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Writer's Guidelines for Book Manuscripts

If you wish to find writer's guidelines for our magazines, click here.

So You Want to Write . . .

The Review and Herald Publishing Association--affectionately called the R&H--is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As a denominational publisher, all of our publications must reflect Seventh-day Adventist Christianity.

We in the Book Editorial Department have dedicated ourselves to publishing high-quality manuscripts of vital spiritual interest that speak to contemporary people. Our books must provide a "take-away"--something that readers did not have before they read them. Whatever the subject, the book must scratch where people itch.

Here are some answers to the most common questions asked by potential authors:

What Topics Is the R&H Most Interested In?

We are especially interested in manuscripts that deal with practical Christian living in the modern world and that nurture the spiritual life, showing the rational (not just scriptural) basis for denominational distinctives.

We need books that deal with the questions and issues of contemporary Adventist youth. Frequently these take the form of a narrative: a skillful writer can weave ethics, morality, and age-old truths through the plot of a story. Christ Himself taught through stories.

We have a growing market for books slanted toward women's concerns and toward the needs of singles in the church.

We can always use relevant manuscripts on doctrinal, inspirational, and theological subjects. We need manuscripts on Christian witnessing and on marriage and family concerns. We are looking for manuscripts that discuss nature, scientific issues, reasons to believe, social problems, health, how-tos, even humorous topics all with a Seventh-day Adventist Christian slant, of course.

Does the R&H Publish for Any Special Markets?

While we target a broad spectrum of buyers, several special markets attract our attention. We are looking for manuscripts for the secular inquirer, the nominal Christian, and today's Christian woman.

Agewise, we try to publish books for preschool, primary, junior, earliteen, teen, college, and adult readers. Unfortunately, high production costs prevent us from publishing many picture books for young children. We also avoid poetry.

As a wise author, you will carefully target your manuscript to one of these age-specific audiences, keeping vocabulary, style, and content appropriate for that particular readership.

Do You Welcome Unsolicited Manuscripts?

Yes. Some of our best sellers have come from unsolicited submissions. Every manuscript receives careful attention. We are always looking for new authors. However, many authors who send in a submission have not studied our guidelines and have no clear idea of our market needs.

How Do I Go About Suggesting a Manuscript Idea to the R&H?

It is to your benefit to send us a proposal before you spend too much time on a project.
In a Nutshell:
  • Everything, from proposal to completed manuscript, can be handled by e-mail. As to the manuscript itself, here is the preferred format, in a nutshell:
    1. In a cover e-mail tell me what it is (topic); who it's for (target audience); how you hope the reader will respond (your goal). In another paragraph give a short synopsis of the book, much as you would give a camp meeting audience at the Sunday sale, after which they simply have to have the book.
    2. Attach an annotated table of contents: chapter titles, plus a 3- or 4-sentence summary of what is in that chapter. (Gives the scope of the book at a glance-where you start, where you end, how you transition in between.)
    3. Attach the first three chapters.
    4. Prepare your manuscript with a very straightforward format in MSWord: 1 " margins all around, Times Roman font, 12 point, 1.5 spacing, everything left margin, except for ½-inch paragraph indents . (You may use italics and bold, where necessary, in the copy.) Paginate (bottom of page, in center). See attachment for complete formatting details.
  • Sometimes authors "fancy " up their manuscripts by laying it out in book format, etc. But it's a waste of time-theirs and ours-because we simply have to strip everything out and reformat before we can begin to work with it.
  • Once I have your proposal/ms sample in hand, I take it to our Product Review Committee that looks over all incoming manuscripts. At their recommendation I ask you to complete the manuscript and send it in for evaluation and presentation at the next Book Committee (meets every other month), which is the group that makes publication decisions.

Format Helps (MSWord):

CENTERING: DO NOT use the space bar or tab to center a heading; instead, use the centering function ( "Control E ").

FILES: Put your manuscript into A SINGLE COMPUTER FILE, and start each chapter on a new page ( "Control Enter " brings up a new page.)

FONT/FONT SIZE: Times Roman/12-point (12 characters per inch).

HYPHENATION: DO NOT use the automatic hyphenation feature.

LAYOUT: DO NOT attempt to lay out the pages as if submitting camera-ready copy, or otherwise clutter the file with special formatting codes. These codes can take up our time; we have to strip them away. Sometimes they refuse to translate and cause other problems.

MARGIN ALIGNMENT: DO NOT right-justify your copy. Let the right-hand margin be "ragged."

MARGINS: Use one-inch margins top and bottom, left and right.

PAGINATE. Insert page numbers in your manuscript, using the automatic pagination feature on your computer.

PARAGRAPHS: Use the tab key at the beginning of a paragraph. Do NOT hit the space bar five times at the beginning of a paragraph, as you would on a typewriter.

Make sure your manuscript has hard returns at the end of each paragraph only--not at the end of each line. Use your computer's built-in word-wrap feature.

DO NOT double or triple space between paragraphs. Paragraphs should be separated by a single hard return followed by a tab to begin the next paragraph.

RUNNING HEADS: DO NOT use the automatic running head feature, which automatically embeds the book title and chapter titles in the manuscript. Put this information on the title page only (title of book, author's name).

SPACING: 1.5 spacing.

SPACING AT END OF SENTENCE: Single-space after the end of sentences. There should not be two adjacent spaces anywhere in your document. Do a search for them and take them out!

TABLES: Use tabs, not spaces, for tables.

Edit Helps:

BIBLE VERSIONS: In every instance, clearly indicate which version of the Bible you are using, i.e., NASB, NEB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV, The Amplified Bible, The Clear Word, etc. The only exception is KJV- if there is no designation after a Scripture reference, it is assumed to be from the King James Version. If you are using the same version throughout your manuscript, so note at the very beginning of your manuscript: "Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from NIV [or which ever version you will be using]."

DOCUMENTATION: A condition for final acceptance of your manuscript is that it must be accompanied by full documentation. For every fact stated, and every quotation included (except Ellen G. White and the Bible), please provide a photocopy from the source book of the page on which the fact/quotation occurs, as well as the copyright page. (Or, instead of photocopies, you may use your phone camera.) Further, compile a bibliography of any source you relied on for the information you included in your manuscript. Although e-mail is not to be trusted, you may also consult reliable web sites, such as Google, Government listings, health agencies, etc.

ENDNOTES-NOT FOOTNOTES: DO NOT use the embedded or automatic footnote feature. Instead, use the embedded or automatic ENDNOTE feature that puts all footnotes at the end of the book. Designate which endnotes go with which chapter. For example, if chapter 1 has six footnotes, under the header "Chapter 1 " list the footnotes 1 through 6. Make headings and start the numbering for chapter 2, and all succeeding chapters, at 1. After we get the pages flowed in, we will go back and put the footnotes where they belong at the end of their respective chapters.

HEADINGS: DO NOT use all-caps for headings. Use them only for trademarks.

ITALICS: Use the italic feature, rather than the underlining feature.

PERMISSIONS: You are responsible for getting permission to use quoted material. That's part of the contract. You must get written permission to use all poems and songs (even single lines) and extended quotations not covered by "fair use." Usually, permission to cite a poem or song requires a fee, which you are responsible for paying.

Under the present copyright law, determining fair use is not always simple. Your editor will let you know what items need copyright permission.
QUOTATION MARKS: Differentiate between opening and closing single quotation marks. Many computer keyboards have two types of single quotes, 'like this.' Don't just use the single quote mark to the right of the L key for both opening and closing, as you would on a typewriter.

SPELLING. Use the spell checker, even though it's fallible.

TRANSLATIONS: Certain categories of books published by R&H are often licensed to other publishing houses around the world for translation and reprinting, i.e., devotional books, books that accompany the Sabbath school study guide, scholarly works, and popular story books, among others. For this reason, the writer should avoid heavy emphasis on a purely American perspective and English wordplays that are difficult to translate.

What Will the Book Editors Do to My Manuscript?

You and your editors form a team. In cooperation with you, their decades of experience will increase the value of your book.
Editors provide the little finishing touches that authors would have done themselves if they hadn't been so familiar with every word of the manuscript that they couldn't see what needed polishing.
The editors are on your side! They want the readers of your book to say "Wow! What a fantastic writer!" The editors don't get the credit--and don't want it. Their job is to make you shine. Here are some of the things your editors will do to your manuscript:
  • Change most of your passive verbs to the active voice.
  • Occasionally select more concrete nouns and verbs.
  • Eliminate most of the "to be" verbs.
  • Rework awkward sentences, vary sentence structure, and correct spelling and grammar.
  • Rearrange chapters, pages, or paragraphs if the flow of logic demands it.
  • Delete repetitious or irrelevant material.
  • Check logic and facts, updating if necessary.
  • May even do a little basic research on the topic, and may also write to you concerning your interpretation of a doctrine or a Scripture passage.
We will:

1. evaluate your sample chapters;
2. offer suggestions for your manuscript, if it looks interesting;
3. occasionally suggest other publishers, if your manu-script does not meet our current needs.

You need to understand that our suggestion to complete your project does not obligate the R&H to publish your manuscript. Our go-ahead merely indicates our interest in seeing the entire manuscript, which then must go through our regular process of evaluation.

We will evaluate your manuscript free of charge. Based on our evaluation, we will return it, advising you that it does not meet our current needs; or ask you to revise it; or present your manuscript to our Book Committee and send you a written report on the committee's decision.

How Long Will It Take to Evaluate My Manuscript?

It varies. The preliminary evaluation of sample chapters usually takes up to a month. For complete manuscripts, we try to report to the author within three to four months, depending on: How long it is until the next Book Committee; the availability of evaluators (they travel); the type of readers required (consulting a specialist takes time); and the current schedule and workload in the Book Editorial and Marketing Departments.

What Do Your Evaluators Look for When Reading a Manuscript?

They look for top quality writing that grabs readers and won't let them go. In a story they look for character development, for motivation of characters, for interesting plots. Stories with "pat" solutions are not right for today's readers.

We receive many conversion stories, mission stories, and biographies of unknown people. Far too often these manuscripts are not written for a specific audience. Frequently there is no plot or plan that moves to a logical climax and that touches the reader's heart.

One common problem in doctrinal or practical manuscripts is a lack of illustrative stories. For example, a manuscript on the techniques of soul-winning without case studies is bound for rejection.

If you want your manuscript to be accepted, it should entertain, inspire, and inform. We do not usually think of religious books as being entertaining, but if they are boring they will not be read. You should write with a flair that is fun to read. The language should sparkle. Throw in a bit of holy humor.

More important, you must inspire. Your readers should find themselves moved to action and motivated to live a better life. One way to do this is with stories that model the desired behavior.

Finally most important of all is information. A high new-information content is important. This is not easy to achieve; it requires research and hard work. You should make a contribution to the field. We regularly reject manuscripts that are simply a rearrangement and restatement of old principles.

You need several types of information: authoritative statements (from inspiration and from experts), anecdotes from personal experience and the experience of others, and empirical data (research studies, etc.). Without this richness of data your thesis will not be convincing.

In the end, evaluators must ask themselves Why should the R&H invest the thousands of dollars required to publish this manuscript?

Why Do You Reject a Manuscript?

We receive between 500 and 600 submissions, queries, and proposals a year. Yet we publish only 30 to 40 books annually, and some of those are written on assignment. Any one of the following provides sufficient cause for rejection:

1. The style is amateurish; content lacks depth.
2. It tells, but does not show. It speaks in abstractions, instead of using concrete examples and descriptive narration that involves the senses of the reader.
3. It is poorly organized.
4. The manuscript has a wrong slant--that is, the wrong approach and presuppositions.
5. It has doctrinal problems.
6. The publishing costs would be too high because of length, expensive art work, or other factors.
7. It does not zero in on a particular audience.
8. Our market for this manuscript is too small. R&H is unlikely to publish a book unless we believe we can sell at least 4,000 copies.
9. It duplicates material already in print either by the R&H or our sister publishing house Pacific Press.
10. It does not pique the imagination of our evaluators.

What Happens If You Reject My Manuscript?

The Acquisitions Editor will notify you in writing. Please don't take this personally; remember that all writers--even experienced ones--get rejection slips. Some runaway best sellers have been rejected many times.

You should fight off discouragement and:

1. submit your manuscript elsewhere;
2. reevaluate your topic, content, and style;
3. read some of the most current books on proper writing techniques, and study the marketing needs of different publishers.

What Happens If You Accept My Manuscript?

We will notify you of the Book Committee's decision. After final acceptance based on an analysis of the market and cost of publication, we will send you a contract to sign and a check for advance royalties. Your manuscript will go through two different editing processes: a major substantive edit (called line editing) and a fine tuning (called copy editing). Then we will send you a copy of the edited manuscript for your input. After your corrections are entered, the manuscript will be proofread, then published at no expense to you. The final step is one of the most important: marketing your book through retail outlets.

Who is Responsible For Getting Permission to Use Quoted Material?

You are. That's part of the contract. You must get written permission to use all poems and songs (even single lines) and extended quotations not covered by "fair use." Usually, permission to cite a poem or song requires a fee, which you are responsible for paying.

Under the present copyright law, determining fair use is not always simple. Your editor will let you know what items need copyright permission.

How Much Will I Get to Say About How My Book Will Appear? The R&H assumes all responsibility for designing your book, though we welcome your comments and suggestions. Our Book Packaging Committee will develop an attractive cover with a winning title for your book that begs the reader, "Pick me up. Buy me."

Another committee decides on such points as whether your book will be hardcover or paperback, its size, the number of inside illustrations (if any), and the kind of paper and material used. We want the book to reflect the message inside. Our business depends upon satisfied purchasers and happy authors.

How Long Will I Have to Wait to See My Book in Print?

On average we try to release books within a year of acceptance. However, the process can take up to two years, which is normal for most publishers.

Why does it take so long? Many factors affect publication time. First, the R&H has many different books in process at any given time; and there is a backlog of manuscripts ahead of yours to be edited. Second, Marketing has an annual quota of book types that it tries to follow. Third, the R&H also publishes many monthly and bimonthly magazines. These periodicals, because of strict mailing schedules imposed by the postal service, must take precedence over books.

Will I Get Free Copies of My Book?

Yes, you will receive 10 complimentary copies when we release your book for sale. You may also arrange through the Operations Department to buy at a special discount as many copies of your book as you wish for personal use.

How Much Will I Earn From My Book?

Royalty rates are set by denominational policy at 12 percent of the wholesale cost of the book for soft cover, or 14 percent for hardcover. After your book sells 15,000 copies, the royalty goes up to 16 percent. Rates are less for certain high-volume items such as devotionals and textbooks.

Royalty checks are sent out once a year-at the end of February.

There is no charge to you at any time in this process. You don't pay us; we pay you.

Can I Get Rich by Publishing a Book?

Well, yes--in a way. You will have the satisfaction that comes from bringing inspiration to others and building up the church. Your knowledge base will expand. You will experience the thrill of accomplishment that comes from human creativity. Finally, the personal responses from readers will lead to new friendships; and friends are true riches.

Where Do I Send My Query Letter or Completed Manuscript?

Acquisitions Editor
Review and Herald Publishing Association
55 West Oak Ridge Drive
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740-7390
Telephone: (301) 393-4050
E-Mail: acquisitionseditor@rhpa.org