A Format To Live By

Formatting is something that is highly important when it comes to your novel. Some folks begin with the format already set in their word processor, while others simply write until they feel finished and format all at the end. After first attempting to write in whichever format was “exciting,” at the time, I quickly realized that life becomes easier when you start writing in the appropriate format for manuscript submission, that way you don’t need to worry about it later on. First let’s go over some general, but important points for formatting your document.

  • 12 point font – This is the standard size font that is requested by nearly every publisher, editor, or agent for a manuscript.

  • Double Spaced – Double spacing your manuscript makes it 1) easy to read and to catch errors in spelling and grammar while reviewing your work. 2) This makes it easier for editors and publisher to add notes to your manuscript in between the lines themselves, rather than along the margins where things become cluttered.

  •  Courier Font – Courier is the font that, after quite a bit of research, is requested by a number of companies in the field of publishing. Unlike “Times New Roman,” this font evenly spaces out each and every letter, rather than push letters like i’s and f’s together. Courier gives a period or that i letter, the same amount of designated space as a w or an m. This gives you approximately ten characters per inch within your document.

  • 1 inch margins – One inch margins on all sides of the document is, again, recommended by publishers. This makes printing it easier once accepted.

  • Header: Name / Title / Pg. # – Every page, minus your title page, should have a header in the upper right hand corner of your document. This header accomplishes two things, first reminds the publisher of your name and title of the novel, secondly has the page number on it, so that when it’s strung across the publishers desk (because they’re so enthralled by it) they can reorganize it accordingly. DO NOT put a header on your title page, you will have your contact info and title on there already, no need to repeat yourself and irritate a publisher.

These things are all your basic formatting instructions for formatting your novel. While some of these things seems arbitrary, they all serve their purposes. One last thing in particular that is quite important, is that this puts approximately 250 words per page, which is what publisher will assume and this is how they will gauge your word count. So while your word document may say 80,000 words, they will more than likely take 250 x your 300 pages and pay you for 75,000 words rather than your 80,000. So, now your novel is ready for editing, printing, review and on par with what publishers are looking for! Keep an eye, because coming soon I’ll go over the proper format for your cover page as well so that you may submit your manuscript with the appropriate presentation.


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