I don’t often have the pleasure of hosting guest posts by editors, so I am particularly pleased with this one. Liam Carnahan looks at editing from the editor’s point of view, explaining what you need to do before you submit your manuscript to an editor. Liam is the founder and chief editor at Invisible Ink Editing. The team at Invisible Ink work with independent authors to help them prepare their manuscripts for submissions or publication. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

7 Steps To Take Before Submitting Your Manuscript To An Editor

Book editing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Image: Pexels

The self-editing process can be long and painful, and it’s often hard to know when you’re actually done fiddling with a draft. At some point, you have to stop yourself from making changes and submit to an editor.

Before you do that, there are some quick and easy steps you can take to make your manuscript nice and tidy. It may seem counterintuitive to edit your work before submitting to an editor but remember: you want your editor to focus on the fundamentals of your novel, not spend their time fixing misspellings and formatting. The cleaner the manuscript is when you submit it, the deeper your editor will be able to go.

Here are seven things you should do before you submit to an editor:

1. Spell-check the manuscript (more than once!)

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but the number of manuscripts we receive that clearly haven’t been spell-checked is astounding. Running spell-check on a full novel can be time-consuming, but it’s a great way to get to know your own habits and mistakes. Be sure to run spell-check more than once, as it’s not uncommon to accidentally introduce new errors when fixing old ones.

2. Find and replace double spaces

Despite what you may have learned in school, single spaces after full stops are standard for the vast majority of editors and publishers. Double spaces were introduced back in the days when most people used typewriters and needed that extra room. Fortunately, if you’re a habitual double-spacer, this problem is easy to solve. Use Word’s find-and-replace function to search for all double spaces and replace them with a single space. Voilà! Now repeat that process for three spaces, in case any of those snuck by you.

3. Break up your chapters

You’ll also want to make sure you have a standard way of presenting new chapters. Some authors prefer to simply use an extra line break, while others like new chapters to start on a new page. Either is fine, but if you choose the latter, ensure you use Word’s page break function so the editing process doesn’t accidentally muck up your formatting.

4. Standardize margins, indents, and line spacing

If you are planning to self-publish, it’s wise to hire a formatter once you’ve finished the editing process, as they will make your book look fantastic on e-readers and screens. However, major formatting errors will distract your editor from focusing on what matters: your words. Take time to set automatic indentations for new paragraphs, and set the margins to 0.5” on both sides. Industry standard is 1.5-line spacing, which is much easier on your editor’s eyes than single spacing.

5. Test your manuscript on a different computer

Once you are certain the formatting of your novel is as close to perfect as it can be, it’s time to make sure there will be no technical issues slowing down you and your editor. Try attaching your document to an email and opening the attachment on a different machine. You may find that the format you saved your work in has odd characters or an unreadable file format when viewed on a different computer. Most editors use Microsoft Word as their primary editing tool, so you’ll have the best results if you save your document in the .doc or .docx file format.

6. Put together notes for your editor

When you are satisfied that the manuscript is as neat and tidy as can be, it’s a good idea to put together any notes you think might be valuable to your editor. Here are a few things you could  put into this sheet:

  • Information about any stylistic choices you have made that deviate from standard grammar/mechanics. (For example, “I’ve used a different font for electronic communication.”)
  • Any questions/concerns you have about the current draft
  • If this book is part of a series, information about previous and/or upcoming books

Many editors will then turn this information into a formal style sheet, which you can use for future work, so it’s worth taking the time.

7. Back up your work

The last step before submitting your manuscript to your editor is to back up your work. Your editor will most likely make a copy of your manuscript as it was upon arrival, but just in case, make sure you maintain your own copies on an external hard drive or secure cloud system. Don’t rely on your personal computer or email attachments to do the job—your work is sacred even in its first draft form, so make sure you protect it before you share it with the world.

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