Formatting Manuscripts for Submission to Publishers and Agents

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Layout, typeface style of print , size and form of headings should be left up to the publisher. When your manuscript is accepted and you are about to sign the publisher's contract, that is the time to negotiate your specific wants and desires for your book. Even then, most publishers won't easily give up control. Still, you can try, if you can't live without your book looking a certain way.

If the publisher wants you to format your manuscript as a 'print-ready' document, you will be advised of this, after acceptance.

20 Responses to “16 Manuscript Format Guidelines”

When presenting a manuscript to a publisher or agent, it is important the work be formatted in such a way as to make the reader's task a pleasure and not a frustrating chore. You do not want your manuscript tossed aside in favour of another, which may not in fact be as well written, but is much easier on tired eyes and less mind boggling. Manuscripts without Title Pages, adequate margins, correct indentation of paragraphs and page numbers, tend to put off publishers and agents.

Incorrect formatting is seen as a lack of a writer's professionalism and respect for their own work and the person who is expected to read it. Each publisher and agent has specific ideas on formatting of manuscripts - as set out in their submission guidelines. However there are basic standard formatting procedures that are recommended, if a writer desires equal footing with other writers more conversant with publishers' needs and wants.

When submitting a manuscript for publication - as is hoped would be the goal for yours, since you are reading this - your initial aim is to get the publisher, agent or editor to read it. This means making sure nothing detracts from the words on the page. Publishing is a commercial venture. A manuscript presented incorrectly formatted is rarely given more than a fleeting glance. To give your manuscript its best chance, the following rules need to be addressed. Variables do occur between publishers, but only in minor respects.

If in doubt, read the publisher's guidelines. Pick Up a Book The simplest way of determining the basic format, to see how your fiction manuscript should appear as a print-on-paper submission, is to pick up just about any commercially published novel. It can be whatever genre you choose. What you see is a flow of words and sentences, with the first line of each paragraph indented. There are no blank spaces between paragraphs unless there is a change of scene or chapter break.

The only difference between the book in your hand and the manuscript on the desk, ready to go in the envelope, is that the text on your loose pages will be in double-line spacing. This is only because it is a submission, and you are following the rules to give a publishing house what it wants. Work written for the Web is very different from that written for publishers of hold-in-the-hand books, especially fiction.

Reading long sections of writing on a computer screen is tiring for a reader's mind and eyes. This is why you find Web content set out in smallish blocks of text with space between. Most editors and publishers of hardcopy cringe when receiving a manuscript formatted as if it is being presented on the Web. Submissions need to be legible and encourage the reader's eyes to flow along the words and paragraphs, the mind grasping the details within the work as a whole.

Unnecessary blank space makes the reader pause, as if reading a business report where certain points need to be focused on. Submitting work for electronic publication varies considerably, depending on the requirements of the cyber-land publisher. Some want attachments and some want the work included in the body of an email. Some prefer normal hardcopy-type formatting and yet others want it in 'block text'.

When submitting to electronic publishers, make sure you thoroughly read their requirements. Note: Research shows serif fonts the ones with the little tails on the letters, such as this one you're reading aid in leading the reader's eye across the page.

How To Format Your Novel for Publishers

Sans serif no tails fonts, such as Arial and the like, tend to make the reader subconsciously pause after each word, sometimes even reading each letter individually. Remember learning at school how to do 'joined-up' writing? It really did have a purpose.

Apt Medium - Formatting Manuscripts

Some of these 'rules' may seem either rather too obvious, or pernickety, but this is the generally accepted format for submitting manuscripts to publishers and agents. Each publisher and agent has specific ideas on formatting of manuscripts - as set out in their submission guidelines. However there are basic standard formatting procedures that are recommended, if a writer desires equal footing with other writers more conversant with publishers' needs and wants. When submitting a manuscript for publication - as is hoped would be the goal for yours, since you are reading this - your initial aim is to get the publisher, agent or editor to read it.

This means making sure nothing detracts from the words on the page. Publishing is a commercial venture. A manuscript presented incorrectly formatted is rarely given more than a fleeting glance.

To give your manuscript its best chance, the following rules need to be addressed. Variables do occur between publishers, but only in minor respects. If in doubt, read the publisher's guidelines. Pick Up a Book The simplest way of determining the basic format, to see how your fiction manuscript should appear as a print-on-paper submission, is to pick up just about any commercially published novel.

How to Format Your Novel Properly Before Querying Agents

It can be whatever genre you choose. What you see is a flow of words and sentences, with the first line of each paragraph indented. There are no blank spaces between paragraphs unless there is a change of scene or chapter break. The only difference between the book in your hand and the manuscript on the desk, ready to go in the envelope, is that the text on your loose pages will be in double-line spacing. This is only because it is a submission, and you are following the rules to give a publishing house what it wants. Work written for the Web is very different from that written for publishers of hold-in-the-hand books, especially fiction.

Reading long sections of writing on a computer screen is tiring for a reader's mind and eyes. This is why you find Web content set out in smallish blocks of text with space between. Most editors and publishers of hardcopy cringe when receiving a manuscript formatted as if it is being presented on the Web. Submissions need to be legible and encourage the reader's eyes to flow along the words and paragraphs, the mind grasping the details within the work as a whole.

Unnecessary blank space makes the reader pause, as if reading a business report where certain points need to be focused on. Submitting work for electronic publication varies considerably, depending on the requirements of the cyber-land publisher.

How to Format Your Children’s Book Manuscript

Some want attachments and some want the work included in the body of an email. Some prefer normal hardcopy-type formatting and yet others want it in 'block text'. When submitting to electronic publishers, make sure you thoroughly read their requirements. Note: Research shows serif fonts the ones with the little tails on the letters, such as this one you're reading aid in leading the reader's eye across the page.

Sans serif no tails fonts, such as Arial and the like, tend to make the reader subconsciously pause after each word, sometimes even reading each letter individually. Remember learning at school how to do 'joined-up' writing? It really did have a purpose.


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Some of these 'rules' may seem either rather too obvious, or pernickety, but this is the generally accepted format for submitting manuscripts to publishers and agents. They are interested in the words and merits of the story and do not welcome distractions from the main objective - to discover a book worth publishing. You and I both hope it is your book!

Your manuscript should not look like this Web page. Give them a legible copy. If your ink cartridge is on its last gasp and omitting tails on the letters, be a devil and splurge on a new one. It's worth it if it means a choice between your manuscript being read, and the editor, publisher or agent taking one look at it and shoving it back in the return envelope.

Photocopies are acceptable, but they need to be clear. Use an easily read, non-fancy font - if not Times New Roman, then Courier, of preferably 12 point - these fonts were designed for effortless reading. Tips Back to Top When submitting a manuscript for publication - as is hoped would be the goal for yours, since you are reading this - your initial aim is to get the publisher, agent or editor to read it.

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