Tuesday, May 31, 2011



Happy Wednesday! I'm going to start a new series on my blog about cleaning up and polishing your manuscript so that it's 150% ready to submit. I know, I know. I hear you all groaning about how this has been done to death. But I see books on a weekly basis that are in need of more work before the author even thinks of publishing. This includes formatting.

I have yet to see a publishing house that isn't very specific about how they want the manuscript set up. Please take the time to read the requirements and follow the outline requested. This workshop is a basic guide for your document using Word '03, but it gives you an overview of how you want your manuscript to look when you submit it.

STEP 1: Set your font to TIMES NEW ROMAN and your font size to 12. This is an easy to read font and size and it is generally the style that most houses prefer. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO USE YOUR "SIGNATURE" FONT OR YOUR FAVORITE FONT. This is not about what you like or think looks best. It's what the publisher wants.

STEP 2: Generally, you need to set your margins to 1" TOP-BOTTOM-LEFT-RIGHT. Remember, this is for submissions, not for printing. Your publisher will make the formatting adjustments necessary for that. It's much easier to read and edit your manuscript if it's set up with a 1" margin and nothing fancy. So under the FILE tab, click on PAGE SETUP and then MARGINS and choose 1".

STEP 3: PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Whatever you do, DON'T space over or tab to indent paragraphs. This is a nightmare to fix when formatting a manuscript for print. Word has several features that will set your first line indent for you. So go to the FORMAT tab and then click on PARAGRAPH.

Once on this screen, you can set up a couple of things. The first is under the INDENT/SPACING Heading. In the section marked INDENTATION go to SPECIAL and change to FIRST LINE. This automatically indents the first line of all new paragraphs when you hit return. Simple and no more formatting issues.The second thing you'll setup here is under the section marked SPACING. Set BEFORE and AFTER to 0 and set your LINE SPACING to DOUBLE. Once your options look like the ones on the left, press the OKAY button.

STEP 4: Depending on where you're planning to submit your book, you  may have to add a HEADER. This is easily done as well. Just go to VIEW and click on HEADER AND FOOTER. Pick the option that best fits what the house is asking you to use. Generally, they want you to include your name, the book title, and page number.

WALLA! You are now ready to type that masterpiece! Please follow these steps or the instructions set out by the house you want to submit your book to. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

I hope this helped! Now, hop on over to read what my friend Kay Springsteen has to say about crit partners. Click HERE.



  1. I remember when I was a kid learning to type - manual typewriter - and no lift-off tape. And having more than one draft meant you retyped each draft. Believe me, an author took great care to get it right in the least amount of takes possible. How great is it that we can make revisions, clean up and polish our manuscripts with just a few appropriate clicks? We have the ability to present a near-perfect ms to the publisher. And you have shown us how easy it is to be a professional writer.