Unless you're writing a screenplay, you donít need fancy writing software to ensure that your book manuscript is properly formatted. As long as you abide by a few simple rules, agents and publishers wonít take one look at it and decide to find it a good, loving home in the circular file. I already gave you ten tips to help you hook an agentís attention with a dy-no-mite query letter. Now that youíve gotten that letter requesting your full manuscript (and finished weeping) Iíll get to the dos and the doníts of submitting the pages. Follow my advice and any agent or editor who reads your work will judge it based on the strength of its words, not superficial--and avoidable--screw-ups. Some may seem obvious, but as a literary agent, I saw these mistakes made over and over. So theyíre not obvious to everyone.
Writing has no rules that canít be broken if youíre good enough. But the presentation of your manuscript is about business, not writing, so donít break these rules, no matter how beautiful your spiral binding (shudder again). Note, though, that fancy-schmancy formatting software may be worthwhile for other forms of writing, such as screenplays, the proper formatting of which can lead to insanity.
Lisa Silverman is a freelance book editor and works in the copyediting department at one of New York's most prestigious literary publishing houses. She has also worked as a ghostwriter and a literary agent representing both book authors and screenwriters. She founded BeYourOwnEditor.com in order to provide writers with free advice on both writing and the publishing business.
Books for Writers: "The
by: Lisa Silverman
In her lengthy career, Betsy Lerner has been an MFA student, an award-winning poet, a book editor at major publishing houses, and a literary agent. So in her wonderfully insightful book about writers and the business in which they struggle, she provides a myriad of wise and knowledgeable perspectives. Whether you are working on your first novel or your fifth, you'll read Lerner's book and think, She's writing about me.
You may not think so on every page, especially if you have an oversize ego. Lerner shares a wealth of anecdotes and opinions about the essential makeup of writers, not all of them flattering. (Words such as "neurotic" and "insecure" come up a lot.) But, because of her obvious love of writers and books, even the brutally honest stuff doesn't come across as insulting. After all, how insulting can it be to be compared to Philip Roth? Her observations are simply honest, and deeply affectionate. Lerner's stories about the enthusiasm she has felt over the years for particular writers and projects, and for the world of books in general, is infectious.
In the book's second half, Lerner turns to more practical matters, pulling back the curtain on what, even if you've been published, may be a world of mystery to you: the publishing house (and, by extension, booksellers, reviewers, etc.). She provides wisdom on dealing with your agent and/or publishers ("Don't make the mistake of writing to publishers in what I call a proposal voice; this isn't a grant you're applying for"). She demystifies what goes on at sales meetings and what makes for a good author/editor relationship. ("Call before sending chunks of manuscript... It's like having out-of-town guests show up uninvited for the weekend.") She explains the importance of the book publicist.
What struck me about "The Forest for the Trees" is that it's not only helpful, not only insightful, but also an engrossing and entertaining read. Lerner is witty and big-hearted, literate without being snobbish, brutally honest without discouraging writers from pursuing a career. It's a book that belongs on the shelves of every writer and every editor (I first read it in a manuscript editing class). I always say that writers should do all the research they can into the book industry before approaching it. This book is a source of knowledge on the book industry, the people who work within it, and, perhaps most important, on the inner life of any writer who ever sat down in front of a blank screen.
About The Author
Lisa Silverman is a freelance book editor and works in the copyediting department at one of