How To Format Your Manuscript


Here’s what I do in Microsoft Word. (If you need a visual, an example is included in the book version of my Crash Course.)

Font and Paragraphing

  • 12 point font. Times New Roman. (Courier is another acceptable option – but that font hogs up the paper). Whatever you do, please don’t try to flag the attention of an editor by using splashy font.

Q: Many publishers have multiple editors in charge of acquisition. Which one do I contact?

Q: I’ve written a picture book and I’m perusing the CWIM. Many publishers have multiple editors or
people in charge of Acquisition. How do I know whom to contact?

A: Great question. Read my article on submitting to editors here. It details in length how to find which editor to pick.

Q: Should I email my submissions?

Q: A book I’ve reads says so many times that it is inadvisable to email publishers as they simply won’t respond. But some publishers say they are open to email submissions. Is it still ok to do so?

A: If the publisher’s guidelines say it is okay to email them, then yes, follow the publisher’s guidelines. The book may simply be advising writers not to blindly email publishers as a way to break in.

Q: If a publisher’s guidelines says to address all submissions to a general submissions editor…

Q: If a publisher’s guidelines says to address all submissions to a general
submissions editor (e.g., acquisitions editor or something similar) versus a specific person, is it acceptable to “break those rules” if I learn about an editor there who has preferences for the kind of work I write?

A: Almost all houses have submissions guidelines that are generic or say to send something to SUBMISSIONS EDITOR, or something like that.

what’s here

Under [submissions->submissions], you’ll find another popular series of articles (Anatomy of a Query Letter, Synopsis, etc.,. You’ll learn everything you could possibly want to know about submitting to editors and agents, down to the WEIGHT of the paper to use and the # of the envelope. These articles are that detailed.

Have a suggestion for an article? Can’t find your answer here? Leave a comment.

Status Updates: When and How To Do It

Do you know the difference between a status query and a status update? It goes something like this:

  • Status Query: You’re asking about the status of your manuscript. You hope information will come back.
  • Status Update: You’re notifying someone about the status of your manuscript. You do not require information to come back.

Status Queries: When and How To Do It

So things haven’t gone as you’d hoped. Your manuscript went off months ago, and your phone didn’t ring off the hook with five editors or agents vying for your awesome book.
You find yourself wondering – what are they doing with my manuscript?

Did it get lost in the mail?
Did my dog Rufus eat my rejection letter?
Did I even include my manuscript in the submission?!
Status queries are a touchy subject where people will have different opinions.

Oops! I Did It Again: Mistakes In Submissions

Say you’ve just realized you made a bunch of typos in your manuscript or you forgot to enclose an SASE AFTER you sent the whole thing off. Should you try to contact the editor or agent and correct your mistake? Um….no.

Why? Mistakes will happen no matter how hard you try to make it perfect. RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE IT RIGHT. Trying to apologize will only point out your error and demonstrate to the editor/agent how neurotic you are.

Anatomy of a Children’s Book Synopsis

*UPDATE: You may now download this article to your Kindle! *

Here it is: the DREADED synopsis. A synopsis is a one-page, single-spaced, summary of your book (beginning, middle, end). Typically written in third person, present tense. This is the C LIU rule of thumb. You’ll hear all kinds of different answers on this one. But when guidelines don’t say anything more than “synopsis,” this is my definition. NOTE: synopses should only apply to chaptered books/novels.

Anatomy of a Cover Letter

As always, people will call cover letters query letters and vice versa. But I’m not going to try to confuse you. I’ll tell you what C LIU thinks what a cover letter is. It’s something you stick on top of your manuscript when the editor or agent has already read your query letter at some point (from an earlier communication) and now you’re following up with more material. You need something to “cover” your manuscript.

How To Package a Submission

We’re getting to the really picky, picky, picky stuff now. I’ll talk paper, envelopes, and even email. EXCITING!

I’ll cover paper submissions first, then electronic submissions.

Paper Submissions

When guidelines don’t specify the method of sending the package, assume your submission will go on paper and be delivered by a postman. This is the typical way submissions are carted around when you’re submitting things yourself.

Anatomy of a Query Letter

UPDATE: You may now download this article to your Kindle!

While everyone has different opinions on what a query letter is and what it looks like, I will summarize what I do. The method I use is pretty common. Pretty boring. But it works. Read my post, My First Query Letter. This post applies to both editor and agent query letters.

Write Queries, Cover Letters, Synopses, Outlines, Author Bios, and More

You’ve come to the spot where we’re going to learn everything that could be in a submission package you put together for an agent or editor. If you had a look through CWIM, CBC member list, or other publications, you’ve probably heard the words listed above before. And guess what? People will give you different definitions of these terms all the time. It’s completely crazy. BUT I will tell you how C LIU defines everything. I hope it will make sense to you, too.

Exclusive Submissions or Simultaneous Submission?

Whether you’re submitting to agents or editors, you’ll need to understand what the difference is between exclusive and simultaneous submissions.

  • Exclusive – Once you send your work to the agent or editor, you do not send it to anyone else. You wait until you hear back or until the exclusive expires.
  • Simultaneous – You may send your work to more than one editor or agent at the same time.

How To Submit Your Work To Children’s Book Literary Agents

Whether you’re submitting your children’s book to agents or editors, you’ll need to understand the difference between exclusive and simultaneous submissions. A wrong move here and you could torture yourself needlessly. Read my post, Exclusive Submission or Simultaneous Submission?

Now that you understand how exclusives work, we’ll get more into the manner in which you submit to your top picks.