I’d never leave the house without lippy, my hair uncombed or my clothes unironed. So why would I post a manuscript off without checking if I’ve laid it out correctly?

Over the past month I’ve been busily editing clients’ novels and I’ve noticed that some don’t lay out the ms correctly – not because they don’t care but just because they haven’t researched the area properly.

I’ve had single-spaced novels, justified novels and ones with a really beautiful, but unacceptable, font!

Presentation is everything when it comes to sending out your precious novel to prospective publishers or agents. Why spend ages writing the blooming thing, if you can’t spend a little more time researching how to represent it?

First and foremost you need a title page: your name, contact address, phone number and email address. Add your website/blog too if it showcases your work, otherwise don’t bother. Then the name of your book and its word count. Nothing elaborate; no fancy font like Webdings or humongous sized words. Times New Roman point 12 is preferred by every publisher/agent I’ve ever been in contact, so stick with that.

I put my name, address and contact number in the top right hand corner. Then I centre the title of my book, and underneath my author name, and under that the word count. You don’t have to do exactly the same, just make sure it looks neat and tidy and above all PROFESSIONAL.

Your ms should be double spaced, with generous margins all round (this is in case it does get accepted, and the publisher needs to make notes on it), at least 1 to 1.5 inches.

Use good quality CLEAN white paper. It doesn’t have to be expensive. If the ink cartridge needs replacing do it now, and only use ONE side of the paper. Pages should be numbered from one through to the end. And don’t forget to include your name or title (or both) in the header.

Justifying (as this is) looks pretty, but DON’T DO IT! The publisher won’t thank you for it, I assure you.

Don’t include acknowledgements, that comes later once you’ve been accepted.

Include a SAE when sending, and use a new, or reasonably new envelope, and make sure you are sending your ms to someone who deals with that genre. It’s such a waste of postage if you send a sci-fi to someone who only deals with crime.

Inside the envelope you should have a short synopsis (no more than two pages – one is even better!), a covering letter and the first three or four chapters of your novel (check submission guidelines). That’s it. Do not bind them together. If you feel the need, an ordinary elastic band will do.

To clarify:

1. Title page – contact details, name of novel and word count.
2. Type ONE side of page only.
3. Number pages from one through to the end.
4. DO NOT justify.
5. No acknowledgements.
6. Name/title in header.
7. New Times Roman point 12 ONLY.
8. Do not bind your MS together.
9. Clean envelope, short sharp synopsis and cover letter.

5 thoughts on “MANUSCRIPT LAYOUT

  1. Thank you. Great info.

    I'm editing my ms now (on the last 50 pages) so this is very timely. I had almost forgotten about the title page!


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