Manuscript formatting

When you’re ready to send out your manuscript to a likely agent or publisher, it’s important to follow the industry standard for your document’s layout. Here is a quick introduction. A Google search on manuscript formatting will score a plethora of more-detailed instructions.

  1. Check the requirements of the agent or publisher, usually included on their website for submissions. Comply with them.
  2. Basic formatting includes: use standard white A4 paper. type your manuscript using a simple font such as Courier or Times New Roman, usually 12 or 14pt, double spaced, with a minimum of 1-inch (2.5cm) margins on all four sides. Set the copy ragged right.
  3. Number each page. Single-sided printing only. Put your name and the story title in the header field on each page.
  4. Check your spelling. Check your grammar. Show that you know the basics of writing.
  5. Do not staple or otherwise bind the pages. Do not include gimmicks.
  6. Include a cover letter. This will have your name, the manuscript’s name, word count, and your contact details. It might also include a few lines of essential, attention-grabbing bio.
  7. Some publishers or agents will request a synopsis. These are a constant┬ásource of confusion. A general idea is that the synopsis is not a blow-by-blow description of your book. It’s more a blurb, such as you would find on the back of a book, aimed at presenting the key points of the story and making it sound interesting. It should not be very long. I like to keep them to a page, never more than two, but follow the guidelines of the agent or publisher. The same formatting rules apply as for the manuscript.
  8. If, for some reason, you want the manuscript returned, you’d need to include a stamped and self-addressed envelope. But ask yourself if it’s really worth the bother. You aren’t likely to get feedback or mark-up on a returned MS, it’s just adding an extra onerous task for the person who’s had to read it.

Other links:

The basics: This Writing Business:

More explanation: A Quick Guide to Manuscript Format

Synopses explained: At Writing World.com

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