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10 Things you Should NEVER do when Submitting a Manuscript

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There are so many articles out there that tell writers what they should do when submitting their manuscripts to publishers, but not too many on what writers should NOT do. We want to help you avoid making any of these novice mistakes to better your chances of staying out of the rejection pile!

Here are 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Submitting a Manuscript:


1. NEVER staple anything. Editors hate staples! The only acceptable way to attach papers together is by using a paper clip, and in most cases this is completely unnecessary because all of your pages are already numbered. Unless a publishing company specifically requests anything to be paper clipped, you can skip using those as well.

2. NEVER request that an editor send your manuscript back to you. They do not shell out the funds that would be necessary to mail everyone’s manuscript back to them and to ask them to do so marks you as an amateur.

3. NEVER use decorative font, colored paper or fancy envelopes. Do not doodle or add stickers or embellishments on your documents or envelops. The package you are submitting should be as professional (aka plain) as possible, using the most standard materials. Anything else will take away from the story which you are trying to sell them on. Let that speak for itself.

4. NEVER send in gifts, baked goods, money, lottery tickets, or any other types of “bribes” with your manuscript. Only include what is required and specified by the publishing company. Anything else seems terribly unprofessional and sends the message to the editor that you do not believe in your book idea or story enough for it to stand on its own. This is a another great way to get tossed into the rejection pile before your cover letter is ever read.

5. NEVER send in drawings, photographs or artwork with your manuscript. Unless you are also a professional illustrator and have prior permission or a request from the editor to include these elements, leave them out. Editors are not interested in images at this point; they only want to see the writing. If they love the writing they will send you an acceptance letter and then tell you what is required of you in terms of images to complement the text of the book. But this comes later! Including these items in an initial submission will not improve your chances of having your manuscript accepted. So, resist this urge and provide them with what they want now, and that is text, not images.

6. NEVER tell an editor that your work is copywritten. By federal law, as soon as you write something and attach your name to it, you hold the copyright to it. You do not need to do anything special, pay money, have it registered or anything of the sort. You wrote it, your name is on it, you own it. It’s that simple. To tell this to an editor shows that you are uneducated about the field of writing. Not a good message to send if you want to get published.

7. NEVER send in a manuscript that contains typos, errors or is improperly formatted. This sends a message to the editor that your work is sloppy and that you do not respect them as a professional institution. Also, hey will automatically assume that your plot, character development, and overall story will be sloppy. And that will earn the manuscript a special spot in the rejection pile.

8. NEVER send certified mail that needs to be signed for at the receiving end. This is because there may not be anyone available at the time it is delivered and it will delay when your manuscript gets into the hands of the editor. And if there is someone available, it will take time for them to sign for it which takes more time away from them doing their actual job. Also, no one ever sends certified mail to publishing companies and to do so will mark you as an amateur in the field. That is never a good message to send, especially before an editor even opens your envelope. It will get there. Don’t worry.

9. NEVER try to guess the postage. Instead take it to the post office and give it to the postal worker. They will weigh it and stamp it for you so that it is sure to get to where it needs to go and you will not have to deal with the inconvenient and unnecessary delay of having it sent back to your residence due to insufficient postage.

10. NEVER include a picture of yourself in the package or print it on your cover letter. While it may seem like a good idea to put a face to a name in order to make your work more memorable, this is a counterproductive step. You are not applying for a job or selling yourself, but rather you are selling your writing. While it is inappropriate for editors to discriminate based on race, religion or ability, you never know how your image may impact their opinion of your writing. Maybe you look just like an editors ex wife which will conjure negative thoughts, even before he begins reading your manuscript. You just never know how preconceived and even subconscious biases will affect an editor’s opinion upon seeing your picture, thus impacting their decision of whether or not to publish your work. So leave your picture out, as attractive as it might be (yes, you are a beautiful person) and let your writing speak for itself.

By keeping the tips above in mind you can guarantee that your manuscript will not end up in the rejection pile due to novice mistakes.

If you have made any of these mistakes in the past, that’s ok! We all make mistakes and mistakes are necessary for growth and professional development. Don’t waste even one second of your time feeling bad or embarrassed by this, but instead use your experience to grow! Also, if you have made some of these mistakes we would love to hear about them, and how it has affected you as a writer. By sharing the mistakes we have all made, we can grow and improve together! Go ahead and share them in the comments section below.

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4 thoughts on “10 Things you Should NEVER do when Submitting a Manuscript”

  1. I inadvertently used a fine-looking but non-standard font for a manuscript that was to be electronically sent.

    I use a Linux machine, and (at the time) it didn’t have Courier New, Times New Roman, or even Arial. So I picked a close look-alike to Times and emailed my fiction in to a magazine. The rejection I got back noted that my font was “ugly and hard to read”. I was flabbergasted. It looked fine on my machine!

    I later learned how Apples and PCs, when confronted with an unfamiliar font, will substitute one from their own stable of fonts. And sometimes their choices are ludicrous! So if you don’t use one of the industry-standard fonts on your end, you have NO IDEA what font will appear on the receiving end. I also found out how to download the MS-Corefonts into Linux, and I now have all the fonts I mentioned above and many more that appear on a standard Windows PC. I’ll never have that problem again.

    Now if I can only learn to write well… 🙂

  2. I wrote a manuscript, it has pictures I drew myself, I am sending it as is, I took it to the Library to get it copied, the Librarians loved it, now to find a publisher

  3. I think you need to explain copyright law a little better. When you publish a work in any perceivable format it is a copyright for that original creator. HOWEVER, if someone steals your idea you need to have the copyright officially-registered with the U.S. Patent Office in order to pursue litigation for infringement. If your work is registered you can sue for statutory damages and dump your legal fees onto the defendant if successful. Otherwise the price of legal fees comes out of your own pocket if you do not have an officially-registered copyright or obviously if you lose.

    Also, for those who think the so-called “Poor Man’s Copyright” has any legal power at all, it does not. The Poor Man’s Copyright is taking your work and mailing it to yourself. Then leaving the work untouched and sealed in the envelope, box, etc. The idea is that the U.S. Post Office is a Federal facility and the date stamped on all mail is valid and verified. This does not prove that you created said work on or before that date. This only proves that whatever is in that envelope or box was in there when the date was stamped. That’s it.

    Say that you were in a coffee-shop somewhere doodling a character. Someone could easily steal your work, mail it to themselves and claim they created it. This is why the Poor Man’s Copyright does not work and is not permissible in the court of law.

    The best advice is to register any published work if you can. Especially work that is going to be mass distributed like a book. Copyright registration costs $35-55 dollars if you are doing the work yourself, $250-500 dollars if you hire an attorney to do it. It is a lot of forms to fill out though. The turn around time of your copyright typically is anywhere from 2-18 months. However, your registration is retroactive to the date of the filing. You can expedite the process by paying $800 upfront which will get it done in about a week. Unless you have reason to believe that someone may have stolen your work and you want to protect it quickly, I personally don’t see a reason for that.

    I would advise EVERYONE to copyright their work. It will save you a lot of headache and money later on.

  4. Thank you so much for all of the information. I just finished writing my first novel and need all of the information that I can get.


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