This one’s going to be pretty nuts-and-bolts elementary, but you don’t have to read it if you have no intention of writing anything any time soon.
I. How do you get to be a writer?
- You sit down and write something.
- Finish what you write. Pensées don’t count. Neither do short stories without an ending.
- If the next morning you think it’s any good send it to some editor who might buy it.
- Repeat as needed.
II. How do you prepare the manuscript?
- Type your story (no handwritten works need apply) in black ink on white 8½ × 11 paper. (Unless you’re British, in which case the only typing paper available to you may be slightly larger.)
- “Type” is understood to include typing on a computer.
- Remember to number the damn pages! You would be astonished how many otherwise reasonably intelligent and quite good writers have not figured out how to make their computers number the pages. Can you imagine what happens if the wind blows the manuscript?
III. How do you send it?
- Put it in a manuscript-sized envelope. Put in with it a self-addressed return envelope.
- If you’re using the postal mail service (recommended) include return postage. I recommend paper-clipping the stamps to the envelope instead of sticking them on. If the editor buys your story, he gets to keep the stamps, which some of them like to do. Of course, this is not enough to make him reconsider a rejection and instead buy the thing, but it may lead him to have a kindlier thought of you, and how can that be bad?
- If you prefer to use Fed Ex, etc., tell the person who sells it to you that you want to pay for return and he’ll take care of it.
- Submit by e-mail if (and only if) the publisher’s submission guidelines say you should.
- If you are submitting a novel, you don’t have to send the whole thing. Just send the first 40 or so pages with an outline (can be short, since all you’re aiming for is to get him to read the whole thing).
IV. What do you put in the cover letter?
- Only what is necessary for him to know about you.
- Include any writing awards you may have won. Do not include telling how much you need the money because your baby is sick and you can’t afford to buy medicine. If you are a good-looking woman, do not include pictures of yourself in a bikini. Make it as brief as you can.
V. Good luck!