How To Format A Manuscript For Publishing - [A Complete Guide]

Coherence and structure come more than just with the content you write for your book; it also comes with its format. The format is essentially how your book looks to an editor or an agent, and they will most likely first look at whether you can format your manuscript in a way that is coherent and legible before even reading any of what you have written.

Acquisitions Editors and agents can always tell if a book is properly formatted, and it is crucial that you get it right before submission. Here, this blog will tell you the proper way in how to format your manuscript for kindle or any other platform. It is about more than just having your manuscript look great, but also about the feel of it.

Why Is Formatting So Important?

Well, before any book gets published, you will have to format the manuscript for publishing. it should be known that there are standards and rules in place in how a book is written, how each word is spaced, how the kerning of the individual letters is spaced, the size of the characters, the length of the title, and much, much more.

That means that an agent or editor would need a formatted book that is already in a state that it could be published. Any errors that arrive in publishing later not only add to costs, but because they are errors that are not the agent’s fault, it might cost them more than it costs you. That is because agents and editors have very limited time to edit and publish a large number of books, and any that are in the backlog are other potential sales that they cannot make.

Errors that come before printing have costs that the agents will have to pay for on their end. Moreover, if you format your book poorly, it indicates to the editor that you are not great at following guidelines, or did not read them, both of which can be undesirable characteristics in working with someone. A book is a huge venture, and it takes time. So, if the agent is already put off by you, it can seriously hamper their drive in giving you the best deals.

That is not to say that if you don’t format it properly you will get rejected, or that your book suddenly becomes better when formatted. Instead, it is a necessary due process that following it simply protects you against unnecessary problems in the future.

Getting Started with Formatting

First off, what is a manuscript? Quite simply it is the text you submit to your agent, editor, or even publisher. Your manuscript is the same text that gets in the format of a printed or digital book.

First off, what is a manuscript? Quite simply it is the text you submit to your agent, editor, or even publisher. Your manuscript is the same text that gets in the format of a printed or digital book.

That being said, there are plenty of things to look for, and easy to miss things when you go towards the formatting stage of your book. You will need to be able to answer questions such as; what is a font? What is a typeface? How do letters, characters, and numbers get written in their respective formats—which determines how they look? What is line spacing? What is single and double spacing? Why does it matter?

Guidelines for Formatting Manuscripts

Different agents and publication houses have their own submission guidelines and standards, though in some cases, being able to do one type of formatting for a publisher means you will fully be able to do them for others.

The differences in formatting guidelines and requirements come from most of the varied publishing houses having specific niches they target. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) publishing format is used by publications that prefer history, religion, philosophy, and artistic genres. They focus on serious, non-fictional work that demands professionalism in the manuscripts as well to show that the author treated the content and their manuscript with the professionalism and respect it needs to be taken seriously.

The Associative Press (AP) style of formatting, however, is mostly for public magazines, newspapers, and collaborative works that are designed to be written by multiple people and read in chunks and snippets. That means not only you need to keep an eye on who you are publishing to, but also what niches and genres they facilitate.

However, certain editors, agents, and publishing houses may not be so specific, so it might be useful to just select a format—preferably popular ones—and just stick to them. Being consistent in how you write and format your manuscript can immensely help in dealing with publishers that do not provide any specificity.

The 12-point Serif Font Helps Put Together a Professional Manuscript

What is a 12-point font?

What is Serif font?

We will answer both those questions. The answer to the first question is that the 12-point size is the most easily readable, coherent, and is not small for those that might need larger text—such as aged or senior citizens with eyesight issues. It also looks consistently readable in both printed and digital formats, and most research and academic-based papers also use this 12 or 11-point format as a standard.

The serif font, however, is one that is a font category rather than a font itself. For example, Times New Roman is the most popular and most used serif font. It has ‘serifs’ at the end of its letters, which give it a formal look that the other category—the ‘Sans’ category—does not. It is a common and safe choice, and most publishers prefer it for the manuscript format.

No Extra Spaces Beyond Double Spacing

Double spacing means that the space between each individual line is double-spaced, which is the highest standard limit that Microsoft Word provides. While additional spacing can be manually entered, double spacing keeps the spaces between each line well enough so that letters are not jumbled, and adding any more spaces will likely not be preferred. That means you cannot put an extra space in between paragraphs, and simply start them from the next line with an indentation.

In most cases, you will have to indent each paragraph half an inch, which is roughly the size of the spaces left when you press the Tab key. However, for consistency, it is recommended that you use the ‘Ruler’ that Microsoft Word provides. Simply select the View category in Word, and in the ‘Show’ ribbon, you will find a selection box you can check where ‘Ruler’ is written. It will add a ruler at the top of the document which you can use to track the page margins and indentations.

Don’t Justify Your Text Just Yet

Unless the format you are going for requires it, most formats will be fine with a ragged font that is flush to the left. A justified font means that the end of each sentence will be vertically aligned with the margins and page size you set—and flush both to the left and right, whereas the ragged text will continue the sentence on the next line as soon as it runs out of space.

Justified text adjusts the spacing instead, which can cause problems later, which is why ragged text is better as it keeps kerning and spacing intact.

Always Keep Your Manuscript Simple. No Need for Flair

Want to show the passage of time? Simply add a line in between two paragraphs that is denoted by a centered typographical dingbat. It shows as several asterisks (******), and is a universally effective indicator that facilitates an abrupt change of location or time without jarring the reader.

Moreover, unless your manuscript really needs it, keep it simple with black text on white background, and align the text on both ends with one-inch margins on both sides. This is also the default setting in a Word Document, so you won’t need to worry too much about margins.

The last thing to need is the header of the page, which is the white space in between the top of the page and where the text starts. The footer is the same but with the bottom of the page. In the header, you can include the page number, the title, and your author's pen name as well—though that is only for the manuscript.


Lastly, make sure that your manuscript—especially if submitted in printed format, has all your contact details and other aspects of the manuscript displayed on the front page. This includes your name, phone number, email address, the number of pages and word count of your book as well. You don’t need to specify the exact word count, just to the nearest hundred. So, a manuscript with 10,216 words will be displayed as 10,200 words.

Now that you have learned how to format a manuscript for publishing, well, get publishing! Talk to us

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