Curious about how to format a picture book manuscript? How about a novel? The age of your reader might vary, but your formatting will remain consistent. Here are 11 tips to properly format your manuscript before submitting it to an agent or editor. Check out the two bonus tips I include at the end.
11 Formatting Tips Before You Submit
2. 12-point font
3. Times New Roman—this is a profession font choice (you don’t want this to be a distracting choice, nor do you want reading hard on the eyes).
4. One-inch margins
5. Add contact details. Include your name and contact information on the first page in the upper left corner:
6. Center your TITLE and the manuscript's word count on the first page (title in all caps or cap first letter of words)
Place your name and word count centered under the title:
This is My Title and it’s Really Great
by Kim Tomsic (488 words)
7. Include page numbers starting on the second page and forward. HOW: Select the “Insert” and click “Page Number” and then choose one or the other - "Top of Page" or "Bottom of Page" -I prefer bottom) and select based on the positioning you like (usually "Plain Number 3", then type your title/last name, and then choose the box “Different First Page” so it starts numbering on the second page forward. It should be formatted like so:
This is My Title and it’s Really Great/TOMISC Page 2
8. Indent new paragraphs and/or new stand-alone lines within the manuscript. Also indent new lines of dialogue (watch for my dialogue post to come next week).
9. When you change which character is speaking, make sure you create a new line break and indent it.
10. Black ink (please don’t get distracting with colors).
11. Use brackets [ ] to indicate when something is in the illustrations and not in
the text. For example my nonfiction book, The Elephants Come Home is a true story, and so the facts needed to remain factual. The elephants arrived during a downpour, it was part of the mood and tone, but I did not write it in the text. Therefore, I left a note for the illustrator [raining]. Avoid illustration notes unless absolutely necessary.
Hitting the Tab Key to Indent:
Each line that comes after a purposeful line break will be indented like so. This means that the first line in the paragraph will be indented (as you see in this paragraph example). However, once you move on to a new line of text or new dialogue and hit the return key, you’ll indent the next paragraph or the dialogue that follows.
“Now,” I say. “Does this make sense so far?”
“Yes,” you say. “Tell me more!”
And so I will 😊. Next week, I will cover dialogue, dialogue tags, where to place the tags, how to add punctuation, and more. Let’s go! By the way, I am a card-carrying exclamation point abuser. However, I urge you to avoid getting carried away with punctuation in your manuscripts. Let your words carry the weight and meaning of your prose.
Sidenote for novelists – the first paragraph of a new chapter is served in a block (the first line is not indented), but then each new paragraph after the first paragraph is formatted with the first line indented.
P.S. Here are two bonus notes:
is three evenly spaced dots (periods) and stands in for an unfinished thought
or action. It looks like this
An em dash is when a character or thought gets interrupted or abruptly cut off for another reason like a car crash or a cake shoved into a mouth. The em dash name comes from the fact that it’s the typeset length of the letter “m”. It looks like this