Saturday, August 1, 2009

How to Format a Fiction Manuscript

Guest post by M. Esther Sherman

You have completed your work of fiction. You have written the perfect query. You have even received the highly sought after positive response from an agent/editor and now an agent/editor is going to read your manuscript. But how do you format it? These are a few simple steps which will help you to identify yourself as someone who has a clue what they're doing:

1) Everything must be double spaced. Though you may argue that this is a waste of paper/space/and anything else you choose to argue, the agent/editor wants it double spaced. They read too many pages of too many manuscripts and double spaced is easier to read; not to mention easier to make notes.

2) Use 12 point font. This too is non-negotiable. The agent/editor does not want to have to squint to read a manuscript and if they have to chances are they will already be annoyed at whoever wrote it.

3) Use Times New Roman or Courier Fonts. These are easy to read while giving the agent/editor an idea of how long your novel will be. Word count does part of this, but paragraph length can also impact the overall pages your novel will need.

4) There should only be one space at the beginning of each sentence. Paragraphs should be tabbed in or set to default at .5in. You should not ever space in your indents.

5) Make sure you have a header. The header should be format ted with your last name/first few words of title on the left and the page number on the far right (SAMPLE/BEST NOVEL 1)

6) Chapter headings should be in the center of the page, same font and size, in all caps. This is somewhat negotiable but is the most commonly accepted method of formatting.

7) You also need to include a title page. This is one of the most important pieces of the manuscript since this will be how they know to contact you in response. The title page should have the following information: Title of work, your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and/or website, and the total word count for the work. Formatting for title pages is somewhat negotiable as long as all of the information is present and the title appears in the center of the page (in normal font size, nothing fancy).

8) If printing your pages, make sure all pages are neat and clean. Do not send rejected pages to more than one agent. Make sure everything you send looks professional (pink paper is not professional).

9) If e-mailing, first make sure they will accept your document as an attachment. Second, name your file with your last name, part of the title, and, if it is a partial, the number of pages with the word "partial". This will help to distinguish your document from the hundreds of others the agent/editor already has on their computer.

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Please feel free to visit my website for more advice on preparing manuscripts, query letters, and general tips on getting a book published. Visit


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