Category: Submission Tips

Publisher Style Guides

Publisher Style Guides

When we’re talking about style guides, there are some clear, global rules that all writers know (or should know) and adhere to.

For example:

  • Submissions are sent with a cover page.
  • Documents are formatted to be 1-inch margins, 12-point size, Times New Roman font, double-spaced.
  • Synopses should only introduce main characters, and they should do so by writing the names in all caps (but only the first time the name is seen).

You get the idea. Industry standards. Things we learn early and adopt as second nature.

But what about newer things, like incorporating specific types of technology or messages into our work?

The Chicago Manual of Style (a popular style guide for fiction writers) says:  “A message is a message, whether it comes from a book, an interview, lipstick on a mirror, or your phone. Use quotation marks to quote.”

This is one of the reasons AIW Press and other publishing houses have created their own style guides. It doesn’t seem logical that a sign or a text message—two forms of communication that are not spoken aloud—would be inside quotes. How would you differentiate a character speaking the words rather than reading them silently if both ways were to use quotes? At best, it would require a lot of unnecessary and laborious exposition to explain it. At worst, readers would never be certain whether the words were read or spoken.

Is this an important detail? In the grand scheme of things, perhaps not. But when it’s more than one rule—say five, ten, twenty or more—it can start adding a lot of extra words or could result in an unclear message.

Right now, the AIW Press style guide is an internal document only that our editors work with. Eventually, we will have the document prepared for our authors and potential authors and make it available online for anyone to access. The more proper rules and formatting you can adhere to before submitting your work to us, the more likely you are to make it through the first round in the acquisition process. You don’t want to be the person rejected for formatting rather than content. And believe me—that happens at most publishing houses. We don’t want that for you. We want you to be a success, and we want your work to shine.

So, what about you? Do you have formatting or submission questions that you’ve never solved? We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Drop us a line in the comments.

PS—If you’re curious, we handle text messages and signs in the following manners.


The fence held a distressed wooden placard, painted white with faded red letters.


Kind of made the bag of bread in her pocket useless. Unless, of course, she fed them anyway. No one was around to see. She wouldn’t get in trouble. And the birds did so love treats. What was the worst that could happen?


Cara’s phone dinged. She glanced at the screen.

Mom: When will you be home?

Cara: L8r

Mom: Later, when, exactly?

No wonder it took her mother so long to text. She wrote out every word like a professor would be grading her.

Staci Troilo bio

A Pre-Submission Checklist

A Pre-Submission Checklist

We’ve been talking a lot about story submissions, but we never really stopped to discuss all the things you need to consider in general terms. I thought it might be nice to provide you with a checklist so you have no questions about whether your T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. Print out this list or bookmark this post and refer back to it before you contact a publisher.

Pre-Publishing Checklist

  Create your elevator pitch. (Doing this first helps you with your focus.)

  Compose back cover copy. (Doing this second can keep you on track.)

  Write a hook.

 Only hit the highlights.

 Do not reveal the ending.

 Outline the story.

 Write the very best book you’re capable of.

 Spell check and grammar check.

 Share your work with your critique partners.

 Incorporate their feedback.

 Revise for submission.

 Write the query letter, adhering to the publisher’s guidelines.

 Address your query to the right person, confirming spelling and title.

 Use a 3-paragraph format (greeting, book content, author bio and contact info).

 Use professional tone, but one that is in keeping with the tone of the story.

 Craft your synopsis. (This is the next thing a publisher will ask for.)

 Only use the main characters.

 Do not omit the climax and resolution.

Remember, publishers are busy and receive many submissions a month, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back right away. But if you follow the list, your chances will increase. Best wishes!

Staci Troilo

The Importance of the Book Cover

The Importance of the Book Cover

You walk up to the bookstore. Chances are, before you even enter, you’ve seen them in the window. Bright colors, shades of grey, pastels, neutrals. Maybe they’ve got pictures on them, sometimes just words. Thousands of them sit on display in the window and throughout the store. They lure us in as readers, and make us think as writers.

Book covers.

Love Set in Stone
Novel: Paranormal Romance

As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of our words and making sure they’re placed just so in our manuscripts. A lot of our blood, sweat and tears is put into these works before some of us even put any thought into what we will wrap them in.

It brings to mind the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

That is, however, exactly what people do. Many readers who are in a book store are drawn in by the cover of a book. The design, the colors, the font – any of those things can be appealing to someone.

There are several things that go into cover designing that catch a reader’s attention, but here are my top three:

  1. Title and byline font
    Most people will recognize the font used on a Harry Potter book cover, or a Twilight book cover – that’s because these fonts were unique, and popped, drawing the eye of the reader.
  2. Colors
    The colors used in the cover of a book are important. Not only is the right color scheme eye-catching, but it can tell a reader subconsciously the overall tone of a book. Books for children are typically bright-colored, and have happy, educational themes, whereas a book about a murder or mystery might be in dark tones, like black with blood red accents.
  3. Representation of the book’s content
    The cover of a book, in combination with its title, should accurately portray a general idea of what the book will be about. For example, the cover of a romance novel might have a couple intimately depicted, while a children’s book might have animals or shapes on the front.

There are many websites available for an author who wants to design their own book cover to find graphics. Most of these sites are not free, but look more professional than something done in Photo Shop if you’re not experienced in graphic designing. Personally, I prefer to outsource my book cover designs, because I have no experience in graphic designing. It all depends on your comfort level.

When submitting to a publishing company, many publishers look for the same things in the cover I mentioned above. If you haven’t created a cover for your book, or outsourced already, it doesn’t hurt to check with prospective publishing companies to see if they have graphic designers they work with regularly.

Hopefully, these things help when you’re considering whether or not to design your own book cover, or outsource. Ultimately, though, I hope it helps you understand how to determine if the book cover will help to market your book properly. For more submission tips, browse through the AIW Press blog.

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