Nowadays there are four main ways to get a book published.
A. Submitting it to a traditional publishing house. If they accept it, you’re golden. And while they’ll handle some of the marketing, you will still need to market it.
B. Independently publishing it yourself by working independently with editors, graphic designers, book formatters, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. And of course, you still need to market it.
C. Submitting it to one of those free online places. Which presumably means you’ve already worked with editors, graphic designers, and book formatters. Fortunately, those free places do take care of distribution and sales for you. And of course, you still need to market it.
D. Submitting it one of those full-service self-publishing websites. They can handle all of the above, and maybe they’ll throw in a little marketing, depending upon who you choose. But you’ll still want to market it.
Regardless of which path you choose, there is one consistent component: your manuscript. And it is in your best interest to make it the best it can be BEFORE you consider sending it (or uploading it) anywhere else.
So, with that in mind, here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes time to finalize your manuscript for submission.
1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs. Traditional publishers probably won’t care, but it’ll wreak havoc with the other three, since in all likelihood, your book will be a different size than your 8.5×11 manuscript, and those hard returns will end up in the middle of lines instead of at the end of them.
2. Don’t manually insert hyphens. Same problem as above. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it.
3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred. This doesn’t cause technical formatting problems so much as perception ones.
4. Spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having your manuscript professionally edited before publication (the traditional publisher will handle this, but for the other three options you’re on the hook, at least for paying for it), it is a good idea to run your spell check program on your manuscript prior to submitting it, just to fix all the “easy” mistakes.
5. Check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. One favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.
Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at Grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing a publishing process error-free and is handy for other marketing endeavors after-the-fact, like writing on blogs, for instance.
Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing professional editing with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.