Manuscript Matters

For the second year in a row, I’ve served as a judge for a local writing contest, and for the second year in a row, I’ve been humbled by the variety and sincerity of the work submitted – and a bit horrified at the way the submissions have been formatted. So I thought I’d lay out the guide lines for a proper submission.

First, some terms: technically, a manuscript is a hand-written document, dating back to the days when that’s how authors submitted their work to be edited, typeset, and published. In the early twentieth-century, typewriters came into vogue, and an author was  expected to submit a typescript, a typewritten document. By the late twentieth century, the typewriter was replaced by the personal computer. At the beginning of this technological change, computers were used to generate letter-quality typescripts, which were then typeset for printing. With the advent of the internet, those typescripts turned into eFiles; and with the advances in photo-offset technology, those eFiles are now transformed digitally into books.

Despite all these technological changes, the parameters for a professional submission still hark back to the typewriter days. What this means is that your eFile submissions should be formatted to look as if it were typewritten. If your submission is accepted, it will then be formatted according to the publisher’s design, whether in a periodical, as web content, or as a book.

So what does a typescript look like? Here are a few simple rules:

  • Use a twelve-point, serif, font; your document should look typewritten, even on-screen.
  • Use black ink.
  • Use 1” margins top, left, bottom and right.
  • Justify the left margin only.
  • Double space.
  • Use a running header in the top right corner with your last name (unless contest rules require anonymous submissions), the title of your work, and the page number.

While it may appear that these are fossilized rules, they’re not. They are the gold standard for ease of reading and will be much appreciated by all the contest judges, agents, editors, publishers and any others who read your submissions. These are people who read a lot; you want to make it easy for them to do so.

More on Typeface

No question, all those fonts on the computer are inviting. Save them for your holiday greeting cards.  For most of the era of the typewriter, 12-point elite type was standard, although a few machines offered 10-point pica. Until the behemoth IBM Selectric came along, you were stuck with whatever typeface that came with your machine; the Selectric introduced script fonts. Generally, elite was chosen for being easy to read.

Typewriters all had serif fonts. Serifs are the little lines at the top and the bottom of individual letters, vestiges of the typesetting days, when printers used them to align typeface. They have a current use: serif fonts are easier to read, and you want to go gentle on your readers’ eyes. The most widely used and accepted serif font for typescripts is Times New Roman.

The san serif fonts have their uses, mainly in advertising. They take formatting well: bold, outline, filled in, shadowed, etc. These are hugely useful fonts – for graphic designers, not for prose submissions.

More on Font Formatting

Generally, it is best to write in sentence case: Initial capital followed by lower case words (except for proper nouns), with terminal punctuation at the end. A skilled prose writer will be able to create emphasis through diction and word choice rather than bold, italics, or change of font.

There are times when bold and italics are called for. Back in the typewriter days, words meant to be bold were typed in ALL CAPS, and titles of books were underlined, because italics weren’t possible. If you are writing for a specific market, it’s best to follow its specific style sheet, especially for citations. In absence of solid guidelines, what matters most is that you be consistent (i.e. treat all book titles the same throughout a typescript).

If all this sounds dry as toast, it’s meant to. It’s the language and story that matter, not blue ink or Gothic initial caps. Those are matters for the designer who will format your work for publication. Submitting professionally formatted files is the best way to cross that threshold.

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the award-winning novel, Into The Wilderness, and a regular commentator on Vermont Public Radio. Learn more at

Mastheads are information goldmines

With so much information online, it’s getting rare to go low-tech for information, but in researching magazines and newspapers lately, I’ve come to appreciate the up-to-datedness (I made up this word) of an actual masthead.

The masthead (also referred to as a nameplate) is the portion of a magazine or newspaper, generally within the first few pages (just before, after, or with the Table of Contents) that lists the name of the publisher, contact information, subscription rates, and other pertinent stuff readers and writers want to know.

As a writer, your goal is to find the person who manages the department of the newspaper or magazine you want to submit an article to. With a small publication, this could be the editor-in-chief. For a larger publication, you may have several names to choose from.

The masthead is the place to start because it gives you some combination of these elements (and more):

  • Logo (very small, obviously, if it’s there)
  • Name of the publisher, editors, contributors, designers, and other staff responsible for the publication, sometimes with their e-mail addresses, at a minimum
  • Address, phone number, and other contact information for the publication in general, and sometimes by department/area of focus

    Parenting NH Magazine masthead

    Masthead for Parenting New Hampshire magazine

  • Date and volume number
  • Subscription information, if relevant, and/or details on how to obtain prior copies, sometimes a customer service contact
  • Information on how to submit to the publication

You can click on the image to the right to see some masthead details for this NH-based magazine.

Of course, having the information and deciphering that information can be two different things. You don’t want to submit queries or articles to the “editor-in-chief,” “contributing editor,” or “editing assistant,” at least not without research first. You want to find the best internal resource for your article.

Resources, such as, have publisher/editor information, but it is collected at least 12 months in advance of distribution, so the information may not always be relevant by the time you find it. Even if the resource sites are updated regularly, unless someone submits the changes, contact information can be outdated until the next print version.

I recently found a valuable online source for masthead details for newspapers across the country. The US Newspaper List (USNPL) lets you see newspapers and magazines by state. Details vary, of course, but sometimes you can get Twitter and Facebook contact info, along with editor names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Of course if you’ve searched print copies and magazine/newspaper websites and are still unsure who to address your query to, librarians are a great resource, or calling the main number of the publication and describing the contact you need can lead to an answer.

I believe it’s best to address a query/letter/e-mail to an actual person whenever possible.

Is this information helpful? (It’s also relevant to print and e-newsletters, blogs, and book publishers.)

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

5 ways to increase your exposure

You’re a writer who needs to get her name out in the world. You want magazines, businesses, and organizations to discover how talented you are and hire you to write for them. Here are five ways to get you started on a plan that will get yourself and your business better known.

Network, network, and network some more
You’re making writing your business, and like many businesses, it’s more about who you know than what you know, at least to get in the door. Networking, both in-person at events and online through social media, is a solid way to add new clients. Make sure to at least know who your target client is and what makes you the best writer for their needs. You can also think of who can introduce you to the person who can introduce you to the contact you really want to meet.

Ask for referrals
Sure you need to have clients to be in business, so you can’t ask for referrals until you have some satisfied customers, but referrals are a powerful way to build your credibility. When a client compliments you on a job well done, take that moment to ask them for a recommendation or referral. It’s nice to assume that that client will tell a friend who will tell a friend, but ask, and you’ll make sure it happens. Or it may be more comfortable for you to could offer a future discount to clients who refer new clients to you.

Publish content
You’re a writer, so, write something and publish it. It’s the best way to get exposure. You can publish online, through your blog or online article directories (as a way to start). Get your writing published in print newspapers or magazines. Starting with local and regional publications is fun (at least I’m enjoying myself immensely writing for community papers and a regional magazine). And then you can move up to  national and international publications. And a lot of print articles also end up online, so that multiplies your exposure.

Offer a freebie
Everyone loves giveaways, especially those that are relevant and helpful. Free reports can help you accomplish two goals at once. Report content can help establish you as a good writer and as a solid, credible source of information. Offering a useful freebie can entice prospective clients to your Web site and motivate them to hire you for your services.

Having a blog helps drive traffic to your business and your business site, and it builds your brand. Your writing ability will shine through in your blog’s content, but don’t make it all about you all the time. Make sure to include useful information for your visitors. Of course you want to share what you can do, but also offer helpful links to other sites, links to resources, ways for your reader to find events local to themselves, and other similar things.

What do you do to get your name out there and showcase your writing?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a solopreneur who works hard to take her own advice. She’s also a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

Fan Mail

The other morning, I received an email from one of my readers. It began, “I just read your novel Into The Wilderness and I absolutely loved it as I really connected with it.” This reader explained how she grew up in New York City and was now married to a man from New Zealand, where they’d just spent the last year. They were back in the states with their four children, but she was in a quandary: the New Zealand lifestyle was better, she thought, but her children had better educational opportunities here. She signed off asking me what she should do: “Would love your advice if you have a chance to give it!”


There’s no question that fan mail is fantastic. I’ve been touched and humbled by letters and emails from readers, amazed at their generous response to my novel, and moved by the details they’ve shared about their lives. These letters remind me how intimate the act of reading is. I’m not just talking about those readers who’ve taken my book into bed with them, or read it in the bath (two of my favorite places); the intimacy I’m referring to is closer than that. The act of reading allows the writer’s imagination to infiltrate her reader’s mind, where the story is reconstituted and absorbed according to that reader’s experience and understanding. A good story gets under the reader’s skin.

Sometimes, what readers write gives me new insight into my story. More often, their letters reveal intimacies about themselves. One of my favorite letters was from a reader who compared herself to Rose, the main character in the book, who’s a feisty 64-year old. “I’m just like Rose,” she wrote. “What I say is what I mean and what you see is what you get.” Then she asked, “So where is my Percy?” referring to the leading man in the novel. When I read this, I laughed out loud. But I also felt the pain and frustration of a woman who wants to be loved just as she is.

Other letters have been filled with reader’s reminiscences of Vermont in the 1960’s, when the story takes place, or of their own stories about negotiating a new and strange location filled with unknown local customs, as Rose does when she moves from New York City. Others have written to me about the music in the book, or the politics, often offering me their memories of 1964, when the story is set.

Fan mail has taught me what an enormous responsibility it is to send a novel into the world, and never more so than this recent letter – which is the first to make a direct appeal for my advice. Of course I wrote back; I even gave her advice – but I didn’t tell her where to live. Instead, I suggested that she involve all members of her family in making this decision, and even engage an outside counselor to help facilitate the process.

My correspondent wrote back, telling me stories about life in New Zealand where, evidently, it’s customary for children to attend school barefoot. And she thanked me, signing off with, “Please, please write more!”

I didn’t earn much money from my first published novel, but I learned a lot about the huge responsibility it is to be a published author. And while I still hope to earn a living writing fiction, letters like this are worth the world.

Deborah Lee Luskin is novelist, essayist and educator. She is a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio, a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. For more information, visit her website at

Expand your platform with Twylah and Scoop.It

In my innocent travels through, across, and within the Internet over the past week, I discovered 2 new social media outlets. Twylah and

One is Twitter-related. Twylah looks like a website, and in fact, you’re told to promote it like a website by sharing the URL. It also seems to be a bit like Google+ in that you have to request an invite in order to even start creating a Twylah page. (I do not have, nor do I plan to have, a Twylah page.)AS King's Twylah page

If you’re an author or use Twitter to promote your writing (screen shot is from the top of author AS_King’s Twylah page) , it might be interesting to play with. Twylah is connected to your Twitter feed and it selects the top 20 topics you tweet about the most. The top 8 keywords end up as tabs across the top of your Twylah page, the most recent and most frequently tweeted items show up on the page.

Like any social media platform, it’ll take a while to see results, but you’ll discover what is most attractive and engaging to your audience. It’ll help you narrow in on what matters most to your readers. I think it looks good for those who are Twitter-holics!

If you create a page, the home page looks similar to a Twylah main page. helps you ‘curate’ an online magazine based on an interest you have. If you want to use for a business, there’s a fee.

Basically, you submit keywords when you create your page and will crawl the Web and deliver relevant content to you. Then you decide what you want to accept and have added to your page. You can also create your own content, grab/share content you find while traveling the Internet on your own, or accept content suggested by other users.

The screen shot I’m including here, is my friend and NH ambassador extraordinaire, Judi Window’s page. It is focused on Manchester, NH.Judi Window scoop it Manchester page

It’s a great way to share your interests and expertise – and like other social media platforms, you’re able to ‘share’ your posts on Facebook and Twitter, and so on.

Both of these social media tools can help you build your brand/platform, are each is just another way to get your name out there in the search engines.

What do you think of these?

If you already use Twylah,, or both, please share your links so we can visit. Also tell us what you think of the tool(s).

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is an independent editor, writer, New England region journalist, and a year-round chocolate and ice coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

Solace & Hope

            On Sunday, August 28, Irene cried on my village, destroying whole sections of it. Gratefully, no life has been lost, but friends’ and neighbors’ homes have been washed away – along with their land and belongings. Roads are gone, bridges broken. I suffered no property damage, but I am changed by the devastation – and I’m not just talking about the inconvenience of closed roads.

Since the storm, I’ve been doing what I can for local relief. As always, in times of crisis I resort to my two mainstays: food and words. By Tuesday, I’d organized potluck dinners at our community hall, where those with power could bring covered dishes and those without power could eat hot food. We held four of these dinners last week. Others have organized a daily hot breakfast at the hall.

           Not only do we feed people at these meals, but we also gather and disseminate information at them. All of us – those who lost nothing, those who lost all and those somewhere in between these extremes – take comfort not just from the food, but also from the fellowship that is part of helping one another in time of need. We need to see and hear and reassure each other that life will go on, we will continue, we’ll get through this – and be stronger for it.

I may have started the potluck dinners, but others have stepped up to do the heavy lifting, from working the phones for food donations to cooking, serving, and washing up after. By Irene-plus-five, it became clear that we were emerging from our shock and starting to adjust to this new normal of a drastically changed landscape and vastly different civic circumstances. By then, I’d already filed a Commentary for Vermont Public Radio. But we needed more. We needed poetry.

I’ve been gathering, printing and posting poems for public consumption. Because we don’t just need food, shelter and clothing. We also need poetry to soothe our souls and give us ‘that thing with feathers’ – what Emily Dickinson called Hope.

Deborah Lee Luskin often writes about Vermont, where she has lived since 1984. She is a commentator for Vermont Public Radio, a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. For more information, visit her website at

Friday Fun – Who’s your audience?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Who’s your audience? Who do you write for?

Jamie Lee Wallace: I write for so many audiences – that’s what makes my work so much fun. Never a dull moment, though occasionally a moment or two of schizophrenia. For my “day job,” I write both blogs (for moms, more moms, marketers, other writers (here!), and people who are curious about life) and also marketing content for my Suddenly Marketing clients. In my work with those folks, I might be writing for software developers, indie musicians, or moms who want to learn more about natural nutrition. In addition to those venues, I write a few pieces for lifestyle magazines whose audiences are mostly supporters or the arts. For my yet-to-be-written novels, my audience is older grade schoolers, young adults, and young-at-heart grown-ups who enjoy urban fantasy. Finally, in my personal journals, my audience is me … and maybe someday my daughter.

Lisa Jackson writerLisa Jackson: I write for various audiences. I do a lot of local (NH) and regional (New England) writing so focus on attracting the attention of residents and people who can visit. My Reviews and Interviews blog is for readers of all genres. My business blog focuses on words and is focused on writers and businesses needing writers. Each day has a different topic – writing exercises, vocabulary, goal-related topics, writing as a business, quotes/books, and editing and writing tips (grammar, spelling, etc.). When writing for businesses, my audience is the client’s prospective customer. With my fiction, I have different audiences since I write in different genres. I’ve been published in mystery, horror, romance, young adult, and poetry. I’m striving to break into the personal essay market.

Wendy Thomas: depends on what I’m writing. Newspaper articles are for a general audience. Many of my magazine articles are for women/parents. Blog posts are all over the place, dependent again on the blog. Business writing?  – not my audience at all but theirs. I suppose the big question for me here is who is the audience for the book I’m writing?  Although I’d like to say that men will read my book (and some may) I see the primary audience as one who is  female and in a “parenting” role (could include pet owners). Oh to be sure, there are several secondary audiences (those who are interested in having backyard chickens, for example) but the audience to which I am primarily addressing my work is one that is interested in life lessons and learning from life’s experiences.

Julie Hennrikus: In this brave new world audience can be so targeted, but at the same time we all want the widest possible readership. I write mysteries. But as many of you know, there are so many subgenres that audience is very tricky. I would classify mine as “cozies” bordering on traditional, but I don’t want to limit the potential audience. My blogging has three audiences: this one, my own (though that is the blog least likely to be updated) and the StageSource blog, where I write to the theater audience (artist, organizations and theater lovers). Will those audiences translate to mystery readers? Maybe.

Make Your Blog More Engaging – Part 3

In the first two parts of this series, we covered identifying features and social graces. This installment is all about blogging “side orders” – all those widgets and extras that live, typically, in the sidebar of your blog.

First, in case you have no idea what a “sidebar” is, it’s the area of your blog – usually on the right-hand side of the page – that lives off to the side of your main content area. This is where visitors to your blog will automatically look for certain information about you and your writing. There are dozens of different things you can put in this space; deciding which ones to use can be confusing. There are, however, a core set of tools that can help you boost engagement with your blog and your brand around the web. Here’s my list of faves in order of priority (top to bottom on your blog page) and what they can do for your readers:

Help readers connect with you: Before anything else, give people an easy way to friend/follow you and subscribe to your blog and/or newsletter. You can get all the details in part 2 of this series, but the basic idea is to give readers one-click access to staying in touch with you.

Make readers an offer: If you’ve got something to sell or give away, don’t bury it! Have you published a book? Feature an image of the book with a link to your indie or Amazon page. Do you have a downloadable e-book? Put the image, a brief descriptor, and link front and center. Do you offer coaching, editing, or some other service? Write up a little blurb with a link to an offer-specific page on your site.

Welcome new readers: First-time visitors to your blog will want to know what you’re all about. In addition to the identifying features we talked about in part 1 of this series, you can give newbies a customized list of posts and pages that will act as a virtual tour of your blog and help them get to know you quickly. This is often labeled as the “start here” content and can include links to everything from your about page, a custom welcome message page, to your all-time top posts.

Keep readers up-to-date: Do you participate in real-world or virtual events like readings, classes, webinars, book signings, etc? Dedicate some of your sidebar space to highlight upcoming events with links to more information, registration pages, etc.

Encourage readers to dig deeper: In most cases, a new visitor to your blog will have arrived there because one of your posts attracted her attention. Once you have her on your site, you want to encourage her to explore more of your writing. For your sidebar, you can use “recent posts” and “recent comments” feeds to provide a snapshot of your most current topics and where people are engaging in conversation. “Most popular posts” is another common feed that features posts with the most visits or comments. Many blog themes come with these tools built-in, but there are also various widgets that will perform the function for themes that don’t include the functionality. Another popular tactic for getting readers to engage with you is to import your Twitter feed to your sidebar. This will take readers off your blog, but it has the benefit of engaging them on an additional platform. Finally, though not technically a sidebar tool, the “More posts like this” plug-in is another great way to gently lead people further into your site. Available in a variety of formats, the purpose of this tool is to serve up links (and sometimes image thumbnails) to other posts on your site that might be relevant to the post the reader just read. These links appear at the bottom of your posts and make it easy for readers to “hop” from post to post.

There are many (many!) more widgets, plug-ins, and tools that you can use in your sidebar, but these are some of the most effective for getting readers to engage more actively with your content (and you!). Although they can be interesting, I shy away from lengthy blog rolls, photo streams, badges, and tag clouds. I prefer to focus on side orders that will give my readers a way to actively participate in my community or interact with my content. Give these tools some real estate on your blog and you’ll be all that and a side of fries!

What are your favorite ways to encourage engagement with side orders? Have you had success with any of these tools on your own blog? Have you used these tools as a reader of someone else’s blog? 

If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can find them here:

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps creative entrepreneurs (artists, writers, idea people, and creative consultants) discover their “natural” marketing groove so they can build their business with passion, story, and connection. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: waggaway

The One Thing Every Successful Writer Needs

Whether they write fiction or non-fiction, pen children’s books or spy thrillers, self publish or have a NY publishing contract, every successful writer has one asset that they can’t live without: an audience.

The thing most authors get wrong about “audience,” is that you automatically get one when you get published. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is most agents and publishers expect you to bring the audience to them. When a new author is under consideration, the size and quality of her existing audience is one of the key factors that will be examined. From the publisher’s point of view, a strong audience helps mitigate the risks of launching a new author. If you can deliver a certain number of prospective readers, buying your book is much more viable business decision. For self-published authors, having a strong audience is even more critical. That network will be the foundation of your whole book-marketing platform.

Another common misconception is that the best time to build your audience is once your book is published. The truth? If you’re only starting to think about your audience as your book is coming off the presses, you’re way behind the 8-ball. “Build it and they will come” only works in the movies. Building your reader audience is something you can be doing before you’ve even finished your book’s outline. Finding, reaching, and building your audience takes time. Don’t wait until you’re sitting there with a warehouse or kitchen full of books. Build the audience and then deliver the product.

But don’t stop there. Even the authors who get audience building right can still slip up by falling into the “build and abandon” trap. To leverage the true power of your audience, it’s not enough just to build it. You have to nurture it. Smart authors develop a strong relationship with their audience. They initiate a dialog and keep that conversation going through blogs, social media, and real world appearances. Building an audience requires intention, strategy, and old-fashioned work. Though many people will try to sell you on, there is no silver bullet, uber-automated way to build a truly loyal audience. You need to “attract and retain” each member of your audience; and that’s an on-going job.

The bottom line is this: your audience is by far your most valuable asset. Lose your agent, your publisher, your editor, or your publicist, but don’t lose your audience. If you do, your professional writing career is done for. Kaput. Get really clear about this fact: your audience is what makes you or breaks you.

Audience building and nurturing is a topic I’ll be covering a lot in future posts, but for now – in case you missed them the first time around – here are a couple of related posts that might help jump start your thought process around building your own audience:

Building Your Social Network from Scratch

The Writer’s Platform (a four-part series)

What questions do you have about building an audience for your work? What parts scare you? What do you think you can and can’t handle? 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps creative entrepreneurs (artists, writers, idea people, and creative consultants) discover their “natural” marketing groove so they can build their business with passion, story, and connection. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Image Credit: Giorgio Rafaelli