Almost all big publishers and agents ask that completes not be sent in a box or bound. That means for a newer writer figuring out a good way to send a complete, printed manuscript that’s often three hundred plus pages, is enough to bring on nightmares and a case of the cold sweats.
It’s not that hard to do though, and still end up with a nice, crisp manuscript when it reaches New York—or where ever it’s heading.
Printed complete manuscript (include query, synopsis, ect…)
Two large Tyvek priority envelopes
Two large rubber bands
One page-size piece of cardboard
One medium point permanent marker and/or labels of your choice
One post office
Even a thick manuscript fits nicely in one of those large priority envelopes that you can get free from the post office. A great support for that thick stack of printed pages is a simple piece of cardboard. When you order more than one book or move at a time from Amazon, they come with the perfect size piece of loose cardboard enclosed in the box. I save mine every time I get anything with that cardboard page-size piece precut in it. If you don’t have any, you can cut a page-size piece of cardboard off of any kind-of-thick brown cardboard box you happened to have around.
Before you put your finished baby inside that big priority envelope, stack the pages nice and neat on your piece of cardboard. Next, place one big rubber band length ways around your stack, and one more width ways around it—make sure they fit well, but not tight. (Don’t forget to add your cover page, query, synopsis, and anything else you were asked to include, on top of the manuscript pages before you put the rubber bands around them.) Slip an SASP (Self addressed stamped postcard) under one of the rubber bands on the top page, so it stays in place and won’t be over looked. This can be used to let your know the agent or publisher has received your manuscript.
* (I like to skip adding that SASP and just pay an extra fifty cents to the postal clerk to have a Delivery Conformation slip attached to the outside of the package instead. No one has to sign for it, so it's not a problem for the agent or editor. It's not really any extra money if you think about what you'd pay for a postcard and the stamp for it. You can use the tracking number from the Delivery Conformation slip to see that the package made it.)
Address one priority envelope to the agent or publisher, and the other one to yourself—after you pay for and attach the postage, this will become your SASE. Put your prepared manuscript into the correct envelope, but don’t seal it. (If this work is requested, make sure you write the word requested on the outside of the envelope and enclose a copy of the request letter on top of the manuscript. If the request came over the phone, through e-mail, or after a meeting, make sure you mention how, when, and where in the query.) Fold your large SASE and place it inside the first one.
Now head to the post office. Once there, ask them what it will cost to mail your envelope. After they weight it, take your SASE out and tell them you need the same postage on both envelopes so the pages inside can be returned to you if needed. Place the SASE in with your complete manuscript, seal up the envelope addressed to the agent or publisher, don't forget Delivery Conformation slip if you are using it instead of a SASP, pay the postal worker and hand that baby over.
*(Some publishers are willing to destroy the MS if you don't want it returned. If you are okay with that, and the publisher or agent is too, just add a note giving them the okay and a business size SASE for them to send you a letter about the MS. I have gotten a rejected complete back with edits from the editor written on it to help me, but that isn't the norm. The choice is up to you if you want the pages back or just the letter.)*
The hard part comes at this point. You have to trust that manuscript with these strangers and turn around and leave it. Worse of all, you have to go home, go on with your life, and wait and wait and WAIT.
By the way, the best thing you can do while you wait—which could be for months and months—is to get to work on that next story.