Unless you prefer your friends to be history nerds or those with obsessive-compulsive grammar tendencies, you shouldn’t necessarily be looking to befriend. your editor.
However, you should seek to do all in your power to be a professional friend of your editor. One of the easiest ways to do this – which too many authors don’t consider – is formatting.
I know. With the utmost respect to book designers and in-house trainers, formatting isn’t exactly the sexiest topic for an author. You’d much rather paint a new world on your book’s canvas than talk about the no-frills 12-point Times New Roman.
But that’s why we have to talk about it.
When you skip the basics of formatting your manuscript, you subconsciously show a lack of respect for your profession and your editor. If you send a badly formatted manuscript to your editor, it probably won’t say anything, but I can promise you that it is thinking of one of two things:
- I can hardly read this manuscript.
- I am wasting my time reformatting this manuscript.
In these cases, an editor will edit your manuscript as is or spend the time you pay them for to do the job that you could (and should have) done yourself.
But once you get into the standard basics of formatting a manuscript in preparation for your editor, you’ll find it will save you and your editor a lot of time and frustration.
Also, once you have the basics, you can create a book format template for future use.
Tips for nailing the format of your book
Although this article attempts to provide standardized recommendations, some publishers, literary agents, or publishing houses may have their own formatting stipulations. Always be sure to research this information on websites and if in doubt ask them.
The following formatting recommendations are valid for both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts in the United States. All accepted variations are noted and comments are appreciated regarding differences for international markets.
Here is what is expected for a standard manuscript format.
1. Use black, 12 point, Times New Roman as the font.
Yes, Times New Roman is boring, but it’s basically on every computer ever made.
Don’t use a cool font for the effect. Save this for your home decor, which comes much later after the editing process.
(Font trivia: Times New Roman is no longer used by The temperature.)
2. Use the standard US 8.5 × 11 inch page size and set your margins to 1 inch on all sides.
Starting a new document in Word defaults to these settings, but if you’re exporting to Word from a word processor of your choice, double-check the output to make sure your page size and margins are correct.
To set the page size in Word, go to File> Page Setup and look at the drop-down menu for the page size.
To set the margins in Word, go to Format> Document.
3. Set the alignment to left justified
Left justified text is also referred to as jagged right text. The text will line up along its left side, leaving its right side non-uniform (unjustified).
To set alignment in Word, select all of your text, then click the left justification icon on the Home tab, or select Format> Paragraph and choose “Left” from the Alignment drop-down list.
4. Use only one space after the rules
If you’ve been trained to type two spaces after a period, retrain.
In the digital age, use one space. (To find out why, see “Space invaders. ”)
Tip: If your manuscript has two spaces after a period, use the Find and Replace tool in your word processor. Type two spaces in “Find” and one space in “Replace,” then hit “Replace All” with reckless and reckless abandon.
5. Use double-spaced line spacing
This can be the biggest help for your editor.
You want to make sure they see your every last word, so give your words room to breathe on the page.
Tip: If you’ve already written your book with different line spacing, select all of your text in Word, click Format> Paragraph, then select “Double” from the drop-down list under “Line Spacing.”
6. Indent all paragraphs 0.5 inches and do not press tab or space to indent
It can be every publisher’s pet peeve. Adjustment tabs and tabs are not the same thing.
If you’re a tab-hitter or a space-space-space-space-spacer, select all of your text in Word and then set the indentation using Format> Paragraph. Under “Indentation” and by “Left”, type 0.5. under “Special,” then choose “First Line” from the drop-down menu.
Note: Usually the first paragraph of any chapter, after a caption, or after a bulleted or numbered list is not serrated.
7. Format paragraphs according to gender norms
Writers of fiction should use indented paragraphs without full paragraph breaks. Non-fiction writers can opt for no indentation as long as the paragraphs are separated by a full paragraph break.
Tip: open a book like you to see what the paragraph conventions are, then emulate.
8. Use page breaks
To start a new chapter, don’t keep pressing return until you create a new page. Instead, use page breaks.
In Word, place the cursor at the end of a chapter, then click “Insert> Break> Page Break” from Word’s top menu.
9. Number your pages
Don’t start numbering on your title page. Instead, start numbering on the page where your story begins.
To place page numbers in Word, double-click in the header area of the page your story begins on and click “Insert> Page Numbers,” then select your preferred options. Choose to place your page numbers at the top left of the page.
10. Send your manuscript as a single Word document (.doc /.docx)
You don’t have to compose your masterpiece in Word, but because Word’s “Track Changes” feature is always the de facto editing tool of choice, your editor will appreciate receiving a Word file.
And whatever you do, never send the individual chapters to your editor as separate files.
These 10 easy-to-follow steps will put you on the right side of your editor. While each of these issues typically doesn’t take too long to resolve, the issues are compounded when a publisher needs to resolve more than one.
Want more help formatting your book? Check Kindlepreneur Guide.
When an editor receives a well-formatted manuscript, he can start work immediately that you actually pay them to do: edit!
This is an updated version of a story that was posted previously. We update our articles as often as possible to make sure they are useful to our readers.
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