|TIPS FOR WRITERS
Ben Bova -- Page 4
10. Make Your Manuscript Readable.
Once you’ve finished your story you will send it to an editor of script-reader.
Think about that person who will read your manuscript. She reads dozens per day, most likely, hundreds per month. Her eyes are weary from reading.
You want your manuscript to be as easy as possible for her to read. You do not want to challenge her patience with fancy type faces or faded print on colored paper. So make certain that your manuscript is:
Printed in strong black letters on clean white paper.
Identified with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address in the upper left corner of the front page. Each subsequent page should be numbered and “slugged” with the story’s title and your last name, together with the page number.
Generous margins on the left and right, top and bottom. Do not cover the whole page with print. That makes the pages difficult to read. It is the mark of an unknowing amateur.
Be plain, not fancy. Computers allow you to use many different type faces. Stick to a simple Roman font. You can use italics where they are called for in the story, or underline words that should be italicized.
Make your manuscript as easy and pleasant to read as possible. Remember, it has to compete with hundreds of others.
11. Study the Markets.
When you sit down to write a story, think about where you want it to be published. Is it a mystery? A romance? Science fiction?
Publishers think in categories. Magazines are specialized for specific audiences of readers. The first thing an editor asks himself when he picks up a manuscript is: Will this story be in the category that my readers are interested in? If you send a western to a mystery editor, for example, you are wasting his time. And your own.
Do some market research. Go to bookstores and browse through their shelves. See which publishers are putting out books in the category you want to write for. Search through guides such as Writer’s Market or Literary Market Place to find the addresses of those publishers and the names of their editors.
For magazines, search out those that publish the kind of story you are writing. Look up the editors’ names in the magazine mastheads.
Do not for one instant think that an editor will buy your story if it isn’t slanted properly for her particular audience of readers.
Publishers think in categories. You must, too.
12. Cover Letters.
Every story you send to market should have a cover letter atop it.
The letter should be brief and businesslike. It should be addressed to the individual editor you have identified in your market research.
In your cover letter you simply state that you are submitting the story. Give the name of the story. If you have any writing credits or other credentials that may impress the editor, put that down in the letter.
Do not try to be funny, or cute, or anything except briskly businesslike. The editor has no time to read your autobiography.
For short stories submitted to magazines, include the entire manuscript of the story. Always enclose a self-addressed return envelope with postage. Make certain the return envelope is large enough to hold your manuscript.
For novels, it is usually best to send a query letter first, with a brief synopsis of your novel. Be sure to tell the editor that your novel is completed. The editor wants to know that you can finish the job! The editor may then ask to see the first few chapters. Do not send the entire manuscript unless the editor asks for it.
Always remember to include the SASE. One day, to your great surprise and delight, you will get a letter instead of a returned manuscript, a letter that says the editor wants to buy your story.