Give that stinking publisher what they want, DERNIT! Let’s not get all creative now!

I am uber stoker to be able to dig into the wild and crazy brain of someone who is out there doing this crazy publishing stuff professionally. When you read this, you’re gonna want to slap yourself silly, because this is hearing it right from someone who does this for a living. For the next few weeks, we will be delving into the slush pile with Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Here we go…

The Writer’s Toolbox: Give ’Em What They Want! Why Formatting Is Important By Danielle Ackley-McPhail

(Originally published in Allegory Magazine ©2011)


Telling the greatest story is not enough.

Having the best grammar is not enough.

Hitting the perfect market trend is not enough.

Nothing is enough if the editor in question is not even willing to read your manuscript.

The Truth about Submissions

Psst! I have a secret for you…well not really a secret, unless you are really new at this, but anyway…here it goes:

Editors look for reasons NOT to read your manuscript.

(ooh…I can just hear a lot of minions going “Wha?!”)

Sorry, it’s true; I’m not making it up.

See, the reality is there are a loads of people that want to be authors. Even though only a small portion of those following the dream ever reach the stage of actually submitting something, that still means that editors of all sorts have piles and piles of things they need to go through. And frankly, most of it is drek. Editors just don’t have the time or inclination to put in extra effort puzzling through a manuscript that only might be acceptable and then cleaning it up afterward. Think about it, the longer the production process takes the longer money bleeds out instead of—with hope—flooding in.

Besides, they want to know you can follow directions and there are very few publishers out there—book or short fiction—that do not have submission guidelines available somewhere. Look for them. And if you don’t find them, ask! You want to stand out because of the quality of your writing, not because your manuscript is an annoyance filled with stylistic errors. The best thing you can do is show that you will make extra effort to meet their requirements.

Of course, even if you don’t have the publisher’s submission guidelines there are plenty of things that are standard.

Next week, We’ll talk about “The Basics”

Tune in! As my son would say, this is Awesomesauce!

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include four urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She is also the author of the non-fiction writers guide, The Literary Handyman and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In An Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections, including Rum and Runestones, Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, By Other Means, No Man’s Land, Space Pirates, Space Horrors, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit,, or

Website and/or blog,,



Amazon author page



13 responses to “Give that stinking publisher what they want, DERNIT! Let’s not get all creative now!

  1. Pingback: Give that Publisher What They Want, Dernit! Finale | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Danielle seems to have some basic advice that will assist even the newest writer improve their manuscripts and be more successful when trying to get their work published. She certainly has the credentials! Thanks for sharing her words of wisdom, Jennifer! 🙂

  3. Danielle, I just read an agent’s post begging writers to get with MS Word Styles. Is this what you mean by formatting to the guidelines? And, of course, submitting the type of work you’re looking for.

    • Hi Joan,

      I haven’t experience this myself, so I can’t say for certain, but I would presume so. It used to be some formats had to be set off in a way other than the actual formating (such as underline to represent italics) but that isn’t necessary anymore. I go into this in depth in the artcle Jennifer will be posting. In this electronic age and with the word processing programs out there, there is no reason for authors not to use the actual formating they want to use, particularly because the author’s electronic copies will be used directly rather than needing to be typeset by a compositor.


  4. I love this Jen. It will be nice to hear what the publishers want and don’t want. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more! 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the article.



      • I did Danielle. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂


          Excellent! And I’m always glad to share. My way of paying it forward. No reason we all need to make the same mistakes starting out if we can avoid it.! Danielle Ackley-McPhail _www.sidhenadaire.com_ (

          NOW AVAILABLE from Dark Quest Books – Today’s Promise – the final book in the Eternal Cycle series!

          Author of Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and The Halfling’s Court Editor of the Bad-A** Faeries Anthology Series –

  5. On the overall scale of difficulty in writing a book, following basic guidelines should be one of the simplest steps. I’m often surprised, though, by the number of fellow writers who think formatting and concepts such as basic grammar are a waste of time. I’m looking forward to the guest posts!

    • You certainly have that right! Sadly most of it seems to come down to either ignorance or laziness. Like you said, though, it is a simple thing to overcome with just a little effort and paying attention. Hope you enjoy the article.


  6. Thanks, HFB,

    Hope you enjoy!