14 April, 2012

M is for Manuscript

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

As a writer, I need to utilize and maintain proper manuscript format when working with my agent and publishers. I am, admittedly, old school in this regard, and, so far at least, it's served me well.

Actual page from Stain of Corruption
I use 12 point Courier, double spaced, with one inch margins all around. Always. I underline text that's supposed to be italics. Always. My chapter heads stand out, about 1/3 of the way down the page. I have my first line indent at .5 inches, have one space between the ending punctuation of one sentence and the lead letter of the next, and let MS Word center whatever needs to be centered. Lastly, I never, EVER use tabs.

Why no tabs? Because when the text gets converted and placed into the program (often QuarkXpress) that publishers use to typeset and print books, tabs create a host of problems, including (but not limited to) alignment errors, digital 'gibberish' inserted in random locations, and missing text.

So don't use tabs if you're setting up a manuscript for submission. Please.

Why do I use such old layout options? Why not just type it up in Verdana, email it out, and be done with it? After all, Courier is so freaking UGLY!!
It's easy to pick out all of the letters and punctuation in Courier.
Even when you're tired. Easier reading = fewer mistakes.
Because, when you're working with a printed manuscript (especially all day, every day, like editors and copy editors and typesetters do), double-spaced Courier is easy to read. It's easy on the eyes. It's easy to see punctuation. And it's easy to get an accurate word count.

Yeah, yeah, all word processors give word counts, I know. But, those word counts might not be the word count a publisher needs. They calculate those counts based upon the number of pages in the manuscript, and the number of words that should be on every page.

For example, in my page setup, Courier makes a 66 character line. Yep, 66 characters. The average word in the english language is five letters, plus one space, together they makes six. So, with a five letter word, plus one space per word, out of 66 characters I get ELEVEN words per line. Doesn't matter to the publisher if there are actually three really long words or twenty short ones, it still counts as an eleven word line because it's 66 characters long. Always. In my page layout, a full page has twenty five lines, so my calculated word count, per page, is 275. Multiply that by the number of pages (full or not) in a manuscript, and you get the word count that publishers use.

It's writer math.

For me, a 400 page book makes a 110,000 word story. Some writers tweak their page margins to get 60 characters a line (10 words a line) which then makes 250 words a page. It's a quicker calculation.

I know that ePublishers have different rules, and regulations, and I know that lots and lots of places ask for manuscripts to be set in Times or whatever. I do, so there's no need to tell me. My agent and editors still like Courier (and I know from personal experience it's easy to mark up for edits and revisions) so I'm sticking with it until someone shaking a check at me says otherwise.


JamesO said...

Easier reading = fewer mistakes ;}#

Sorry. I couldn't resist.

Tammy Jones said...

Heh. I'll change it.

Less/Fewer. Yeah. I'm good at screwing those up. ;)

Never said I was perfect. lol {{huggs}}

Jean said...

Easier reading means happier agents and editors, thus increasing the chances you have not annoyed the person you're asking to purchase (or sell) your work.

One more reason my tag line is "Writing: It's all about the numbers." Writer math. Very important.