Author Ellen Jackson

Formatting A Manuscript

Editors are busy people and they appreciate professionalism. Many won’t even look at a manuscript if it is not presented in an acceptable format. Do you want to take that chance? Hedge your bets and send your manuscript in its best possible shape. Save your creativity for the story, not the format.

No matter what type of manuscript you're submitting, always make sure it is clear, error-free, double-spaced, and on white paper. Leave a one and a half inch margin on the left and one inch margin on the right. The top and bottom margins should be one and a half inches. Use 8 1/​2" x 11" paper. Never send your only copy. Secure your manuscript with a paperclip, not a staple. Always remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (unless the publisher requests that you don’t), or sufficient postage to return your work.

For a picture book–or any other kind of book--you should NOT break the text up into pages as it would appear in the finished book. Also DO NOT send illustrations unless you are a professional artist. If you are, send a black and white dummy and a copy of 2 or 3 finished pieces.

Put your name, address, phone number, and email address in the upper left hand corner. In the right hand corner, put your word count like this: Word Count: 500

You should number your pages, either at the bottom of the page or in the upper right hand corner. About half way down, put your title (centered). Then begin the text. Your header should start at the top of the second page and should look like this: JACKSON – TITLE.

Cover letters should include autobiographical information such as past publications, qualifications that are relevant to the subject matter of your book, and any pertinent details about your life or work. Include the sort of information you see on book jackets. You should also mention the title of your manuscript and whether or not you are submitting it elsewhere. It can't hurt to mention a few books you have liked by the publisher to whom you are submitting.

If your manuscript is for a picture book, then usually you would send the entire manuscript with a cover letter. As mentioned above, you should send the story in regular manuscript format, without page breaks, but know where page breaks might naturally occur. Plan your story for a 32 page book, but a few pages will contain publishing information–so perhaps only 27 or 28 pages will display the story. And don’t forget that many pages will be double spreads.