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  • Writer's pictureKat Taylor

Formatting your novel manuscript: A step-by-step guide for publishing

A messy author's desk with a completed manuscript

Congratulations on completing your novel! You're so close to the finish line. Now it's time to prepare your manuscript for publishing success. Formatting your novel manuscript correctly is crucial for catching the eye of publishers and agents, not to mention your future readers, and ensuring your work is taken seriously. In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk you through essential formatting tips to format your manuscript like a pro.

Please note that some agents and publishers may have their own guidelines for style and format so do check that you have met their requirements before submitting.

1. Font and Size: For optimal readability and professionalism, opt for classic fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in size 12 and always double space your text.

2. Margins: Maintain one-inch margins on all sides to create a clean and visually appealing layout. Left align your text to make it more accessible.

3. Header: If your work is sitting on an agent's desk and a big gust of wind comes through the window, you want to make sure they can easily work out which pages are yours, so include a header with your last name, the title of your book (or an abbreviated title if it's particularly long), and page numbers for easy navigation. Place this information in the top right corner of each page.

4. Title Page: Centre your novel's title about a third of the way down the page, below that include your real or pen name. Include your real name and contact information in the top left of the page and your word count to the nearest thousand in the top right to provide essential details at a glance.

5. Chapter Headings: Start each chapter on a new page using page breaks and use formatting techniques like bold styling or a slightly larger font to make chapter titles stand out. Chapter titles should be centralised.

6. Indentation and Paragraphs: Use a 0.5-inch indent at the beginning of each new paragraph and use a consistent paragraph style throughout your manuscript.

7. Dialogue: Format dialogue by starting a new line for each speaker and using quotation marks for clarity. In the UK, we mostly use single quotation marks and in the US they prefer double quotes, however, both are acceptable – the key is to be consistent throughout your book.

8. Italics and Bold: Use italics for emphasis or to indicate thought. Use bold sparingly for chapter titles or key headings.

9. Proofreading: Consider hiring a professional trained proofreader like me to meticulously review your manuscript for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. A professional knows what sort of things to look out for, plus a fresh set of eyes can catch mistakes you may have overlooked and ensure your manuscript is polished to perfection.

By following these expert formatting tips and considering professional proofreading, you'll present your manuscript professionally and increase its appeal to publishers and literary agents. A well-formatted and error-free manuscript demonstrates your dedication to your work and increases your chances of publishing success. I hope this guide helps you format your novel manuscript effectively and take the necessary steps to ensure its quality. For more personalised assistance or guidance on manuscript formatting and proofreading, feel free to get in touch. Let's get your novel manuscript one step closer to publication success!


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