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Formatting Manuscripts

Why Manuscript Formatting is Important

Formatting your manuscript correctly is critically important for getting your work read whether you are an independently published author or one who is traditionally published.

Following a standard manuscript format will cut down your costs for proofreading, editing and typesetting. The professionals that do this work will charge more if you haven’t adhered to industry standards, because that means they’ll need to re-format your manuscript before they can start their work.

Agents and publishers you submit to won’t even look at your manuscript if it’s not formatted according to the industry standard. They get so many submissions, that if your's is not formatted correctly, they won't waste their time on an author who hasn't done the necessary preparation and  they’ll simply move on to the next one without giving your work a second look. 

How to format your manuscript

  • Margins: 1 inch margins all the way around. (Some publishers prefer 1.5 inches on the sides, so check each publisher’s submission guidelines)
  • Line spacing: Double spaced text
  • Alignment: Left alignment, ragged right side
  • Font: Times New Roman or Arial, 12 point  font (The only exception is for writing screenplays/stage plays where Courier 12 point font  is used to conform to one page equalling one minute of film/performance)
  • Paragraphs Indent: Indicated by indents (tabs)- 5 points (.3”, not the normal tab setting) and, not by an extra line space
  • Paragraph Spacing: No spaces between paragraphs (except if switching scenes or a section break, then drop down 2 double spaces)
  • Punctuation:
    • one space after end of sentence punctuation
    • end of sentence punctuation "goes within quote marks.”
  • Page Numbers: The page number goes on the upper right hand side. For a short story, the first labelled page number should be 2, and start with page 1 for a long manuscript.
  • Running Header: Left aligned, contains the author’s last name, a slash (/) and then the title of the piece or if it’s long, a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. NB: Running Headers are expected on articles, short stories, novels and nonfiction book and should appear at the top of every page (except the first.)
  • Printing Paper: Good quality white paper (20-lb. minimum)
  • Text Placement: Single-sided

Long manuscript cover and chapter pages  (novels and nonfiction books)

Long manuscripts differ from short story or article manuscripts in that they have a separate cover page and chapter pages starting lower on the page. Subsequent pages follow a standard format throughout.

Cover Page 

The first page of long fiction is the cover page. There are two major acceptable formats: where everything is centred on the page; and, where the contact information is separate on the top left-hand side of the page and the title in the middle.

The more prominently used is the latter one with the contact information on the top left-hand side:

  • Contact information: On the bottom left hand side of the page in a single-spaced, left-aligned block place your contact information: Name and address, phone number and e-mail address, etc.
  • Title: centered, just above the middle of the page, in a larger font than the text (boldfacing is fine)
  • Name or pen name: Skip one double-spaced line and center your name or byline, slightly smaller than the title
  • Word count: Skip another double-spaced line and include the total word count of the manuscript rounded to the nearest thousand (An option is to put the word count below your contact information at the top of the left hand side.)
  • Copyright symbol and year:  Optional – this can go on the same line just before the author's name below the title

Chapter Page

  • Spacing chapter headings: Each separate chapter of the long manuscript starts on its own page, beginning one third to halfway down the page with the title of the chapter (or number, if the chapter has no title). The byline and contact information are not included one each page, but do include the running header.
  • Running header: Left aligned, contains the author’s last name, a slash (/) and then the title of the piece or if it’s long, a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. (Is not included on the title or cover page)
  • Page numbers: Sequential from the first page of the book to the last, except on the title. (Do not number each chapter separately).

Sample Long Manuscript

Short manuscript cover page (short stories)

Short manuscripts do not have a seperate cover page, but instead include all of the necessary information at the top of the first page of the story.

  • Contact Information: On the top left hand side of the page in a single-spaced, left-aligned block place your contact information - Name and address, phone number and e-mail address, etc.
  • Title: Centered, two lines below the contact information, in a bolded text
  • Genre: Include the genre in the top right hand side of the page
  • Word count: Include an approximate word count below the genre

For the rest of the pages include a running header that is left aligned, containing the author's last name, a slash (/) and then the title of the piece, or a keyword from the title, as well as the page number. This running header is not included on the first page.

Sample Short Manuscript

Basic submission methods

HardCopy/Mailed Submissions

  • Manuscript pages may be paper clipped or held with an elastic, but it is best to leave them loose in a 9” x 12” envelope.
  • Do NOT staple, bind or otherwise confine pages to folders or manufactured covers.
  • Very large manuscripts may be placed in larger envelopes or boxes.

Electronic Submissions

  • Attach the manuscript Word document in the email to the publisher
  • Attach each photograph/visual separately in the email

More on submitting manuscripts

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