Judging a Book by its Cover

All of us – at least some of the time – judge a book by its cover. It is a shortcut and in this hectic life shortcuts can come in handy. The way a book is presented tells you something of its content – and if the cover is one of the author’s own choosing – it will give you a glimpse into (if not who they are) how they want to present themselves to the world.

It may come as no surprise then that agents and publishers do this too when it comes to manuscripts. How a manuscript is presented may seem the least of worries to those of us still caught up in the process of writing, re-writing and revising some more. Yet it does matter.

ManuscriptA poorly presented manuscript may unwittingly suggest that the writer is either careless or messy, or perhaps they are making a statement: one of disregard for the publishing industry’s standards.

If it is the first then the person holding the manuscript in their hand may be led to believe that the writing will be careless and messy too. If it is the second, they may be annoyed that someone would be making a statement at their expense.

We get only once chance to make a good first impression so… why begin by putting the wrong foot forward?

Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to presentation:

  1. Check what the industry’s standard is and ensure that your formatting complies with their demands (A4 paper, standard white, text appearing on one side of the page only, double-spacing, correct font size etc.) big-time-ny-literary-agency1
  2. Always send a new manuscript. This is not a rule as such, but I think that if an agent or publisher receives a worn manuscript, or a manuscript that is defaced in any way, they will assume that it has been read and rejected by others already. This may influence how they approach it.
  3. Finally… there are a plethora of industry jokes about the Paranoid Manuscript – the one that has “Copyright” and “Confidential” inked onto every page – major turn off I am told and not much use either.

However… even when all these rules are followed there is one biggie that can’t be overlooked before sending the manuscript in: The Cliché!

Clichés | Avoid them like the plague!

They are tricky little crumpets these clichés. If one of them finds its way onto the opening page or sneaks its way somewhere into that first chapter, then that’s it for the rest.

With great writing comes great responsibility. Show no mercy! Throw that cliché out with the bathwater 😉

7 thoughts on “Judging a Book by its Cover

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