Knowing the basics of a manuscript format can help your career as an author because you will be following the correct guidelines to submit your book.
If you do not know, a manuscript will almost always be required if you want to publish your book, especially if you are writing fiction. Most publishing companies, agents, and editors will all need a manuscript and there are some basics to the formatting of them you will need to know.
Knowing what the industry standards are and how to properly format your manuscript shows you take your career as an author seriously.
Writing a book is no small task, and you do not want to disqualify your book simply because you made some mistakes with your manuscript, which can happen.
In this article, we will cover the basics of the rules, including basic formatting and submission rules, so you can make your manuscript stand out to publishers, editors, and agents.
Afterall, your book deserves this level of care and focus to get it right.
Keep in mind, a lot of places might have their own submission rules, so you will need to look those up each and every time you submit your manuscript.
Manuscript Formatting For Your Book
Why You Will Need A Manuscript
If you are ever going to publish your book, you will need to learn how to create and format a manuscript. You will need to create one in the beginning of the publishing process and also to get attention of publishers in the first place.
Keep in mind, nonfiction books typically require a proposal instead of a whole manuscript. However, knowing how to put one together will help you as an author no matter what kind of books you write.
A manuscript is the typed text of your book which puts your whole book in order. They often go through multiple rounds of edits and adjustments throughout time, so you will have to have a system to keep track of your newer versions.
Manuscripts are the unpublished version of your book, but they are essential to the book publishing process.
What Happens With Your Manuscript
Often, a manuscript is just the starting bones of your book. It will go through multiple prints and eventually into a “final print” version so you can understand exactly how your book will look when it is printed and out in the world.
You will often have to print out multiple rounds of versions of your manuscript, so as mentioned above, you will need a way to keep track of each manuscript version along the way.
Be sure to always only submit a manuscript when asked for it. Some publishers, agents, and editors do not like to receive unsolicited manuscripts.
Manuscript Format — General Rules
For the most part, you will find that all manuscripts have a few things in common:
- 8.5″ x 11″ (A4) paper size
- Courier or any related serif fonts
- Font size: 12 point (10 pitch) or 10 point (12 pitch)
- 1.5 line spacing or double space lines
- One-inch margin on all four sides (this is the standard on all word processors, but it does not hurt to double-check)
However, every publisher, editor, or agent might have their own specific requirements you will need to know before you submit your manuscript.
On top of that, you will need to make sure your manuscript is free of any errors, from grammar to spelling mistakes, in order to wow a publisher.
What Is the Proper Format For A Manuscript?
Now that we have covered some of the basics around formatting and creating a manuscript, let’s dive into the technical specifics.
#1 – Format your title page
All manuscripts start with a title page before anything else. Some things your title page should include are:
- Your contact information — in the upper left corner (or if it is your agent’s information, that goes there instead
- The title of your book — centered in the page
- The author name — below the title
- Word count — in the upper right (or sometimes under the author name)
- Agent’s information — when applicable, in the upper left
- Category of book — at bottom of page
- Genre of book — at bottom of page
#2 – Format the other pages correctly
We already covered some of the basics of how you need to format your manuscript, but there are now some technical details you need to include.
Some details include:
- Use # for scene breaks
- Times New Roman font (unless they prefer a sans serif font)
- Left-justified alignment
- Include a header on every single page — located in the top right
- Last page should include, “THE END”
- Start a new chapter on a new page
- Each new chapter should start about a third of the way down the page
#3 – Adjust accordingly for each publication, editor, or agent
Depending on who you are sending your manuscript to, you will want to make sure you are fitting your manuscript to their guidelines.
While we went over the basics of manuscripts above, not everyone follows the same rules.
You will want to stand out as an applicant by following their rules and making sure you are within their specifications. It shows you can listen to instructions and can pay attention.
#4 – Proofread thoroughly
Proofreading has been mentioned multiple times in this article, and for good reason: it is important and often overlooked.
Even if you have read it all yourself, and multiple times, it might be worth it to get another pair of eyes on your manuscript or hire and editor just to double-check your work.
#5 – Know how to submit your manuscript
Now that you have your manuscript done, and you followed the rules of the submissions, you need to make sure you are sending them correctly.
First, you will need to know the format that the submission should be in. To be safe, you should always aim for saving things as a .doc format as that is compatible with most computers.
The last thing you want is to disqualify yourself because you send a format that a certain computer cannot open.
If you are sending it the traditional way (through the mail), make sure you send it in an envelope that prevents bending of the pages. You will want to make sure the paper is quality and that the ink that was printed is strong (avoid printing when your ink is low).
Second, you will want to make sure you are including all of the things that were requested of you. That might be only a few pages of your manuscript, a cover letter, author bio, or possibly even multiple chapters at a time.
Other Things To Know About Manuscripts
Check for any errors
The top thing you need to keep in mind about your manuscript is that you need to make sure it does not have any errors.
Some publishers and editors will overlook some formatting differences, but having typos and grammar errors all throughout your manuscript will almost always get it rejected on the spot.