Digital Manuscripts: What You Need To Know About Publishing in the Internet Age: Part 1 Italics

So I’ve been sending out my manuscript to agents for a little while now. I’ve gotten three solid rejections and three non-responses, which I suppose also count for rejections.

I decided maybe I’d better have a friend edit my manuscript because, you know, my computer spellcheck had decided to miss some very easy spelling errors- in my query, which I didn’t catch until after the first two rejections.

She asked me, after less than a week of reading, why I had italics represented as underlines. Well, I said, that’s what the websites say to do for manuscript formatting.

She wasn’t sure if it was right either, so I put it out on Twitter to my published buddies:

@juliamaestaley: @kellysimmons @rbwood @edenbaylee @AddisonFox Published friends: in manuscript form, do you represent italics as underlined?? @kgwaite

Here is what they said:

“@AddisonFox: @juliamaestaley Italics. W/ electronic editing it now takes longer for them to re-format w/ underlines”

@kellysimmons: @juliamaestaley @rbwood @edenbaylee @AddisonFox @kgwaite I have never done that — I just use italics.

“@edenbaylee: @juliamaestaley no, I don’t. I italicize it, but I guess it depends on whether you are able to do that.”

Wow. That was… Totally different than what I had read on formatting- from some supposedly reliable, MAJOR sources.

So I pressed one of my friends a little further:

@juliamaestaley: @edenbaylee but are you using 12 pt Courier? Because I do see it is hard to tell italics in that font.

She responded, kindly:

“@edenbaylee: @juliamaestaley no hon, I always use Times new roman. That’s normally a standard, and italics are distinguishable in that font.”

That was a total shock to me. Even books on publishing- put out fairly recently- stressed the use of Courier as the font. I personally have always hated it, and much prefer Times New Roman. And here was a published author saying it outright.

@AddisonFox: @juliamaestaley Glad it helped. No one will hang you up by your toes if you underline but the italics are quicker.

Why I get so frustrated is that many agents and publishers have switched to online submissions, (Which is great,) but nowhere online can you find cohesive, accurate information on digital publishing.

(It’s almost like they are trying to prevent people from knowing this information, like its some insider club. If that’s the case, I am infuriated.)

Even in the 2013 Writer’s Market, which always has a ton of helpful info, I could not find more than snippets on digital manuscript formatting.

So here I am, maybe getting rejected not for the content, but because they get an underlined, weird-font manuscript and think to themselves: man, this writer is totally out of touch. Slush pile, instantly.

So rather than rant about the major websites and published “help” books with very wrong or lacking information, I have decided to start up an ongoing series on formatting for digital publishing.

I would ask all my published friends, genre irrelevant, to please share their formatting tips and tricks via email to me, or in comment boxes on this blog which I will repost as an article. Of course, this only applies to friends that submit their stuff digitally!!

Let’s help one another out here! Getting published is hard enough without the additional problems of incorrect formatting due to outdated sources.

It’s not like it will create more competition. Wouldn’t you rather a publisher based their rejection on your content, rather than your formatting errors?

I would, anyway.

The digital revolution began a long time ago… So let’s help the publishing industry catch up, huh?



Published Authors:

Kelly Simmons, author of the dramatic and beautiful: “Standing Still” and “The Bird Cage” (Simon and Schuster)

Addison Fox, author of the hot paranormal romance series: “Sons of the Zodiac” and the latest: “Come Fly With Me”.

Eden Baylee, Canadian author of the “Four Seasons” erotica and an awesome indie writer/author.


  1. Julia,
    My works are indie published so the formatting guidelines are per the site (Amazon, Smashwords, etc.) and based on whether it’s epub, or .mobi.

    I’d say traditional publishers usually have their own guidelines for submission, and they should include font type, spacing, and whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts. More than formatting issues, I’d say a clean manuscript is the most important thing.

    This means no spelling errors, no grammatical issues, and the proper mechanics of writing are in place throughout. (voice, dialogue, etc).

    There are so many reasons for rejection that it’s difficult to tell what they might be unless the letter spells it out for you. If it does, take that as a good sign and continue working on it.

    I wish you success and keep writing, xox

Comments? Questions? Critiques?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s