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General Guidelines for Submitting Unsolicited Manuscripts

Are you thinking of submitting your work to a publisher, magazine or journal, but aren’t sure exactly how it needs to be done? When it comes to submitting unsolicited manuscripts there are rules that need to be followed. Here are some handy do’s and don’t’s that will help get your manuscript off the slush pile and into an editor’s hands!

The Do’s


  • If it’s a magazine or a journal, read it first to be sure what you have written fits the preferred style and theme of the journal.
  • If it’s a publishing house or a small press, check their website to make sure they are seeking submissions in your chosen genre.

Read the Submission Guidelines

  • Read them carefully. Follow all the instructions and send exactly what is asked for, nothing more or nothing less.
  • Correct format
  • Cover letter/synopsis
  • The correct number of chapters/words
  • The correct method (paper or email)

Make sure your work is ready for submission

  • Don’t send your first draft, your first draft can always be improved. Send your second (or third, fourth…)
  • Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Get someone else to read your work; fresh eyes spot typos.

Make sure your cover letter and synopsis are well-written

  • Your cover letter should be written in plain English. It should contain: a brief description of your book or story, a few sentences about yourself, relevant publishing credits and a brief quote (from a reputable reviewer or author) if you have one. 

Refer to our factsheet for more information on writing an effective synopsis and cover letter.

The Don’ts

In your manuscript, don’t use:

  • non-standard formats
  • weird or unusual fonts
  • coloured fonts
  • single line spacing (1.5 line spacing is good)
  • line breaks for each paragraph (indented paragraphs ­– like in published books)

In your supporting documents, don’t:

  • include vague or irrelevant details
  • make the cover letter or synopsis too long; the synopsis should include the ending of the story


  • Don’t send random, non-sequential chapters
  • Don’t include gifts
  • Don’t pester the publisher for a response
  • Don’t send your story in the body of an email (unless asked)
  • Avoid submitting fan fiction and writing that is libellous or obscene

Check out our fact sheets on Publishing Options and Submitting to Traditional Publishers to find out how you can be published and where you can submit.

Further Resources

Author Ian Irvine’s take on what publishers hate.

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