Anatomy of a manuscript submission

How to format your short story submission so you don't embarrass yourself

I know you want to send your short story to ALL OF THE PLACES and reap ALL OF THE AWARDS, and do it all ASAP. But gosh darn, wouldn't you know that it takes a little time?

And it has to, because each literary magazine or writing contest has its own rules for how submissions should be formatted. Some want pages numbered, others want cover pages, most want cover letters, while still others think cover letters are outdated. It's crucial that you read each opportunity's guidelines so your submission isn't rejected for simply being improperly formatted.

Each literary magazine or writing contest has its own rules for how submissions should be formatted. Some want pages numbered, others want cover pages, most want cover letters, while still others think cover letters are outdated. It's crucial that you read each opportunity's guidelines so your submission isn't rejected for simply being improperly formatted.

That being said, while there are exceptions, most magazines and contests look for submissions formatted like the following:

Short story format

At the top-left, you'll start with your name, address, phone number and email address. (I always remove the automatic hyperlink of the email address so it looks cleaner.) You'll notice that this text is single-spaced, while the rest of the story is double-spaced. This is traditionally how I've seen submissions, but if you'd like to do so and the guidelines don't specify, this can be double-spaced, too.

To the right, on the same line as your name, include an approximate word count. Your story's title and byline -- which should begin about halfway down the page -- don't need to be included in this approximation.

The manuscript itself, from the title to the last page, should be double-spaced, 12-pt., black Times New Roman font.

Double spaced
Font options

Set the page margins to 1-inch on all sides.

Margins

Use the tab key to indent at the beginning of paragraphs instead of using line breaks, like in a blog.

Insert page numbers, beginning with page 2. Position them at the top and right.

Insert page numbers

Also beginning with page 2, create a header that consists of your last name and a few words that represent your story's title. It should be the complete title, if your title is itself only a few words; otherwise, use a three- or four-word abbreviation.

Different first page header
Second page header

 

Easy as pie, right? What other questions do you have about your manuscript's format?

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