Formating Your Manuscript

4 Nov

Formatting your manuscript correctly may not be a make or break to a book deal, but it does show professionalism and preparation that everyone desires in a business partner. So, open your Word document and let’s get started with the basics. 

STEP ONE: Margins 

  • Under ‘File’ on your tool bar, click ‘Page Setup’   
  • Click the Margins tab at the top   
  • Ensure that you’ve selected ‘Portrait’   
  • Enter ‘1’ in the drop down boxes for Top, Bottom, Left, and Right
  • Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner 


Personally I use ‘Courier New’ size 12 or ‘Times New Roman’ depending on the project. It’s easy for pages/word calculation. 

Anything you wish to be italicized in your manuscript, should actually be underlined. Do not italicize in your manuscript. 

There is a difference between hyphens and em-dashes. For an em-dash, Word will turn 2 hyphens into an em-dash  

STEP THREE: Page Format 

  • Under ‘Format’ on your tool bar, click ‘Paragraph’
  • Next to ‘Before’ and ‘After’ enter ‘0’ – ‘Auto’ will NOT do what you want it to.  
  • In the drop-down box under ‘Space’ click ‘Exactly’
  • In the selection box next to where you just picked ‘Exactly,’ type ‘25’ – DON’T type ‘lines’ as was previously there, only ‘25’
  • At the top of the Paragraph Formatting box is the tab ‘Line and Page Breaks’ – click this
  • Ensure that all the boxes on this page are unmarked
  • Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner 


STEP FOUR: The Header 

  • Under ‘View’ on your tool bar, click ‘Header and Footer’
  • When they pop open, in the Header Type: 
    BOOK TITLE / Last name                                                  Click # in toolbar 

 By clicking the ‘#’ on the toolbar, each page will be numbered  

STEP FIVE: Page Set-Up

Starting a Chapter Each chapter should begin 1/3 of the way down the page and centered. Personally, I put 6 or 7 hard-returns. This is roughly 1/3 of the page once your manuscript is formatted. This helps editors and agents calculate book length.  

REMEMBER: When submitting, check the Editor/Agent’s website, they may have specific formatting guidelines and you should always follow those when submitting to them.  

These are the basics. I hope they helped.  There are some great resources out there. Here are two: 

Remember, the work is in the writing, the formatting is the gift wrap.

2 Responses to “Formating Your Manuscript”

  1. Celise November 5, 2008 at 11:13 am #

    Questions for you:

    ~ In regards to Step 4, I heard that the first page in each chapter should not be numbered. So, how can I supress numbering on that page?

    ~ In regards to Step 5, what’s considered to be 1/3 of the way down? I have the ruler down the left side of the screen to help me out with that. I’ve never been good with fractions, so can you be more specific with the number? (i.e. “the 3rd dash under the 3” or “That long dash between 3 & 4”)

    Thanks for this. It was very helpful.

  2. briaq November 5, 2008 at 11:27 am #

    Great questions 🙂

    Typically I do 6 hard-returns (which if you’re already formatted would be 6 double spaces) to bring me to about 1/3 of the page. Doing it this way also allows me to not worry that it will be the right place if I write single spaced and THEN format.

    Also, I usually do one double space between “CHAPTER #” and the first line of text.

    In regards to not numbering the first page of each chapter, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t. Headers on all the pages *unless an agent/editor/contests specifically asks for something different* makes flipping through the MS easier. And if pages get dropped, reordering them is simple.

    If the chapter start doesn’t have a header, it would be a search to replace a page.

    I’d love to hear where you heard that tho, so I can look into the rationale further.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: