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Standard Policies for Mailing in a Manuscript Submission

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While many publishing houses accept email submissions, others still prefer snail mail. Here we will address all of your questions and provide you with what you need to mail your manuscript with confidence and peace.

If you’re mailing in a manuscript submission, you probably have a ton of questions:

  • What size envelope do I use?
  • What quality of paper is appropriate?
  • Is it really ok to fold the paper to fit it into the envelope?
  • What if the ink smudges?
  • Do I Need Postal Insurance?
  • The questions go on.

We’ve covered it all in this article for you!

Important: Check the Publisher’s Requirements First

First you will need to go online and visit the submissions section of your publisher of choice. Carefully read their specific guidelines for manuscript submission.

Somewhere in that section it will tell you exactly how they would like you to mail all this stuff in to them. If they do not, you can be sure standard policy will be just fine.

Standard policies for mailing a manuscript vary slightly and depend on total page length of the package you are sending.

At a minimum you will need to submit a self addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) cover letter and a book proposal.

Some publishing companies may want you to send in your entire manuscript, especially if you are writing short stories, poetry or picture books for children.

Because of the variation of page numbers being sent in, the methods for mailing these documents vary as well. Here we will break it down and look at the different methods.

Here are the basics for how to mail in a manuscript submission:

Step 1: Use the Right Paper!

ALWAYS use 20 lb. white bond 8.5″ x 11″ paper to print your cover letter, book proposal and/or manuscript on. This is your standard printer paper and you can find it in the office supply section of almost any store. (Never use colored paper, or any other size or quality of paper. Editors all want this specific paper. To give them anything else marks you as an amateur and your manuscript will hit the rejection pile before the first word is ever read).

Step 2: Include A Return Envelope

ALWAYS include a self addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with you submission. This is so that the editor can either mail you a rejection letter, an acceptance letter, or a request to “see more” or “Re-write and re-submit.”

Make sure to use a standard #10 white business envelope. Place a “forever” stamp in the top right hand corner.

Why a forever stamp? You want to use a forever stamp because of how often the price of postage changes. If you use a 44 cents stamp and the price goes up between now and the time the editor gets around to your manuscript, they would then need to add additional postage to your envelope. Save them this hassle and expense by simply using a forever stamp.

Next, with legibly write your name and address in the center of the envelope, or you can also type it and run the envelope through your printer or create an address label to stick onto the envelop. All three ways are acceptable, just so your address can be read and its really on there.

Step 3: Organize Your Package

It is important that your manuscript has the right order of contents.

ALWAYS stack the contents of your package in this order: SASE on top, 1 page cover letter next, book proposal/manuscript on the bottom.

This will help ensure whoever opens your package will be able to easily find everything.

Step 4: Use the Correct Size Envelope

If your Cover letter and book proposal or manuscript all together is 6 pages or less use a standard #10 envelope.

Then stack the documents as ordered above, place your SASE vertical and in the middle of the stack of papers on top, and fold the entire stack (including your SASE) into thirds so that it will neatly slide into the outer envelope.

It is completely acceptable and expected for you to fold your documents. Make sure, however that you wait several hours, or a day after printing out your documents to fold them to avoid ink smudges.

You do not need a larger, special envelope to contain these documents. Again, if it is 6 pages or less it will all fit in a standard #10 envelope, even with the SASE included.

If your cover letter and book proposal or manuscript all together is greater than 6 pages but less than 30 pages use a standard 9 x 12 manila envelope with a metal clasp. Use the standard color envelope – having something unprofessional will not win you any awards at the editor’s desk!

You will need to stack your documents exactly as they are listed above, but you will NOT fold your SASE or documents. Instead, first address the manila envelop to the publishing company. You can do this several ways.

One method is to turn the envelope sideways so that it is horizontal, not vertical. The opening with the clasp should be face down and to your right. Now you are ready to address the envelop by using a black Sharpie market you can simply print their address legibly in the center of the envelope.

If you use this method, you may want to slide several sheets of scratch paper into the envelope so that the marker does not bleed through. Also, never do this step after inserting your documents into the envelope. In doing so there is a good chance the marker will bleed through and ruin your documents.

The second option is that you could print out an address label and stick it on the envelop. This method takes a little more time, but is much neater and professional looking.

Step 5: Be Sure to Include a Return Address!

This may sound obvious, but you will also need to include your return address on the envelope. Again, this can either be written on with a black marker or stuck on with a return address label. Your return address will go on the top right corner of the envelop and should be smaller writing or a smaller label than the publishing company’s address that is in the middle of the envelope.

Helpful Tip: Keep consistent. If you write the publishing company’s address in marker you should also write the return address in marker. If you are using labels, use them for both the publishing company’s address and your return address. The goal is for the envelope to look as neat, uniform and professional as possible.

Once you have your stack of documents and your manila envelop addressed, open it and slide the entire stack into the envelop, face down.

You need to insert your documents in this direction because when the it is opened the back of the envelope will be facing the editor and when he or she pulls your documents out, they should pull everything out face up, with your SASE on top. Next seal the envelop and fasten the metal clasp.

If your package contains more than 30 pages you need to use a cardboard mailing box, rather than an envelop. The size of the box will depend on how large the stack of papers you are sending is. If you go to the post office they will show you the appropriate box to use.

Step 6: Choose the Right Mail Method

Once your package is put together and ready to go, take it to the post office. Select the standard 3 day, priority mail shipping option when mailing it.

You do not need to insure the package. This shipping option will also give you a receipt which you can use to track your package so that you can be sure that the publishing company receives it.

You should not send your package via certified mail or require a delivery confirmation unless it is recommended by the publisher.

You’re Ready for Publishing!

These steps might seem like a lot or even slightly confusing, but it’s important to know what to do when you send your book to a publisher. Doing this will help avoid your creative work being rejected due to it not meeting the publisher’s guidelines.

Now that you know everything there is to know about mailing in a manuscript, you need to know what NOT to do: Check out our article, 10 Things you Should NEVER do when Submitting a Manuscript, to avoid the most common manuscript submission mistakes.

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1 thought on “Standard Policies for Mailing in a Manuscript Submission”

  1. I am planning to send my 60 pages manuscript to publishers. If I use parcel box, do I still need to include SASE envelop with it? How does the publisher deals with manuscripts sent this way and needs to be returned? PS: I appreciate your article very much.


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