Author Guidelines and Common Problem Areas (Why We Send Manuscripts Back)
After you have delivered your completed, final manuscript, you may not hear from us for a few months. PLEASE DO NOT BOMBARD US WITH MESSAGES. We receive nearly 1000 messages a day and cannot respond to most of them, even if we would like to do so. If you have questions, worries, concerns, and enthusiastic comments, read these guidelines again and see if the answer is there. Then, start a list of questions and send us one message.
We prefer NOT to receive every interim edit that you come up with in the six months after signing the contract. If you sent a complete manuscript at the outset, please send only your final revised version when you are sure you are ready. If you sent us a preliminary manuscript and received feedback on how to shape it, we will let you know if we want to see partial interim revisions to help you make sure you are on track. Otherwise, if you send us five versions, you can be sure you are causing confusion.
When your “turn” comes and our editors go through your manuscript on a sentence-by-sentence basis, you will hear from us. What you will hear will probably fall into one of two categories:
Assuming we have done more than correct a few typos, you will probably receive the edited text back, marked up with “Comments” directing you to points that require clarification, elaboration, etc. ("Comments"? Click here.) Usually, an author only needs a week to complete any further work at this stage.
Sometime (maybe a week, maybe more) after you have answered any questions from the editors, and have sent us back your amended file, we will send you, for your final OK, an “electronic proof”, that is, the finished “book” in page layout, as a PDF file. There, you can verify any edits we have made, raise any last-minute questions, and correct any remaining typos or factual errors you might find. What's a PDF? Click here .
Assuming there are other books on the market on the same or a related subject (check B&N.com or Amazon), how does your book compare? Is it more in-depth or easier to read; less biased, more comprehensive (or more focused), or . . . just more up to date?
See also the "Promoting Your Book" tab on this website.
We are looking to create a book that is about 200-350 pages in length (after going through the print-layout process). That requires a manuscript of some 80,000 – 120,000 words. (If you do not know how to get the word count, click here .)
Perspective and Analysis
Focus on writing from a high-level perspective, relating and analyzing facts, about issues of interest to a broad public, not about “what happened to me” and “what I know” — much less “my opinion is.”
Clever (i.e., snide) comments and colloquialisms are rarely acceptable.
Over-simplification: Watch out for one-sided discussion of an issue, and naïve acceptance of the conventional view. We expect writers to present a rigorous analysis of an issue. Set your hypothesis or position in the context of various other viewpoints that may exist, present your arguments and facts in the most convincing way, give the reasoning and the facts by which the other positions are refuted. What are the different sides of the issue? The facts must speak for themselves; no unfounded opinions or personal beliefs should interfere with, or replace, the rigorous analysis. (Please remove all such comments such as, “He was a great man,” “it was a wonderful policy.” Prove it. )
Stealth interjection of non-rational thinking. If you present a book on a scientific topic, or even a discussion of cultural or religious history, please do not couch it in spiritual terms.
Is it “complete” and in ONE file?
If your project has been accepted for publishing and you are ready to submit the "real" manuscript, it should be complete, with dedication (if any), introduction, bibliography, etc., and all in ONE file — when you are done with all your revisions — no interim updates and parts of this and that. We cannot work with bits and pieces delivered in separate files at different times. You are responsible to get them in the right sequence, everything complete.
Table of contents. (Don't bother with page numbers: page numbers will change as soon as we reformat your text.)
Footnotes. “Live” footnotes must be inserted using the word-processor's footnote utility. Click here if you are not familiar with this.
Bibliography. Most research works bolster their credibility by providing a bibliography; this also serves as an assist for any potential follow-up research by people interested in your topic. It need not include every minute news article you consulted and need not replicate every footnote. For formats, see websites listed at “ Resources .”
Index list: Most of the work for creating an index is handled in-house. You only need to send us a simple list of terms/names, and do NOT include page numbers. The pagination will change as we work on the book.
Is your manuscript “clean”?
The author is responsible for spelling; if you appear to be thoughtless in the presentation of your ideas, what credibility will you have? Run the “Spell check” function.
Verify spelling of all names. We cannot know whether you refer to both Mr. Hickes and Mr. Hicks (not to mention complex “foreign” names). Only you know that.
Grammar, too. Run “Check grammar.” Even if you are a stellar grammarian, this helps to catch typos. (Can't find it? It's right there with Spell Check. TOOLS >> Spelling and Grammar)
If you have any hesitation about capitalization, quotations within quotations, or other grammar rules, etc., go to a website offering grammar guidelines. There are millions. Some of our favorites are listed at Resources .
Is it readable? Especially if this is your first book, try to get someone outside your own family to read it and let you know if it makes sense and adheres to grammar rules, etc.
Merriam-Webster Online for spelling, meanings
We prefer to work from Microsoft Word files, but we can probably work with your Word Perfect or other mainstream word-processor files, too. The file you send us will go through many transfers and conversions to other programs before it gets to the printed page, so please bear in mind that SIMPLER IS BETTER.
We prefer to receive the file via email attachment, or uploaded from our website.
Please send it all in ONE file, not individual chapters. Chapters should be designated by number, as well as name, so that your intended sequence is always clear. (Name the chapters like this: Chapter 1. The Real Story... , Chapter 2. The Other .... ) If you have each chapter in a separate file or folder, you can put them together using INSERT >> FILE. Go to the end of your first chapter, place the cursor there, then click on INSERT on the Menu bar at the top of the screen, and select FILE. Navigate to select your Chapter 2, and Voila! Go to the end of that, insert Chapter 3, etc. SAVE the file now as a whole manuscript.
We need ONE complete file, not multiple chapters. We need that because we need to have the same styles applied in one stroke for the entire manuscript. And you didn't really want to do a Spell Check on each separate chapter, did you?
If you present data in tabular form, you must use the Insert/Table function. Do NOT tab across the page, trying to line up your columns by hand. When the font is changed, etc., all that will be left is a bunch of tabs and words/numbers all over the page. Use the Insert/Table feature and place your data in the correct rows and columns. If you are having trouble with font size, margins and other formatting details of the table, trying to make it fit on one page, don't worry too much; we can make some adjustments here. (That being said, remember that the printed lines in a book are only about 5 inches wide.)
If you know how to use MS “Styles” to format your text, or if you want to try it (MS Help explains it pretty well), stick with six basic styles: Normal, Heading1, Heading2, Heading3, Hanging Indent (for block quotes), and Bulleted. We only use one font; if you assign Arial and Times and something more exotic, they will be over-written once we get our hands on your text!
If you are not familiar with “Styles,” just keep it simple. In general, keep your “emphasis” to a minimum. We prefer italics; do not use bold. DO NOT use bold italics, as they will cause technical difficulties down the road.
Centering and other Questions of Alignment. Do NOT use Tabs to align columns or headings. Tabs change when the file is moved, and will make a mess. You have to highlight the heading, and click on the alignment choice up there on the tool bar (left, right, center, or justify); or go to Format, Paragraph, and choose an Alignment.
But, why bother? Leave it all “Left” justified, and IT WILL BE FORMATTED ONCE WE GET OUR HANDS ON YOUR TEXT.
|How to Use Styles
Usually, after we receive your manuscript, we re-style it. We can only guess your intended styles and have to do the same process as described below without being familiar with your manuscript. This represents a very time consuming task and is fraught with the possibility of numerous human errors. In order to avoid the distracting confusion that all this entails, we have prepared a framework for your own settings. Here is what you need to learn.
For your convenience, if you are an experienced user of styles and you'd like to download a MS Word .dot template with the styles that we use, you can SAVE this template to your computer, then open it in MS Word, and follow the instructions below:
1. Append all your next chapters in the corresponding order to this first file by placing the cursor at the end of the opened chapter, then click on the Menu >> Insert >> File. Repeat the same operation as you add one chapter after the other.
2. Place your cursor in each paragraph that needs special style formatting, then open the Style Drop-down Menu (Heading 1 - in this example) and select the style to be applied.
3. Here is a list of such paragraphs.
In order to verify your work, you can do the following:
OR -- If you are working in MS Vista:
You can always go back and change how you applied the styles.
You can go back to Menu >> View >> Print Layout whenever you want; you just won't see the left margin with style information.
“Live” Footnotes can be edited, moved, and re-arranged, and will automatically move as necessary when you move a sentence from one paragraph or chapter to another, or when we repaginate, convert to the layout program, etc.; they can also automatically switch them back and forth from footnotes to endnotes, if necessary. The process is actually fairly simple, if a bit time-consuming. It looks a little different, depending what version you are in, but assuming you are in MS Word:
· Place your cursor where you want to insert the reference number, in the text
· Click on the Insert Menu at the top of the screen. Select Insert, Reference, Footnote, Auto number, Continuous. Number format would ordinarily be 1, 2, 3, and they should start at “1”.
· When you first insert a footnote reference number in the text, a window will automatically open at the bottom of the page. There, you can type in the actual footnote citation, that is, the author, title etc. (or cut and paste each one in, if you prepared the notes as a separate list).
For more on this click here .
Breaking News from the MLA
MLA no longer requires the use of URLs in citations. Because Web addresses are not static (i.e., they change often) and because documents sometimes appear in multiple places on the Web (e.g., on multiple databases), MLA explains that most readers can find electronic sources via title or author searches in Internet Search Engines.
For those who still wish to use URLs, MLA suggests that the URL appear in angle brackets after the date of access. Break URLs only after slashes.
Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. S. H. Butcher. The Internet Classics Archive. Web Atomic and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 13 Sept. 2007. Web. 4 Nov. 2008. ‹http://classics.mit.edu/›.
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
[This useful tip is found on Purdue University’s Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck. Last Edited: 2011-06-06 09:32:10
In the edited version of your manuscript, you may find text highlighted in yellow, or marked with red parentheses. These denote places where we have inserted a “Comment” using the Microsoft feature. To read the comment (assuming you are in a version of Microsoft Word), you can “hover” over it, that is, hold the cursor over the marked text — and the message should pop up. Or you can “right click” on the marked text, and choose “edit comment” to open the list of comments in a “window” at the bottom of the screen. Please delete the comment when you've taken it into account.
Or, at the top of the screen, click on the “View” menu and select “comments”; that opens the Comments window, too. All of this looks slightly different, depending on whether you are looking at your document in View, Normal; or View, Page Layout. Try different ways, to see what works best.
In MS Word, go to the Tools menu at the top of your screen. Select Word count. (If you have used the cursor to highlight some text, it will count just that section. Good for checking your 50-word description.) To count the whole book, just make sure nothing in your file is highlighted by the cursor. (It is not important whether you have checked the box, “include footnotes,” or not. We hope that footnotes account for less than half your total book.)