You’ve been writing away on your novel, and now it’s time to submit it to an agent or editor for review. You want to be viewed as a professional, right? Not be this week’s office joke? Then submit an appropriately formatted manuscript.
First, check the website of the agent or editor whose attention you’d like to capture. If they have guidelines for how to format a manuscript, definitely follow them. Even if that means tweaking the formatting before and after sending to each name on your list.
However, in the event they do not have specific preferences listed, the following list will stand you in good stead.
How to Format a Manuscript
Choose the font Times New Roman, 12 point, in black. Write in hot pink Curlz MT if it helps your creativity, but now is the time to change it.
Under format, select paragraph. Choose indentation (first line): Left, .5″. Tapping your space bar five times or hitting “tab” is NOT a suitable substitute. Your editor will need to remove every one of those individually if you don’t submit it correctly.
Select left aligned (not fully justified).
Under line and page breaks, uncheck widow and orphan control. The control prevents single lines from landing at the top or bottom of a page, but it also messes up how many lines there are per page. In this case, we’re going for consistent lines per page, so the control is turned off.
Set 1″ margins on all four sides of the page.
No blank lines between paragraphs. Blog posts, like this one, are different. Here we don’t indent the first line of a paragraph. Instead, we leave blank lines between paragraphs. Manuscripts have different rules.
Only one space after punctuation, not two. That extra space went out of style with digital printing files.
Start each chapter about 1/3 of the way down a new page. Hitting enter four times is good. Then center the words “Chapter 1” (or whichever number), and leave a blank line before beginning the text.
Leave a blank line between scenes within a chapter. However, because these can go unnoticed at the bottom or top of a page, it is better to center ### on that “blank” line. You can place a single # or you can use asterisks. Whichever you choose, be consistent.
Remove the formatting of any word in bold or all caps. Use italics sparingly. Once upon a time, italics were shown by underlining a word. That, too, went out with digital printing.
When you get to the end of the manuscript, leave a blank line, then type The End (centered). This way the recipient knows for sure they’re received the entire manuscript.
Headers and Footers
Open your header and click on the left edge of it. Type your name/book title (eg: Comer/Wild Mint Tea). Then tap “tab” until you’re on the right edge of the header. Click insert → page number.
- How to format a manuscript for submission. click to tweet
- Ready to submit your manuscript? Here’s how to format it professionally. click to tweet
Are any of these items a matter of preference? Of course. That’s why I said at the beginning that if your targeted agent or editor has guidelines, definitely use theirs. You’ll find that nearly everyone agrees on most of this list, however. How many lines down a new chapter should start, or what order things go in the header, are much less defined.
Use your common sense. This isn’t the time to make flamboyant statements about your creativity. Let your text speak for itself, without the formatting interfering. Put your best foot forward, and get the positive attention your manuscript deserves!