Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Microsoft Word 2010 Is Your Friend

As Rogue Mutt has bitched about on his blog (for the record I agree with what he says), submitting manuscripts to small and mid-size publishers can be really hard. Before I went to Double Dragon Publishing, I went to Samhain first, then Mundania Press, and then Dreamspinner Press, and after the third rejection I almost shelved my sci-fi manuscript. I knew about Double Dragon, I knew that it was probably THE best fit for what I wanted to do...but their submission application was daunting. One night at my p.c., I just decided to hell with it and set about seeing if I could do it.  Here's there list of what they require and I'll tell you why Microsoft Word was my best friend:

1) Length of Manuscript. In short they wanted nothing beyond 90,000 words with a disclaimer that they'd look at larger works if they were exceptionally good. I stared for a while at my fat word count of 120,000. There is no way I can cut anything out of this beast. It is plot, plot, plot the whole way through. Why? It used to be 170,000 words. Yes. I said it. I actually thought back in the day that a 170,000 word novel was marketable by a debut novelist. How did I figure this out? I read Stephanie Meyer's blog. She said that Twilight almost didn't sell at 145,000 words. I thought...holy shit...if Twilight almost got rejected at 145,000 words there's no freaking way in hell I'm going to stand a chance. I spent a month trimming and rewriting my book to fit neatly in 120,000 words. And it wasn't neat. I hired an editor for $300.00 (she's damn good by the way) and we cut every single useless word that we could find out of my book. We replaced the weak verbs with powerful ones to shorten sentences. In the end...almost 120,000 words exactly. So yeah...I totally ignored this part of the submission and send to hell with it...not like I haven't seen rejection already.

2) Formatting. I had to use .rtf format...easy and done.

3) Include a short, one-paragraph note in the body of the email, so as to introduce yourself, if you are submitting to DDP for the first time. Okay...I thought what can I say about myself that's interesting? Then I realized I had already done this in the "about me" section of my blog and a commenter had said it was funny. Cut and paste and done. Lesson...you should do an "about me" section in case you ever need to cut and paste, or in the event you need it for other websites. It'll save you so much time.

4) More formatting guidelines. Here was the hairy stuff. A single .rtf file. Oh boy. And it needed all of this:
A. Format, Font: Times New Roman, regular, 12 point.
B. Format, Paragraph, Indents and Spacing, General: Alignment = left, Outline Level = body text. Indentation: Left = 0, Right = 0. Special = First line, By = .5. Spacing: Before = 0 pt. After = 0 pt. Line Spacing = single.
  1. Do not put blank lines between the paragraphs of text.
  2. Do not use headers or footers, and do not number the pages.
  3. Use one-inch margins.
  4. Leave two spaces between sentences.
  5. Thoughts expressed by a character, as opposed to spoken words, must be italicized rather than placed within quotation marks. Foreign words or phrases, and words that the author wishes to emphasize, must also be italicized. Do not use underlining for this purpose.
  6. Do not press the Tab key at the beginning of each paragraph! Doing so will double the degree of indentation. If you habitually do that, and are now putting a completed manuscript into the format we require, please remove all the Tab arrows at the beginning of each paragraph. To render those Tab arrows visible, click on the Show/Hide icon in the Standard MS Word toolbar. (You can use Find and Replace to remove the Tab marks. Click on Find, More, Special, Tab Character. Click on replace. Leave Replace blank. Click on Replace All. The Tab arrows will all vanish.)
  7. We strongly recommend that you get into the habit of activating the Show/Hide icon on the Standard MS Word Toolbar as you write, so as to see not only the arrows made by the Tab key, but also the dots representing spaces and the symbols representing paragraph marks.
  8. Try not to leave two spaces at the end of the last sentence of a paragraph. Those wrap around. In some formats used by publishers, those wrapped-around spaces can cause trouble. We urge you to perform the tedious task of removing those, if they abound in your manuscript, before sending it to us
Okay...so I wasn't going to read through my whole manuscript and fix this. No frickin' way. But I didn't have to because Microsoft Word has replace features. ^t is the symbol you use for tab. Replaced all of them with nothing and used the indent feature. Done. ^p is the carriage return symbol. So I replaced all the ones that had excess spaces with ones that didn't. Additionally, I replaced all of the "." with one space after them with a "." with two spaces.

So yeah, Microsoft Word is your friend. It's powerful. Know how to use it. You may need it for submitting to agents, publishers, editors, or whoever.

Oh and writing those query letter and the synopsis is something I don't think a writer can ever get around. I used my query as a short synopsis when I submitted my manuscript and then I already had the regular synopsis done so that wasn't a headache either. I'm thankful that I spent a year querying agents because it really wasn't that hard when the time came down to it to put together the package. It only took like four hours work tops.


  1. Just reading this made me regret that people are the way they are. How does ANY of that matter in a submission? I think the rule should be "Make it readable, because if we don't feel like reading it or it looks weird, we WON'T read it."

    But that's just me, and probably why you're a big shot author and I'm not.

    Here's a thought, though, with your 145,000 words, etc. I'm re-reading "Catch 22" now because I couldn't get into my current book, and as I'm rereading it, I'm:

    1. In awe of the craftsmanship. It seems like Heller sweated over every word, and it shows.

    2. Can you picture someone publishing that nowadays? I know that's a common complaint, but common doesn't mean "invalid." The book is long, focuses on details that don't advance the plot at all, is repetitious and chock full of names, etc.

  2. Seriously? Sheesh you are brave to tackle those sub guidelines. Bet you're glad you did though, right?

    I find Microsoft 2010 a nightmare to use and am sticking doggedly to 2003. If I can get away with using it...

  3. You know what? Part of me thinks they put all of those guidelines specifically to weed out people who don't want to put up with it. Maybe they're trying to cut their submissions down to people who are really serious about getting published. I also think that the few agents who only accept snail mail query letters and submissions are doing the same thing. It kind of works, too. I would never snail mail a query letter unless I thought the agent was really a great match for the manuscript. Why? Because I'm lazy. And other people are too :) Really enjoyed this post and picked up some great info!

  4. Do you submit your manuscript in electronic format? That's the only justification I can come up with - so they can suck the whole thing up into their system and spit it out in book format. Otherwise, like Jesse said, it's a test to see how serious you are about getting your book published.

    Congratulations by the way!!

    Thanks for joining the Tuesday Train ~ I'm following back!

  5. Wow. Talk about loops you had to jump through. Good for you for submitting even though your word count was a little long. That's my biggest pet peeve about the publishing industry. Word count perimeters are mainly profit related, and have nothing to do with the story.

  6. Would you be willing to share the name of your editor, please? I'm almost ready for one, and although I have a couple of possibilities in mind, I haven't settled on one yet. If you're more comfortable sharing the name privately, please e-mail me (sandraATsandraulbrichDOTcom). Thank you!

  7. @Briane: I'm sure they have their reasons. And I'm not a big-shot author. lulz. I hope Mutt stops being mad at small- and mid-size publishing requirements, bites the bullet, and submits his work. I know first-hand how time-consuming and tedious formatting can be but he should do it anyway.

    @D.U.: dead serious :). And yes...I'm glad that I didn't shelve my project and decided to submit it one more time. I think you should try MS 2010. It's so good. Lots of privacy features, powerful, easy-to-use, plus One Note links everything through email.

    @Jess: I never thought of that. You may be right.

    @Donna: Yeah I submit in electronic format. Thanks for hitting me back.

    @E.R.King: I'm verbose. I know it.

  8. I've submitted to 10 publishers, got rejected by one already! Some of the stuff with the tabs I had to do to format "Where You Belong" for Smashwords before I could upload it. Maybe that's part of why they want you to do that since they deal with eBooks a lot.

    I think in one of my rants I compared this to a frat initiation ritual. Really the way some of these publishers are it is like Rush Week or whatever they call it when all the pledges have to pass a variety of grueling and humiliating challenges to be accepted. Thank you sir may I have another!

  9. Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes peek. The part about the spaces is quite specific! I thought modern typesetting software meant we old-fashioned types needed to stop putting double spaces after the period, period.

    Now, if I get rejections, I'll know it was probably the period spaces. :-)

  10. That process sounds like a little slice of Hell. I don't blame for putting it off.

    You make a great point about learning the ins and outs of Microsoft 2010, or whichever version you use. I use 2010 at home and at work. It's not so bad once you get used to it.

    Now Excel in 2010 drives me bonkers, but that's a different post for a different day. :D

  11. I agree with Jess, and I think I read that somewhere too (by someone in the know).

    Yeah, once you know the tricks, formatting is easy. I love subbing in business classes, because I end up picking up tricks I didn't know before (but are being taught to the kids). Then again, I find myself showing them other tricks that they haven't learned yet.

  12. I'm with Rogue on the thought that it may have to do with the ease of converting to various digital formats. Hoops, hoops and more hoops. I have honestly only submitted my novel one place, and they were pretty lenient on their guidelines. I have avoided many because I get all weird feeling when I start having to do too much stuff like that and end up getting mad and bitter.

    So, I remain unpublished and bitter, funny how that is.

  13. Oh yeah, I'm daunted by all of the bells & whistles. I just switched from Open Office, (yup. I'm cheap) and it looks like an airplane cockpit. I'm sure that it will come in handy, but for now, gimme spell check, and I'm happy.

  14. Wow, congrats! That's great. I love sci-fi so I'll be checkin' you out (if you say that with a Joey accent it'll sound cooler)

    As far as the submitting rules, I have to say that after reading the varied submissions on our blog, it is annoying to read through all the weird formats. I thought we wouldn't have to specify, but we've received all kinds of fonts and strange texts. Anyway, best of luck and keep us all posted.
    D.S. Tracy

  15. Oh no, I've been setting up my manuscripts all wrong! I can't even get out of the habit of double-spacing after periods.

  16. Wow, those are some regulations !

  17. What a cool staff of handpicked recommended microsoft word 2012 resources and tips! Thanks for posting.