One of the things writers tend to obsess over is formatting for submitting their manuscripts to publishers and editors.
Your manuscript should be clean and professional looking. The truth is, it’s your story that we want to read. Before you begin formatting and submitting your work it should be complete and utterly polished, with minimum typos and grammatical errors. Formatting is the least of your worries if your writing needs an expensive edit to fix it. Proof your book carefully and if possible get an editor by all means.
We’d like to share a few basic rules to help you format your book.
Okay, here we go:
Font face: The preference is Times New Roman in the publishing industry some prefer Courier. Let your creativity shine through your story, not your manuscript format. There really is a time to blend in with others, to be just one of the crowd, and this is that time. Editor’s don’t like fancy fonts, so please don’t get creative. Times New Roman is dubbed the sweatpants of all fonts, we know! It’s not usually recommended for your website pages or curriculum vitae, but from a publishing point of view—it’s by far the preferred font.
Why? Times New Roman is elegant. It epitomises a well-crafted serif font. It represents all you could wish for in a serif font. It’s easy on the editors’ eye.
Font size: 12 point.
Font colour: Black. Always black!
Margins: 1-inch all around.
Spacing: Double-space between lines for the body of the manuscript—synopses, chapter outlines, query letters are usually single-spaced.
One space after punctuation. Back in the days of the typewriter, the norm was two spaces between sentences, and many learned to type following that rule.
Do not insert an extra line between paragraphs. No soft returns (shift + return) anywhere, and regular returns belong only at the ends of paragraphs (meaning, don’t use them or a soft-return to get a line to break exactly where you want it.
Indentation: The first line of each paragraph should be indented by half an inch (0.5″). In Word, do this either by using the ruler bar at the top of the page, or by setting First line by 0.5″ in Format, Paragraph.
First page, headers, subsequent text First page of manuscript: Put your name in the upper left of the page; genre and word count in the upper right (both single-spaced). Word count should be rounded to nearest thousand or five thousand. About a third of the way down the page, put your title in all caps; two lines below put the word “by,” and two lines that below put your name or pen name if you’re using one. All of these should be centred on the page.
Drop down a total of six lines, centre CHAPTER ONE (all caps), then hit Enter twice more to drop down four lines, begin left justification and start the body of your manuscript.
Header: Begin the header on the second page of your manuscript. On the left: the title of your manuscript followed by your name. On the right: page number. Begin page numbers on the second page.
Second and subsequent chapters: Space down one-third to one-half the page, centre CHAPTER TWO, drop down four lines and begin the body of your manuscript.
Italics: Indicate words that should be italicised in your text by putting them in italics.
Take note of the following.
In the publishing industry, MS Word is the norm, so .doc files are usually fine.
What’s next? Is there anything you can do as a final check of your masterpiece before you send your manuscript to a publisher?
Yes. Your final pass, check for:
The overuse of character names, especially in dialogue.
Don’t forget page numbers and the correct info for the headers.
Check for consistency with scene breaks.
Your word processing program might not catch everything, but it catches a lot. If you make any changes, be sure to run spell check one final time.
Let this be the final major step. And repeat as many times as necessary if you continue to make changes.
Write The End. You want readers to know they’ve reached the end.
That’s it, a basic format for books.