If you’ve just finished writing your novel and you’re ready to send it off to the publisher, be sure to read these helpful tips first. Various publishing houses have their own guidelines. However, there are standard guidelines you can follow to prepare an excellent manuscript that is easily readable and professionally presented.

First, be sure the font is Times New Roman or Courier. These fonts ensure that each character is the same width. It will give your article the typewriter appearance. Use a 12-point size, even for chapter headings.

Double-space the text, and be sure it is aligned to the left and NOT justified. Some publishers will not even look at a manuscript if the text is justified.

Indent each paragraph with a 0.5-inch tab. Use 1-inch margins all around. Do not leave extra spaces between paragraphs. You can precede your chapter numbers and titles with an additional space (for a total of 4 spaces between title and text). However, remember to be consistent. Begin each chapter of the book on a new page, and leave a space between the chapter number/title and the text.

Do NOT use bold typeface. Italics are acceptable, and underlining is ok. It is traditional to underline all text that you wish to have in italics. However, it has become acceptable to use italics since computers have replaced typewriters.

Do NOT use large or unusual fonts, bold typeface, or artwork. The style and appearance of your manuscript should be simple; it is not your finished book yet.

Place a running header including page numbers, your last name, as well as the title or partial title of the book at the top right of every page (except the title page).

An Excellent Manuscript

Prepare a title page that includes the following information. First and last name, address, phone number/email, and word count. Place this information at the top right of the page. Put your title in the center of the page with a byline right under it.

The Great American Novel

by Jane Smith

(OR)

The Great American Novel

by

Jane Smith

If you use a pen name (alias), use that name in the byline and the running headers on each page (but use your real name in the upper right corner).

You may begin the text of the story on the title page itself, or you may elect to start on page 2. It is always best to start with Chapter 1 or the prologue (rather than including dedications and acknowledgments; those can come later). Remember that your goal is to capture the reader’s attention right away.

Print on 8.5 x 11-inch white paper using black ink. Only print on one side of each page. Do not staple or bind the pages. (Use A-4 paper if you are in Europe.)

Of course, if this all sounds like too much, you can hire a professional editor to format your manuscript correctly. It is especially useful if you have completed your work in a style that does not comply with these guidelines or you do not have the time or energy to make changes to the entire document yourself. In the process of writing and revising your document, you may encounter formatting issues (such as pagination) and elect to hire a professional to format the final version. This is not uncommon. In fact, many writers employ professional editors to assist them with the technical and mechanical aspects of the writing process.

A Great Manuscript is Key

A properly prepared and presented manuscript is important. It gives the publisher an indication of your knowledge and seriousness. It also makes reading as easy as possible for the person reading your work. In some cases, publishers will not even read a manuscript if it is improperly presented. So a great-looking manuscript can increase your chances at publication.

Originally posted 12/30/2008 and happily updated 11/15/2017. Thanks for reading!

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