Manuscript 101

Well now, all week long we’ve been hard at work getting things settled for Mavguard’s next edition. It’s a process, one that can take a fair deal of time. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about you, or that we don’t have the time to write our weekly blog post. No, of course, it’s one of the highlights of my week when I get to post in here.

So today, I want to talk to about something you really ought to know. 

How to properly format your manuscript

Now, most of you are probably thinking that this is a really boring topic, so why on earth would I pick it, but here’s the thing: I know you. And I know very well that you more than likely have not read the submissions information page. Which means you probably have no idea how your manuscript should be formatted.

Well, here it is in the form of a blog, in case that helps you. Maybe then you’ll read it, eh?

The thing about proper formatting is that it will automatically bump up the appeal of your manuscript. Some places won’t even read your work if it wasn’t properly formatted when it was submitted. We here at RAD are usually nice and read it anyway, because we know most of you don’t like to read the web page—you just want to send something in. And we’re okay with it. Because we're the same way, usually. But we like you better if you don't make us format your manuscript for you, and you have better odds if you've done it before you send it in. 

But in case you want to send something somewhere else, or want a leg up on the competition, here are a few tips on what you should always be doing to format your manuscripts:


1.      Double space

For some reason, this is the one we have the hardest time getting people to follow, and it’s also one of the simplest ones. You need to double space. Always. In fact, I highly recommend setting your defaults to double space, in whatever program you write. It’ll make sure at least that part is formatted right, whenever you decide to send it in.

On this same note, make sure you take out any extra spacing before and after paragraphs. Most publishers don’t like the extra space to be there. This standard spacing gives us a better idea of how many pages your book will be if it’s printed—but it’s hard to figure that out when it’s not double spaced and includes extra spacing.


2.      Eleven to Twelve Point Font

Most publishers want your manuscript font to be a size that’s easy to read, but not huge. For RAD Writing, we suggest 12 pt. Times New Roman, but really, any easy to read or universal font is acceptable, and any size between ten and fourteen is generally fine. This, again, has a purpose. If your manuscript's font is too small, we’ll have a hard time judging the actual length, which may make the manuscript seem abnormally short. And if it’s too large, it’ll make your manuscript appear unseemly long. You want neither of these things, because we want neither of these things. Trust me on that.


3.      Title page

Please, whatever you do, give us a title page. It makes our lives so much easier. You don’t even know. Title pages are the first thing an editor sees when they look at a manuscript. The title page should include information like the author’s name (and your actual name, if they differ), the agent’s name (if you have one), and your contact information. It’s just easier all the way around, for filing purposes on our computers, and especially when the manuscript is printed. No title page, no clue what it is. 


4.      Page numbers

If you thought title pages were important, but ignored your page numbers, your publisher may hate you. We can’t tell how long the thing is if you don’t give us page numbers, you know. And in some cases, it makes it seem as though you’re trying to hide something from us, which we all hope couldn’t be further from the truth

It’s a simple thing to do, too. If you’re working in MS Word, double-click the header or footer and select page numbers. Please.


5.      Running headers (not everyone wants these)

Okay, not every publisher actually wants these, but RAD Writing does. At the very least, your running header should include the name of the work. It’ll make things a lot easier for us, because a lot of times we’re reading four or five things at once, and we leave the pages lying about where we left off. For us, we like to have your surname included in the running header as well, but it’s not supremely important. We won’t forget you.


Those are the big five, the ones you should make standard whenever you’re going to submit anything anywhere.

Plus, they’re all really easy to do, and things you can put in before you even start writing.

Easy! Now, just make sure you do it.


Senior Editor


P.S. Have questions? Let me know in the comments!