Formatting a Manuscript

provided by The Fiction Forum

You know the story you have written is so engaging an editor will jump at the chance to buy it. So why should you worry about the format of your manuscript? If your manuscript is not properly formatted, chances are the editor won’t even read the first line of your story.

Let’s begin with the obvious. Editors are very busy people. They spend countless hours on telephone calls, publicity, marketing, attending meetings, negotiating deals, and an endless array of other duties that they barely have time to read new submissions. When they do get to the huge pile of submission you can bet they are trying to squeeze an entire day’s worth of reading into just a few hours. So a manuscript in disarray fly to the rejection pile.

Remember that writing is a business and should be treated as such. You wouldn’t send a business proposal to a potential client on torn paper with the pages out of order. In the same sense, you shouldn’t send a ragged manuscript to a potential editor. You want to make a good first impression with the clean and professional appearance of your manuscript. If the overall appearance says disorganized and sloppy, an editor is going to assume the same about your writing.

Many publishers do provide a list of guidelines for author’s wishing to submit to their company. You can usually write to the assistant editor for a copy of their guidelines (don’t forget to include a SASE or you won’t hear back). Some publishers also provide their guidelines through email or post them on their web site. Be sure to always follow the editor’s guidelines when formatting your manuscript for submission. If you are submitting to electronic publishers be sure to check their guidelines carefully as they tend to have their own format they like to use, if not use the format listed in the “Basic Guidelines for Submitting to Online Publishers” article. Most print publishers follow the same basic guidelines listed below.

Manuscripts should be double spaced with at least one inch margins. Only use one side of the paper.

Do not right justify the print, leave the right margin ragged.

Choose a serif font such as Courier. Your font should be set at 12 point type.

Words to be emphasized are shown with underlining not italics.

Don’t hyphenate at the end of a line.

On every page beginning with page two, the title of the book should appear in the left hand corner and your last name and page number in the right hand corner of your header.

On the first page of your manuscript (your title page) you should center the title of your manuscript and “by your name” half way down the page. In the lower right hand corner your name, address, phone number and email should appear.

Begin each chapter about half way down the page. Center the chapter title and double space before the first paragraph. All sequential pages of the chapter should begin at the top of the page.

Indicate a break within a chapter by a number sign (#) centered on a blank line. Do not leave any additional blank lines between the text above or below the number sign (#).

Your manuscript should be printed with a high-quality printer (no dot matrix) on white 8.5″ by 11″ 24 pound bond paper.

Do not staple the pages of your manuscript together. Instead bind them with a large rubber band or binder clip.

Choose your envelope carefully. Be sure that you send your manuscript within an envelope that is large enough and will stand up to the travel. I recommend buying the 10×13 Tyvel Envelopes. They are very strong, lightweight and resist punctures, tears and moisture. I would avoid using manila envelopes as I have received many that were so torn I was surprised when the manuscript still remained inside.

Be sure to include a SASE envelope with sufficient postage for the return of your manuscript.

Don’t forget your cover letter!

© 2002 by The Fiction Forum

One Response to “Formatting a Manuscript”

  1. Wow, nice post. I wonder – do most of these apply for email submissions as well? I’d never think to underline something instead of italicize it. Thanks for the article – good information for submitting manuscript. Mike

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