I've been an editor for nearly ten years, and in every one of those years, I have preached the necessity for writers to practice a life-long learning of the writing craft. With the proliferation of technology and writers' increasing ability to self-publish (print or electronic books), it is more important than ever for writers to grab the reins and study--writing and industry.
One stop that most writers come to in their journey to Publishdom is Editorland. This is where writers submit their works to those who can help polish the manuscript and assist in making it a strong literary product before writers decide to either self-publish or submit their works to agents. Now, we all know editors vary in style and in purpose. Some focus solely on the project; whereas, others focus on the project and the writer--making the editing experience a teachable moment. That's for a whole other post.
Despite the differences in types of editors and what they all do, I feel fairly safe in saying there are a few things we all come to expect from writers--and quite honestly, writers should come to expect to see from themselves. I'm going to address one big thing in this post: FORMATTING.
Presentation matters. Would you go to an interview at a Fortune 500 company in a pair of wrinkled pants you pulled out the hamper, a T-shirt, sneakers, and hair that hasn't seen a comb in a long, long time? Then why would you present a manuscript to an editor that actually does not look like a manuscript?
Why is it important to make sure your manuscript looks like a manuscript? There are several reasons, but here's one that gets to the bottom line. Editors edit. And for the most part, our fees reflect that--editing. The minute we get a manuscript in which we will be doing major restructuring, too, that fee goes up...and usually it goes up a lot. Save yourself the embarrassment (of not doing it yourself) and money, and well, do it yourself.
I could easily rattle off a list here of some "guidelines" to assist with this, but all I would be doing is reinventing the wheel because there are scores of sites that offer this information [like here, here, and here], for free, mind you, to assist writers today in this endeavor. So, there really is no excuse for this one. There is knowledge out there to be had...that you don't even have to pay for.
The industry is far too competitive for writers NOT to know at LEAST the basics. You want to be an "author," then as a writer you need to BRING it. Present editors with a manuscript that shows you care about your literary project as much as you expect them to.