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Formatting Your Manuscript Is Important

Author: Thomas Ajava

You’ve done it! You’ve written the next great American novel. It took years to do it, but now it is ready to go. You just need to find a publishing house. You start sending the manuscript off, but just get form letter rejections back. What’s the problem? It might not be the content of your manuscript, but the formatting that is the problem.

We are a superficial society. Oh, come on. Admit it! We go for looks just about every time. There is a reason a Ferrari sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a Camry sells for slightly less. Image is everything and that also applies to the publishing industry. The reason, however, is not so much visual seduction as it is practical.

What does an editor spend the vast majority of their time doing? They read. Then they read some more. After that, they spend a few hours reading. As you can imagine, this can grow old very quickly. While they might receive a quality manuscript every so often, the vast majority of submissions are not so hot.

To keep from going insane, editors have built in filters that they use to eliminate the obviously weak copy being submitted. One of those filters is the formatting of the manuscript. There is a process that must be followed in formatting your work. If you fail to follow it, the work will not only be rejected – it will not be read! This is true if you are Bob Smith or Stephen King. Okay, it probably isn’t true for Stephen King, but you get the drift.

What are the formatting requirements? Well, each publisher is going to have slightly different ones. What does this mean? It means you need to go research them. You’ve spent considerable time and effort writing you novel. Don’t blow getting published by being lazy now! Still, there are some basic formatting guidelines used across the publishing industry. Let’s take a closer look.

The overriding goal is to make your manuscript as reader friendly as possible. Nobody likes to read even the best writing if the print is size 8. The first rule is to use white 8.5 x 11 paper. You want to use one inch margins all the top, bottom and sides of each page as well. Use black print, 14 size and double spacing so the editor doesn’t go blind trying to read the pages. Courier is the accepted font across the industry, but Times is also okay and I personally prefer it. Make sure to put a brief version of the title and the page number on each page. You don’t want the editor to mix the manuscript up with something else and not be able to find your contact information!

There are a few extra steps you need to follow as well. The front page should have your contact information in the upper left corner. The title of the manuscript should be in the middle of the page. The title should be in all CAPS and you should include any alternative pen name you might want to use.

Finally, add a cover letter to the top of your manuscript. Put it all in a box and send it off. Do not bind it. Do not clip it together. Just leave it as a stack and the editor will at least be willing to read the cover letter and first few pages. Many times, that is half the battle to getting published!

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About the Author

Thomas Ajava writes for – where you can buy blank journals to keep your writing notes wherever you are.