• Yessica Jain

Formatting a Book Manuscript: Importance & Checklist

Importance

As Andrew Grant said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This applies to the manuscript you submit to agents, editors, and publishers.

Proper formatting not only allows for an easy read, but tells the person you are submitting your manuscript to that you have done your research. It is implied that you are an organized and dedicated writer. If they accept your work, they will not have to waste time formatting it for you.

It may sound like a tedious process, but formatting your manuscript can actually be pretty easy. You just need to make sure you take care of everything.


Checklist

Pay attention to the things I have listed below and ensure your manuscript follows these guidelines.

Note, this is only the standard manuscript format for fiction novels. Some agencies and publishers may have other preferences, and different writing formats may require a different manuscript structure.


Font

  • Times New Roman

  • Font size 12

You can use other serif fonts, but TNR is the most widely accepted. Sans serif fonts, such as Arial, are difficult to read for long periods of time, so the standard is Times New Roman.


Spacing

  • Everything other than your contact information should be double spaced.

  • Each paragraph, except for the first in every chapter, should be indented .5 inches.

  • Each page should have 1 inch margins all around.


Title Page

The content of your novel begins on the second page of your manuscript. The first page is a title page, which should include:

  • Your contact information in the top left corner (keeping standard margins). This should be single spaced and include the following:

  • Your real name in the top left corner (keeping standard margins).

  • Your street address (number and street name)

  • Your city, state, and zip code

  • Your phone number

  • Your email address

  • Optional: your website

  • Your title in the center of your page. The following details should be double spaced.

  • The title of your novel

  • Optional: your subtitle

  • Your name (you can use your pet name here)

  • Your word count rounded to the nearest 500 words

Each of the bullet points above should be its own line.


Header

Each page after (and not including) the title page should have a header located in the top right corner in the following format:

  • Last Name / Title of Novel / Page Number (starting from 1)

If your novel’s title is more than three words, only put the most important words in the header. Do not include your subtitle in the header.


Chapters

Use page breaks to start each chapter on a new page. Include, in the following order:

  • A header (this can be a number or a name), center aligned and about a third of the way down the page

  • An empty double spaced line

  • Your first paragraph, unindented

  • The remaining content of your chapter


Other Details

Here are some other things to remember.

  • Use one space after periods (not two or zero).

  • Use a single # or three * for a scene break.

  • Italicize anything you want italicized (don’t underline it).

  • After the last word of your manuscript, skip a line before writing THE END.


Proper formatting can make or break your manuscript in the eyes of an agent or publisher. It can take time to implement, but it will help you in the long run.


While writing, I use the default Google Docs settings of Arial size 11. I then format the manuscript before my third draft, so I can revise with a fresh eye. When do you format your manuscript? Let me know in the comments!

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