The Top 5 Submission Mistakes: How You Can Avoid Them


Hi. I’m Amy and I’m going to talk about the top five submission mistakes most likely to delay a book’s production. More importantly, I’ll tell you how to check for these problems, and if necessary how to avoid them.

#1: Image Size & Resolution

The number one mistake, by a wide margin, is problems with image size or resolution. Any images we receive need to have a resolution of no less than 300 PPI, or Pixels Per Inch. In addition, you should send your images at the size you would like them to be printed. For images that go inside your book, we recommend at least 6 inches tall for portrait-oriented images or 6 inches wide for landscape-oriented images. For images that go on your cover, we recommend that they be at least ¼ inch taller and 1/8 inch wider than your chosen book size.

Watch our video tutorial on how to check image size and resolution before submitting any images for your book. Taking the time to check your images now could prevent possible production delays later. If you’re publishing a color book, also be sure to watch Color Books: Guidelines and Design Options for additional information about color book publishing.

#2: Hard Returns

A hard return happens whenever you press the Enter key while typing. Not all hard returns are a problem, but if used incorrectly they can make a manuscript difficult to format for publishing.

Ideally, you should only hit the Enter key when you intend to start a new paragraph. You should not hit the Enter key when you reach the right-hand margin of the page to continue typing on the next line. Many of us learned how to type on a typewriter, where you had to manually shift the page down and back to the left margin to continue typing. Modern word processing software does not require this kind of effort. Just keep typing all the way to the right-hand margin and when you reach the end of the page the text will automatically continue on the next line down.

If you hit the Enter key when you get to the right-hand margin just so you can continue typing on the next line, you are actually telling your manuscript to start a new paragraph, probably in the middle of your sentence. It may not look like the start of a whole new paragraph while you’re typing, but once your manuscript gets placed into the smaller text margins for your chosen book size, the problem will become more apparent.

Here’s how to double-check for them. If you’re using Microsoft Word, click on the ‘Show/Hide’ formatting icon at the top of your screen. It’s designated with the paragraph symbol, which looks like a backwards letter ‘P’. When you show the formatting like this, all of the hard returns in your manuscript will appear as paragraph symbols, or backward P’s. You’ll want to make sure that they only appear at the end of actual paragraphs, not in the middle of sentences at the right-hand margin. If you see any inappropriate hard returns, you’ll want to click in front of each one of them and then hit the ‘Delete’ button. This may bring your words together, and if so, you will need to reinsert a space to separate them again. If you have inserted hard returns throughout your entire manuscript, this will be a time-consuming but very necessary process.

Here is what it looks like when we begin formatting a manuscript with inappropriate hard returns for our most popular book size, 6 x 9. The lines break in odd places all over the page, but let’s look at three particular lines and then we’ll look at the same three lines in the original manuscript to understand why this happened. The lines break after the words ‘could’, ‘her’, and ‘she’. If we look in the original manuscript in ‘Show Formatting Mode’, you’ll see inappropriate hard returns after the same three words: ‘could’, ‘her’, and ‘she’. These inappropriate hard returns are forcing the start of new paragraphs where the author did not actually intend new paragraphs to begin.

In addition to hard returns, you should also look for soft returns. Soft returns are represented by arrows pointing to the left. A soft return is where you have pressed the ‘Shift’ and ‘Enter’ keys at the same time. These pose the same problem as hard returns and will also need to be removed from your manuscript before it can go into production.

Occasionally, we also see the use of the Tab key or the Space Bar to get to the next line. The Tab key is represented by an arrow pointed to the right. Spaces are represented by dots. Be sure that you have not pressed the Tab key or the Space Bar to get to the next line of text. It is okay to enter the Tab key to indent the first line of your paragraphs, and it is normal to see one space between your words and at the end of each line. But if you have entered Tabs in other places or if you have entered more than one space at the end of your lines, this could be a problem that may need to be repaired before your manuscript can go into production. If your manuscript has inappropriate hard returns, soft returns, tabs, or spaces, you are welcome to repair the problem yourself or you can have us do it. Contact a representative for a Manuscript Clean-up estimate.

#3: Special Formatting Done Incorrectly

There are a few different formatting concerns that when done incorrectly in your original manuscript can pose special challenges to your book during production. If your manuscript contains tables, columns of text, or footnotes, you’ll want to be sure you’re creating these by going to the pull down menus at the top of your screen.

If you’re using Microsoft Word, tables are created by going to the ‘Table’ pull down menu, columns of text are created by pulling down the ‘Formatting’ menu, and footnotes are created by going to the ‘Insert’ menu. Please be sure to watch our tutorials on each of these specific subjects to make sure you have created them the correct way.

In addition to these formatting concerns, I always wanted to mention page numbering and headers. Headers are any information that appears at the top of every page in your manuscript, such as the author’s name or the title of the book. Your manuscript does not need page numbers or headers. Even if you do them correctly, we will have to strip them out before beginning production on your book. But if they have been done incorrectly, they can be a problem. You should never manually type your page numbers or your page headers on every page of your manuscript. If you have, they will need to be manually deleted and the text on either side of them brought back together before your manuscript can enter production. If you’ve created headers in this way, you can remove them yourself or contact a representative for a Manuscript Clean-up estimate.

#4: Missing Materials

The fourth most common reason for production delays is missing material. It is best to submit all of your materials at one time, so let’s discuss everything that should be included in your submission.

Submission Information Form

The Submission Information Form is very important. In this form, you’ll tell us your book’s title, subtitle (if applicable), and your pen name. You’ll also select your final book size and up to three categories, or book genres, for the type of book you’ve written. On the form, you’ll also include your ‘About the Author’ and ‘About the Book’ text, as well as a preview section from your manuscript. The submission form also asks for any detailed notes or ideas you may have about your cover design or interior layout. If you’re selecting stock images for your book, you can enter the ID numbers on the form. The Submission Information Form also includes a complete list of all additional or optional production fees.


The next and most obvious item we’ll need is your manuscript. Please send only the complete, final manuscript in a single, merged file. We don't need to receive any partial manuscripts, early drafts, or each chapter of your book as a separate file. If you are paying for file merging, please be sure to include a document explaining the order in which the file should be merged, or be sure the files are labeled in chronological order.

Images for Your Interior (optional)

If your manuscript contains images, we will need each image sent as a separate electronic image file, preferably a TIF or a JPEG file that meets the size and resolution requirements we discussed earlier. Our black & white publishing packages include up to 10 interior image insertions and our color publishing packages include up to 50 interior image insertions. If you’re sending more images than your publishing package includes, insertion fees will apply for each additional image. If you are selecting stock images, there is a separate stock image processing fee for each and every stock image that you choose for your interior.

Image Placement Instructions (if applicable)

Along with any images that go in your book, we also need image placement instructions typed directly into your manuscript. Type placeholders in your text exactly where you would like each image to appear and be sure to refer to each image by their file name. It will help if you make the placement instructions stand out for easy identification. We suggest making them bigger than the regular text, bold, and red.

Image Captions (if applicable)

If your images have captions, we need the captions typed directly into your manuscript, along with the image placement instructions.

Image(s) for Your Front Cover (optional)

You are welcome to send one or two images for your front cover. Please be sure to include the word ‘cover’ in their file names. Also be sure they meet the size and resolution requirements we discussed earlier. If the images aren’t your own, be sure that you have legal permission to use them. You are also welcome to browse,253,28,34,260,13,268,215,445,2,452,451,109,277,68,344/f=PIHV for suitable stock images. We can order one or two images for use on your cover at no additional charge as long as you provide us with the ID numbers of the images you’ve chosen. If you have any additional notes or ideas about your cover design, you can include this information in the Submission Information Form.

Image(s) for Your Back Cover (optional, if applicable)

If you have purchased the Personalized Back Cover, you may also submit images for your back cover, including an author photo.

Dust Jacket Flap Text (optional, if applicable)

If you have purchased a Personalized Back Cover and you are publishing a hardcover version of your book, you can submit up to 150 words for each of your dust jacket flaps.

Image Permissions (if applicable)

If any of your images require written permission to reproduce, please include this in a separate document entitled ‘Image Permissions’.

#5: Tips for a Successful Cover

Number five is actually more like advice than a mistake. AuthorHouse will create a cover for your book but nobody knows your book better than you so your ideas and input in the Submission Information Form are invaluable. Even if you’re not sure exactly what your cover should look like, it is helpful if you tell us what mood it should convey or what colors you think it should have.

You want your cover idea to be simple. A complex cover design full of visuals can end up looking cluttered. Most people are first going to see your cover out of the corner of their eye or as a small thumbnail image in a bookstore website. If the design is cluttered, the potential reader probably won't understand what it means and they may not be interested in learning more about it.

Now you know about the five most common submission problems. If you have any concerns about what we’ve covered, please give us a call at 1-888-728-8467 and we’ll be happy to talk about them with you.