Writing Tips & Tools

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anatomy of a One Sheet

I know, I know...just the thought of writing a One Sheet can cause most normally sane people to reach for a hammer in a futile attempt to destroy their computers and thus avoid the exercise.

LOL...it really ranks right up there with the “dreaded synopsis”...but that’s another post.

A one sheet is basically a full page elevator pitch. Remember learning to do an elevator pitch. It’s the three sentence version of a one sheet that you can tell a captive agent or editor on the way up or down in an elevator. *snort-giggle* (And it doesn’t count if you lean on the buttons to make the elevator keep stopping so that you can read them a whole one sheet.)

The basic anatomy of a One Sheet contains enough information to pique the interest of an agent or editor. It should contain:

Your contact info: name, address, phone number, email and your primary website.

Stop at those and don’t embellish with an info dump including your Twitter, Facebook, or any other social networking connections. If you are word wise and have room left over when you get all the applicable data included you could add any business websites that you are involved in, but don’t forsake novel info for biographical info. You need them to be interested in the book first!

Next...lay out the info for your book.

The spiritual theme – usually there is a bible verse or premise in mind for the book concept.

The length, genre, and availability.

The concept - sometimes called a short synopsis, or back cover blurb – mash down the whole book into a couple sentences. Usually who, what, when , where and why works well...LOL...I got all “w’s” in there!

A short market analysis - why would this book be a good seller, what makes it different or interesting, and/or what group of people would be interested in reading it.

And lastly, a quick comparison to one or two other books that are similar, or written in the same vein.

Here is a sample of the One Sheet that I used to get the interest of my agent, Terry Burns. This particular book has not found a home yet...but nothing comes before its time. One Sheet

Another format for a sort of One Sheet is the type that agents send to publishers called a Sell Sheet. It contains different information that the type that we as writers would hand out because this type is usually followed by a full length proposal (which we will talk about in another lesson.)

This is a sample of a Sell Sheet that my agent sent out on this same novel. The format contains about half author info, and half short synopsis, with a log line at the top. Sell Sheet

All of the words that I have written in bold will be future discussions!

by Bonnie Calhoun

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hi all!

I've garnered what I consider to be very helpful information about formatting your manuscript. This info comes from my friend and agent Terry Burns. He is a multi-published novelist, and an agent at Hartline Literary ...LOL...so the man KNOWS what he is talking about!

One large hurdle to publication is submitting a good, professional-looking proposal or manuscript to an agent or editor. The object here is not to stand out but to look like an established pro. A submission that appears the submitter does not know what he or she is doing, or that looks like it will take too much work to get ready may receive little or no attention.

These rules cover the primary items for the formatting of the manuscript, but the submission guidelines posted by the editor or agent you are submitting to should be the guide. While it is true a manuscript might not be rejected for breaking only one of these rules (unless it's a glaring one), a combination is sure to catch attention. We have to prepare a manuscript in some manner anyway, we might as well prepare it right.

Some of the key provisions are:


  • 1" margins, double spaced in New Courier12 or Times New Roman 12 font – only on one side of the page. To insure a consistent number of lines per page the widow and orphans feature should be turned off.

  • Paragraphs should be indented .5 inch with NO space between paragraphs. They should NEVER be indented by spacing in (these have to be removed by the editor) a tab is acceptable although preferred is to go into paragraph formatting and just select first line indent.

  • One space between sentences – do NOT justify the right margin. If tracking changes has been used during the preparation process, these should be completely removed and not just "hidden."

  • Chapters should begin near the center of the page (16 blank lines) and a page break (not section break) should be inserted at the end so chapter heads stay put if changes are made. Chapters do not require titles.

  • There should be a header slug with author's last name, a word or two from the title and the page number in the upper left or right of the page. This should be in the header and NOT in the text so it does not move when text is changed. (click on view – then header and footer) Make sure under layout that first page different is checked so the header appears only on subsequent pages.

  • The cover page on the front should use the title in normal size type centered halfway down the page and doublespace below it your name or byline. Your name, address and contact information in the upper left or lower right. Contact information should include phone number and email address, but SHOULD NOT include social security number.

  • The word count (rounded off) should be in the upper right hand corner. Word count for many years was determined by multiplying the industry standard 250 words per page times the number of pages. Most houses now use computer word count.

  • A forced scene break (intentional white space) should be indicated by placing # centered on a line of its own.

  • Do not include drawings, colored type, fancy fonts, giant size type on the cover, or anything else to make your manuscript stand out – remember the goal is to look professional not different.

  • Italics may be indicated by underlining, although most now will just take them inserted as italics where they go.

  • Remember that regardless of what is being submitted the first paragraph or two MUST capture the interest of the reader, editor or agent by raising a question, capturing interest or arousing curiosity to cause them to commit to reading further down into the manuscript.

  • When ready to submit the proposal itself will be single spaced, but the sample chapters should be placed in the proposal retaining their formatting so the editor or agent can insure the manuscript formatting is ready to go.

  • Finally, individual places where you wish to submit may have requirements particular to how they wish to receive a submission. Always check submission guidelines usually available on their website and adhere to them religiously.

  • by Bonnie Calhoun