I received a manuscript, yesterday, from a friend who wants me to look it over for a client of hers (she’s a Life Coach). I have to confess that with the departure of all my visiting family after the Christmas break, bed-changing, washing and ironing have taken priority. But I did manage to take a peep – and what I saw has prompted me to write, today, about the necessary formatting of a submission. So, for those of you who are interested and don’t know, here’s how you should produce your ’scripts.
- MARGINS - Set up a template with the following parameters: Left, Right and Bottom margins at 1½ ins (3.2cm); Top margin at ½ inch (1.3cm).
- Do not Right Justify your pages. You should have a ragged Right margin.
- NUMBERING - Number all pages in Top Right corner. Do not use any hyphens, commas, full stops, or the words Page No. I always put a space after the page number, followed by slash, space, chapter number, thus: 13 / 3 = page 13, chapter 3.
- Always number consecutively from 1 right through to the last page of your manuscript. Never, ever, begin each new chapter at page 1.
- HEADER - Upper Left corner of each and every page should have your surname (in lower case) slash BOOK NAME (in caps) i.e. Menzies/A PAINFUL POST MORTEM
- TEXT – First page of each chapter should begin approximately 1/3 of the way down the page with the chapter number centred left to right. Text should begin immediately below this.
- First line of text on each subsequent page should be about ½ to ¾ inch below the header.
- Double line-space all text.
- Do not allow words to break, or hyphenate, at the end of a line.
- FONT – Use Courier 12 for everything. Never use symbols, decoration or clipart.
- Never use CAPITALS (except for Header) or Italics or bold. Underline to indicate where these are intended.
- PARAGRAPHS - Indent paragraphs by five spaces.
- Do not leave extra lines between paragraphs. The only exception is to indicate a change of Section (scene) or POV (point of view).
- PUNCTUATION – Leave two spaces after each full-stop, colon, question mark or exclamation mark; one space after a comma, semi-colon, or quotation (speech) mark.
- Always put commas at the end of a line of speech, inside the speech marks. Thus: “Happy New Year,” she said.
- Don’t over-use dashes or ellipses – and don’t use more than three dots when you do . . .
- TYPING / PRINTING - Type, or print, on one side of the page only.
- Use A4 UK (8½ ins x 11 ins USA) white 80g paper.
- Use only black ink, preferably a laser printer, but if using bubble-jet, ensure that ink supplies are plentiful and truly black, not grey or patchy.
- PREPARING FOR SUBMISSION – Leave all pages loose. Do not bind chapters together with staples or paper-clips. Do not put them in a ring-file or document folder.
- Place all folios (pages) loose in an A4 box (you can buy these, or use the one your paper came in).
If this all seems rather pedantic, there is a reason. Agents and Publishers like wide margins and double spacing so that they can edit and annotate manuscripts. Also, by standardising fonts, margins and line spacing, editors can assess the number of book pages a manuscript will comprise. Given that books are printed in multiples of eight (sixteen / thirty-two) and the number of pages affects the eventual cost of production and selling price, this is crucial.
- TITLE PAGE – Do not number your title page. Omit the header shown on all subsequent pages.
- In single space, type your real name (not pen-name), address and other contact details (phone, e-mail) in either the Top Left corner or Bottom Right of a blank A4 sheet of white paper.
- In the Top Right corner, type the total number of words to indicate the length of your book.
- About a third of the way down (half way down if you put your address at the top) in the Centre of the page type the title of your book in CAPITALS.
- Beneath it, leave a blank line, then type (centred): A Novel (or A Biography – whatever).
- Leave another blank line, then type: By Your Pen-name (or real name).
- Some writers also show the Theme(s) of their book (no more than two or three words) in an empty corner.
And finally, a word about Copyright.
- COPYRIGHT - You do not need to take any action to copyright your work. Nor, providing you have your name on each page, do you need to state that you are the copyright holder either by the use of the word 'copyright' or by the symbol (c).
- Always ensure that you have retained a hard copy (printed copy) of your work, and that you have your name and the date of completion on each page. This is sufficient to prove – in the unlikely event of plagiarism – that the intellectual property rights belong to you.
- If it makes you feel happier, you may post a sealed copy to yourself, but do not open the envelope unless there is a dispute, and then only in the presence of a witness.
Have I forgotten anything? Let me know if anything is not clear, or you have further queries.
Next time, we’ll take a look at Letters of Proposal (no – not the marrying sort! The ones you write to a Publisher.) See you then.
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