Format Your Manuscript

lishacauthen
 This post is brought to you by
the one and only, Lisha Cauthen.

Finally, a manuscript request! After you’re done doing this:

crazy pills

Format your manuscript in a standard, easy to read fashion. You want every speck of goodwill you can muster from your targeted agent/editor.

GUIDE TO FORMATTING YOUR NOVEL MANUSCRIPT

THE BASICS

  • MARGINS–1″ on all sides
  • FONT–12pt Times New Roman. Some publishers will accept Arial or Courier New, but why mess with reformatting your manuscript every time you want to send it out? I have yet to see a book publisher or agent who does not find Times New Roman acceptable.
  • SPACING–Double space the entire manuscript. Do not add an extra space between paragraphs. If you are making a scene break inside a chapter, use # in the center of an otherwise blank line.
  • INDENTS–5 spaces for each new paragraph.
  • SPACING–1 space between each word AND BETWEEN EACH SENTENCE. Some of us learned to use 2 spaces after sentences. Not naming any names. *cough me cough* 2 spaces is no longer an accepted practice.
  • ITALICS–Words that should be italicized should just…be italicized. Do not underline them.
  • CHAPTERS–Each chapter begins 1/3 of the way down a fresh page with “CHAPTER WHATEVERNUMBER” in uppercase, skip two spaces, then begin the text.
  • FILE TYPE–Check with your agent’s/editor’s guidelines. Most want your manuscript to come as a .doc. Some don’t mind a .docx. Once in a long while, you will find a request for .rtf. (Mostly, .rtf requests come from magazines, not book publishers.)

THE HEADER

  • NAME–Your last name should be in the header, so it appears on every page.
  • TITLE–Your full title
  • PAGE NUMBER–Should appear on the top right. Some headers separate your name on the top left, title in the middle, page number on the right. Others have this format: name/title/page number on the top right. You will notice that in each format, the page number is on the far right. Your page numbering begins on the second page, (the first page after your title page) with 2 as your page number.

TITLE PAGE

  • HEADER–There is no header on the title page, I repeat: no header. While the title page is your first page, there is no page number on it.
  • PERSONAL INFORMATION–Align top left, SINGLE SPACE, your legal name, address, phone number, email.
  • NOVEL INFORMATION–Align top right, SINGLE SPACE, the target audience (YA, middle grade), genre and word count
  • TITLE–halfway down the page, centered, all caps.
  • AUTHOR–by the author name you’re writing under.
  • CHAPTER ONE–skip two lines under your author name, indent, and begin the story without further ado.

If, for some reason, your submission is going by snail mail, use standard 8-1/2″ by 11″ white paper. Heavy, quality, white paper. Do not print in economy style, make sure your ink is dark. Think about how much this poor editor/agent reads, make it easy on his/her eyes. Do not paperclip, staple or bind the paper in any way. Put it in the correctly-sized manila envelope and include a SASE to return your manuscript. (Some people instruct the receiver to destroy the manuscript if they are not interested. Others believe this shows that you do not value your work. To me, it’s a toss-up.)

Congratulations! You’re one step closer to publication.

eye-twitch

9 thoughts on “Format Your Manuscript

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  1. eesh. just sent a partial off without title page, w chapters starting at the tops of pages. hopefully will be forgiven…and i’m ready if i get any more requests (knock wood).

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  2. Thanks so much for this.
    I learned to format a manuscript in a writing course some 15 years ago, and while most is still fine, I see some things have change.

    Font: I was taught to always use Courier New, and that’s what I always use. Should I change?
    Indents: I was taught not to indent the first line of a chapter. Does this rule still hold?
    Didn’t know I should start every chapter on a new page, so far, I’ve always just put spaces between chapters and I use the name/title/page number format for headers.
    I didn’t know info about the novel (apart from word count) are required.

    So, I’m happy to know these things 🙂

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  3. Alternatively, use Scrivener.

    Its compile feature makes the whole process incredibly easy. But be cautioned that when compiling as a manuscript Scrivener does convert all italics to underline, an old industry standard that isn’t used as much anymore. It’s the one change I make.

    Otherwise, Scrivener all the way.

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