Nathan Bransford: How to format your novel when sending it out

Nathan Bransford brings us up to date on how to make our book projects appear as professional as possible to lit agents, publishers, and even editors. As far as this TVWriter™ minion is concerned, this article is pure gold.

Lovely as this is, it is not the preferred format for your ms

by Nathan Bransford

Proper formatting is by far the easiest thing you can do to make your book project appear as professional as possible to literary agents and the various professionals you will work with throughout the publication process.

There isn’t an ironclad industry standard format for manuscripts that’s as exacting as, say, a Chicago Manual of Style. Instead, there are a mix of “must haves” and “some people do these things.”

Here are the must-haves:

  • A cover page. If you’re submitting to literary agents it’s helpful to have a cover page that includes the title, your name, your contact information (phone number and email are fine but include your physical address if you want to), and the word count.
  • Times New Roman, 12 point font. It used to be Times New Roman or Courier, but in my experience Courier has gotten a little old school. Go with Times New Roman.
  • Double spacing. This means, very simply, double spacing without any other changes. Do not add any extra spacing before or after paragraphs. And absolutely do not get crazy with facing pages or trying to make your manuscript look like a book. It’s a manuscript. Go with it.
  • Left justified. Do not turn on full justification. Words should be evenly spaced.
  • 1? margins. Just 1? margins all around. Double-check this because some programs default to 1.25? or 1.5?….

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