a page number and chapter beginnings about a third down on the page.

    This is a tough business and there’s no reason anyone serious about publishing would ignore this important aspect of the field.

  1. 1 Day Sixteen: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 17, 2009 at 5:39 pm
  2. 2 The 2009 Giveaway List: The Writer Mama Back-To-School Giveaway Starts Tuesday, September 1st! « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 21, 2009 at 11:39 am
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