How do I format my manuscript?
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Here is a 10 part easy to follow checklist that we feel answers most questions people have when they are submitting a manuscript to a publisher. Keep in mind the rule of thumb here is to make your manuscripts easy to read, neat, and all that jazz. This isn't the only way to do it, and we are suggesting this for submissions to traditional print publishers not electronic publishers. Their guidelines may be different. It is always wise to take a look at the publisher's guidelines BEFORE you submit work to them. You don't want to waste your time.
1. What font should I use?
New writers always come inevitably to this question. The answer is Courier 12 or new Courier 12. If you are a new writer, you are scratching your head possibly thinking that we are crazy. You might not have seen a manuscript in Courier. The truth is Courier is what typewriters and typesetters have used for a very long time. Even though computers have come along and suggested new and arguable better fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, you are best to go with what editors know. Maybe they are longing for the good old days. Humor them. Don’t give them another stupid reason to reject you.
Many editors as of late have suggested they would take other fonts besides Courier, but many large and small publishers still insist on Courier.
2. Do I need to protect my manuscript from being stolen by a publisher?
Many new writers feel their work might be stolen if they do not place a copyright symbol on it when they send it to a publisher. Truth is, labeling your manuscript with a © only makes you look like an armature. By common law once you have put something to papers it belongs to you. It is already “copyrighted.”
Publishers are not going to steal your work. They have 1000s of manuscripts running across their desks each day. If this was a “real” problem a little symbol in the corner of your work wouldn’t help anyway. So don’t label yourself and avoid this faux pa. Also a publisher will file a copyright in your name if they decide to publish your work.
3. Should I bind or staple my manuscript?
Never use staples! Do not bind your manuscripts. Stapling your manuscripts will make you look like a newbie straight away. Editors might want to copy your manuscript so more than one person in the office can read it. Make it easy for them. Use a clip, paperclip, or rubber band.
4. Can I use 1.5 spacing to shorten my manuscript?
No! Double space your manuscript. Editors again like to have the freedom to make notes. They are used to reading double spaced copy. They have trained eyes, and they will know if you cheat.
5. What size margins should I use?
Make your margins 1 to 1/12 inch. Again this gives room to the editors.
6. Can I double-side my manuscript to save space?
No! Do not double side your copies. Each page should have print on 1 side.
7. Should I page number?
Yes! Number your headers or footers, and include your last name with an abbreviated title. Make sure editors can put your manuscript back together after dismantling it. Make it as easy as possible to reassemble.
8. How do I figure out my word count?
Do not use a word processors word count feature to figure out the number of words. This sounds silly, but it is necessary. The word count feature on most processors will not take into account blank spaces. Editors are more interested in knowing how long your manuscript will be if it is printed. Estimate your word count 250 X the number of pages.
Left justify your manuscript always.
10. Do I need a title page?
Yes. Make sure you include your name and all contact information on your title page. Do not include your header, footer, or page numbers on your title page. Write your name and contact information in the upper left corner put your contact information. In the upper right corner write the estimated word count. Space down and center your title double space to the word by double space again to your name or pseudonym. Space 3 lines downs and being your first chapter. If you are a new writer without an agent your title page should look something like the title page below: