Picture Book Format

Lisha posted about formatting your novel and due to popular demand, today I’m posting about picture book formatting. It’s pretty similar but there are some slight differences. When you’re sending your picture book out on submission, using the correct format is important. This may look like a long list of instructions but formatting your picture book manuscript is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. There are standards you need to follow, although things can vary a bit. Here’s how I format mine (Just so you’re comfortable with my advice, I’ve sent to many agents and publishers this way, and my agent submits my manuscripts without a problem):

Page Setup

  • Standard 8 1/2 x 11″ paper size
  • Set margins at 1 to 1-1/2 inches
  • Times New Roman 12 point font
  • Black ink only

Headers

Always single space.

  • 1st page, LEFT

Legal Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone number
Email address

  •  1st page, RIGHT

Word count: Put number of words here. (Do not include, title, illustration notes, or author’s notes in this count. Just your actual story word count.)

I have seen some people put a general illustration note under the word count. If you do this it should be short, integral to the story, and clear that it is an illustration note. You could format it – Illustration note:

Header for the rest of the manuscript pages (use the option for different first page when formatting your header.)

  • Left – In Italics Last Name/Manuscript Title 
  • Right – Page Number (also in italics, use the option for page numbering and it will automatically put the correct number on your page.)

Close your header tool and go back to your first page.

  • Drop down 14 single-spaced lines (you generally want to be about halfway down the page)
  • Enter TITLE (I put my title in ALL CAPS. Some people use Bold.)
  • Drop down two lines, so there is one line between TITLE and by. (Do not use all caps or bold.)
  • Drop down another two lines and put your author name (Ditto on the all caps & bold. Just use regular font.)
  • Drop down four lines

Switch to double spacing

  • Begin manuscript

You want your manuscript in paragraph form. Use normal capitalization i.e. don’t capitalize each line. Don’t color code for each different character.

Indent using tab so your indentations are consistent. No extra space between paragraphs.

Don’t break the manuscript up into what you see as the published book pages. If you’re an illustrator you’ll be sending a dummy along with the manuscript. If you’re a writer only don’t worry. Agents and editors who know picture books have a keen sense for page turns and illustratable images.

Save your manuscript using TITLE and your full name. For example:

BEDTIME MONSTER by Heather Ayris Burnell.doc

I save all of my manuscripts as .doc. It’s pretty standard and I don’t believe I’ve ever sent a manuscript any other way, but check submission guidelines just to be sure. It’s pretty easy to save in a different format if you need it.

Always print out on plain white paper if sending via the postal service.

Having to paste your manuscript into an email is more common these days than attaching or mailing but it’s great to have your manuscript formatted correctly and ready to go. If you make a sale or have an agent request to see more work you’ll likely be sending your manuscripts as attachments. It can be a nerve saver to have them done so you don’t have to figure it out in the excitement of the moment. Plus, it’s easy to copy your manuscript off your document when you need it. Check our Tips for Formatting Your Email Submissions.

6 thoughts on “Picture Book Format

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  1. This is a great resource. Thanks. If I have received conflicting instructions at a workshop from a well-published author, would you say both are likely acceptable? I hate to be nit-picky, but one likes to be sure. Thanks again!

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