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What Are the Components of a Completed Manuscript?

I write this assuming you are a writer whose book has sold to a publisher and now you are working with your manuscriptwriting, researching, gathering facts, honing your key concepts, and all the other necessary goodies that make for a best-selling book.

This post may not apply to the author who was well-coached and managed by a fantastic agent, where everything on my list below was presented at the time of initial query.

But for everyone else...

This is the stage between contract and submission of your final manuscript. What I find when I am wearing my editorial hat (and not my acquisitions hat) is many times I receive a manuscript from an author that is missing quite a few vital components. These components should be part of the writing phase as the author prepares his or her manuscript for publication. I realize that some authors may not be aware of what is part of their manuscript prep and what the editor does during the editorial phase. So often, the things I mention below are overlooked and, by default, land on the editor's plate. (For a refresher of what an editor does, see a previous post.)

Now if you're an author who values a good editor, this should be very disturbing, because what you want is for your editor to spend as much quality time with your content as the editorial schedule will allow. An editor is an expert at making sure the author is all neat and tucked in, but should they also be responsible for doing things the author should have prepared beforehand?

That's a rhetorical question.

But here's another angle. With the whirlwind of trying to get published in the first place and then negotiating the best contract terms, deciphering publishing agreement jargon, working with marketing and sales on best strategies, and fighting through writer's block while working a nine-to-five job, maybe authors are just ready to get that all-consuming thing off of their desk, collect their advance, and are not going back to see what their publisher needs from them to count their manuscript as complete.

Well I'd like to help authors and editors everywhere by providing a little checklist of items and tasks that need to be completed before an author submits their final manuscript to their publisher. Not all of these elements will apply to all projects.

Here's what you need to turn in with your manuscript:

  1. Endorsements
  2. Dedication
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Foreword
  5. Preface
  6. Prologue
  7. Introduction
  8. Table of contents
  9. List of tables, charts, graphs, or images
  10. Charts/tables
  11. Graphs
  12. Photographs, graphics, or other images
  13. Print licenses for song or poetry lyrics; long quotes from books, websites, and news articles; use of charts, graphs, or photographs; or any other copyrighted material
  14. Full sourcing (or citation) information for all borrowed and quoted material including author, title, publisher's city and state, publisher's name, publishing date, page number, and/or web link
  15. Signed releases from subjects mentioned by name or likeness in your book (changing a subject's name is not enough)
  16. Conclusion
  17. Epilogue
  18. Appendices
  19. Bibliography
  20. Endnotes or footnotes
  21. Index list
  22. About the author page
If I were an author at this stage (between contract and final manuscript), I would print this list and put it up in my writing station.

Just sayin'.

Many times, and maybe other editors can relate, chasing down and completing this information impose on my edit time—especially signed releases, print licenses, and sourcing. While I love the thrill of a chase, my time could be better spent really homing in on the author's message or story and helping them make it shiny and life-changing for their readers. It's for the readers that publishers and authors do any of it, right?

Those are just my thoughts as they occurred to me today. What do you think? Did I miss anything? If so, please add them to the comments. Also if you need clarification on what any of the items on the list mean and how to go about getting them, let me know. I'll blog about it for you.


8 Ingredients of a Safe and Sound Release Form


8 Ingredients of a Safe and Sound Release Form

In a previous post (Trials, Traumas, and Tragedies, Oh My), I went on and on about the difficulties of writing (and editing) a book based on your personal testimony. I mostly focused on the importance of getting the subjects in your story to sign a release form. So after all that, I knew it wouldn’t be right for me to talk all that noise about releases and not talk about how to draw up a quick and easy release. Here goes a simple list of things to put in your release form.