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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Texas Hill Country
FAQ: Cathy C's Formatting Manuscripts for Submission - All your questions answered!
Manuscript formatting is one of the banes of existance for beginning authors. Questions about how to properly prepare a manuscript for submission to an agent or publisher are among the most frequently asked here at AW. So, your Moderators decided to take the time to write up a list of the definitions of many of the common formatting topics and how they are handled by traditional publishers. We hope this will help a lot of you (and give us a bit of respite in repeating the answers in every forum... )
Definition: Usually used for headings or to make text stand out from surrounding text, "bold" is an appearance attribute that is available in most word processing programs.
Use in industry: Bolding text is most commonly used in non-fiction and article writing for headings, hyperlinks and lists within a paragraph. Itís seldom used in fiction writing, because italics take the place of bold to bring attention to text.
Definition: A chapter break is most commonly achieved through the use of a hard page return (pressing Ctrl + Enter/Return after the final line of a chapter to start a new page, regardless of where on the page a chapter ends.) This keystroke method is the same in both Word and WordPerfect.
Use in industry: Both non-fiction and fiction books use hard returns to signal chapter breaks. It is the industry standard.
Chapter Start Point
Definition: When beginning a new chapter, the point on the page where the first word of text should begin is often a question.
Use in industry: There is much debate on where on the page to begin typing text upon starting a new book chapter. The two primary methods are: 1) Quad space (two double spaces) from the top margin, after which the words Chapter XX are center justified (and may be bolded, italicized, typed in ALL CAPITALS, or underscored), then drop down two more double spaces and begin to type; or 2) Double space until approximately 1/3 of the way down the page, center justify the words Chapter XX (and may be bolded, italicized, typed in ALL CAPITALS, or underscored, drop down two more double spaces and begin to type. It is recommended that authors seek guidelines from publishers as to how they prefer chapter start points.
Definition: Courier 12 is the NAME of a font style. The "12" does not have any bearing on the font SIZE. Because of confusion in this issue, the name of the font was changed to "Courier New" in most word processing programs. They are the same font, and the names can be used interchangeably.
Use in industry: Courier 12/Courier New is the industry standard for book manuscript preparation. Authors of both fiction and non-fiction are strongly encouraged to use Courier 12/Courier New when submitting manuscripts to agents or publishers.
Definition: Courier New is a fixed size, serif font. This means that a) each letter takes up the same amount of space, side to side, as any other letter (the letter "i" takes the same space as the letter "m" on the page.) "Serifs" are the tags at the edges of the top and bottom of the letters.
This is Courier New.
This is Arial (which is a "sans serif" font)
Use in industry: Courier New is the industry standard for book manuscript preparation. Authors of both fiction and non-fiction are strongly encouraged to use Courier New when submitting manuscripts to agents or publishers.
Definition: A cover sheet is a blank title page separate from the story/manuscript that states the author's name, full postal address, email address, word count of submission, whether the submission has been published before, and name of publication, date, etc.
Use in industry: While not often requested by American publishers or magazines, it appears to be a common guideline for submissions in the UK, Commonwealth and Australia/New Zealand. It's strongly suggested that authors seek out guidelines from foreign publishers before submitting manuscripts.
Definition: Unlike typewriters, fonts in word processors are "scalable." Most any font is available in sizes ranging from 8 point to 24 point or above.
Use in industry: The industry standard is 12 point type, which is the default setting on most word processors. Itís recommended that authors use this point size when submitting manuscripts to agents or publishers.
Definition: Formatting is the method of PRESENTATION of a manuscript. It includes the margins, font style, font size, line spacing, etc.
Use in industry: Most agencies and publishers have specific preferences as to how they want a manuscript presented. Itís good practice to seek the companyís preference by writing for guidelines or visiting their website. If the company does not list a specific preference, the following is considered "industry standard."
Chapter Breaks = Hard Page End
Font Style = Courier New
Font Size = 12 point
Headers showing title of book/name of author = Yes in print - TITLE/AUTHOR/PAGE#
Indentations at Paragraph Beginning = Yes, One tab stop/First Line Indent, equaling five spaces
Italics for emphasis = Underscore where italics would appear
Justification = Left justified (ragged right margin)
Line Spacing = Double
Margins = one inch all around
Page Numbering = Yes, bottom or top of each page
Paper Size = 8-1/2" x 11" white, single sided
Paragraph Breaks = Hard Return
Definition: A "header" is a formatting command that allows a string of text to be inserted at the top of every (or every other) page that does not appear until printed or in "print view."
Use in industry: For the purpose of submitting manuscripts in print, headers are considered industry standard. Headers should contain some combination of: Title/Author/Page #/Date. However, some companies discourage using them when sending an electronic file, since the header command might not translate to the agentís/publisherís computing platform (PC, Mac, Linux.) Since there is no specific industry standard with regard to submitting in electronic, the author should check the guidelines for the publisher.
Definition: Indentations, also known as tab stops, are used to signal a change in thought. They are most often used when changing paragraphs or adding dialogue, and are created by pressing the "Tab" button one time.
Use in industry: Tabbing once at the beginning of a new paragraph is industry standard.
Definition: Usually used to make text stand out from surrounding text, "italics" is an appearance attribute that is available in most word processing programs.
Use in industry: In non-fiction and article writing, italics are used for headings, or lists when the use of bold text is undesirable. In fiction writing, italics are used for:
a) Emphasizing text. "You want to go where?"
b) Internal dialogue (character thoughts that arenít spoken.) I shouldnít have had that last burrito
c) Telepathy in SF/Fantasy novels. When characters can speak mind to mind, italics set this off for the convenience of the reader.
The use of italics in a manuscript is tricky. When typing using the Courier font, italics are merely slanted slightly, making it difficult to see italicized words. Therefore, most publishers request that words which are INTENDED to be italicized should be underlined (underscored) instead in the manuscript. Thatís ONLY underscored, not both italicized AND underscored.
Definition: Justification is how the text appears from left to right, or where on the page they appear. There are four styles of justification:
a) Left Justified = all lines of text are even only on the left side. The right side will end where appropriate for the word length.
b) Right Justified = all lines of text are even only on the right side. The left side will begin in a ragged fashion
c) Center Justified = using the exact center between the margins as the guide, lines appear centered from left to right.
d) Full Justified = the lines of text are straight on both the left and right sides. While common in business, full justified relies on adding or subtracting microspaces between words or letters to achieve the smooth finish.
Use in industry: For the purpose of submitting manuscripts of both fiction and non-fiction, the industry standard is to use Left Justification.
Definition: When moving forward in time, to a different location, or to a different personís perspective in fiction WITHOUT ending the chapter, an line break is called for.
Use in industry: One of the most confusing issues in writing, a "line break" is also considered a scene break or POV switch. An author should either use an extra double space (the ONLY time when this is acceptable) or a single or double hash mark ("#", found above the number 3 on the keyboard), against the left margin to indicate a line break.
Definition: Computers have the ability to single or double space lines of text. Confusion often occurs about proper formatting to space manuscripts.
Use in industry: Double spacing of manuscripts is the industry standard when submitting to agencies/publishers. However, this DOES NOT apply to spacing between paragraphs. Paragraph breaks are NOT quad spaced (two double space hard returns) that would occur in single spaced text. A single hard return is placed between paragraphs, and indentation is the reader's guide to where the paragraph break occurs.
Definition: The length of a manuscript (word count) to determine what term to call a piece of fiction is often confusing to aspiring authors.
Use in industry: The industry standard for length of manuscript varies by type and genre. A good definition was provided by Jamesaritche on these boards, so Iím using his post to give general guidelines:
Short Short: Under 2,000 words
Short story: 2,000--7,500 words
Novelette (General Fiction): 7,500--15,000 words
Novelette (SF & Fantasy): 7,500--17,500 words
Novella (General Fiction): 15,000--30,000 words
Novella (SF & Fantasy): 17,500--40,000 words
Novel (General Fiction): Over 30,000 words
Novel (SF & Fantasy): Over 40,000 words
Definition: The margins of a manuscript page are the amount of space from the edge of the page, in any direction, to the closest typed letter/symbol.
Use in industry: The industry standard for margins is one inch on top, bottom, left and right. However, some publishers/agencies prefer a wider margin on the left and right so that they can easily write notes while reading. Itís good practice to seek guidelines from any company an author plans to submit to. But in the absence of other guidelines, rely on one inch margins.
Definition: Word Processing software offers the option to add a number to each page so as to easier keep track while reading. In WordPerfect, this can be found at Format > Page > Numbering. In MS Word, this can be found at Insert > Page Numbers.
Use in industry: Page numbers are recommended for submitting manuscripts. While often not required by agencies/publishers, it is preferred for ease of reading.
Definition: Different countries use standard sizes of paper to print manuscripts. In the United States, the standard size is what is known as "Letter Size" and is 8-1/2" wide by 11" long. In the UK and some other European countries, the standard size is called "A4" and is 8.3" wide by 11.7" long.
Use in industry: American publishers/agencies prefer Letter Size paper. If an author is submitting in any country other than the U.S., it is suggested that they check to see the standard size for that country.
Definition: A paragraph is a grouping of text by subject or thought flow. It can be any length. A paragraph is ended by inserting a hard return, meaning that the author physically strikes the Enter/Return key to return to the left margin.
Use in industry: A new paragraph should be inserted when switching speakers in dialogue, when changing subjects in narrative, or when a break in pattern recommends it. Itís better to have short paragraphs than long ones, for ease of reading, but care should be taken not to split a thought too abruptly. When typing single spaced text, two hard returns are used to separate the paragraphs. When typing double spaced text, a single hard return is used, to avoid large gaps on the page.
Definition: Handwritten notations made with colored pencil on a manuscript by an editor, using symbols that instruct the typesetter to add or subtract formatting or words.
Use in industry: Most publishers still use this method of editing of manuscripts, and it's a good idea for authors to learn how to read the marks so that editing goes smoothly.
Scene Breaks (same as line breaks, but sometimes named differently)
Definition: When moving forward in time, to a different location, or to a different personís perspective in fiction WITHOUT ending the chapter, an scene break is called for.
Use in industry: One of the most confusing issues in writing, a "scene break" is also considered a line break or POV switch. An author should either use an extra double space (the ONLY time when this is acceptable) or a single or double hash mark ("#", found above the number 3 on the keyboard), against the left margin to indicate a line break.
Definition: When the end of a sentence is reached, a period is inserted, after which either one or two spaces are inserted using the space bar.
Use in industry: When formatting a book for press, the spacing between sentences is reduced to a single space because the full justification of the printed page will add or subtract microspaces to achieve the proper length. However, most people learned to type/keyboard using two spaces, which is the standard for business. For the purpose of submitting a manuscript, an author may insert either one or two spaces, as they choose. However, if an agency/publisher has a preference as to a single space after periods, they will state this. Word processing software allows for global replacement of this, if necessary.
Times New Roman
Definition: This is a font style that is normally a default font when purchasing word processing programs. It is also a serif font, but is considered a "proportional" font, meaning that each letter is given a different amount of space on the page.
Use in industry: While it is a stylish font, it is quite a bit smaller than Courier New font and, therefore, harder to read for long periods. It is discouraged when submitting manuscripts, but probably wouldnít result in rejection of the work on its own.
Definition: Usually used for headings or to make text stand out from surrounding text, "underscore" is an appearance attribute that is available in most word processing programs.
Use in industry: Underscoring text is most commonly used in non-fiction and article writing for headings, and hyperlinks. Itís seldom used in fiction writing by itself, because italics take the place of underscoring to bring attention to text. However, underscoring is recommended to IDENTIFY italicized text in a manuscript when submitting.
Word Count -
Word Processor method
Definition: Most word processors have the ability to tell the author how many words have been written. In WordPerfect, you can find this by selecting File > Properties > Information. In Word, it can be found in File > Properties > Statistics.
Use in industry: The word processor word count is slowly becoming the norm in the publishing industry. However, because the word processor counts every single word, from "a" to "publishing" as one word, itís difficult for a publisher to use it to determine page count after printing. For this, a publisher often relies on the 250/page method below. Many agencies/publishers still request that an author provide the word count using the other method.
250 words per page/"White Space" method
Definition: In the origins of publishing, before computers, authors typed their manuscripts on typewriters. There were only two methods available to determine how many words were in a manuscript. Either a person at the publisher would have to manually count every single word on every page, or they would "estimate" the count using the "white space" method. "White space" is that part of a book page with no text Ė usually appearing at the end of a short line of dialogue, or the end of the last sentence of a paragraph. Since the number of dialogue lines depended greatly on the type of book, publishers discovered that if an author used a fixed font, such as Courier, and typed exactly 25 lines of text on a page, the AVERAGE number of words would be 250 per page. By requiring authors to submit the books in this manner, they would know that a 400 page manuscript would be very close to 100,000 words.
Use in industry: There are still a few select publishers that request that manuscripts be formatted for 250 words per page. However, many still use this method of counting because it is a very accurate method to determine how many PRINTED pages will be in the book. Itís a good idea for beginning authors to know the size of their manuscript by both methods until the whole industry changes to the word processor method of word count.
Random manual method
Definition: The third, but seldom used, method for determining word count is the "random manual count." Similar to the 250/page method for estimating word count, this relies on an author selecting five random pages from the manuscript and manually counting all the words on every page. This total number is then multiplied by the number of pages in the complete manuscript and divided by five (the original number of pages used) to achieve an estimated number of words in the whole ms.
Use in industry: This method is seldom used in the industry, but for authors who own a word processing program that does not offer word count or does not allow for a specific number of lines per page, it is a method for an author to give a prospective agent/publisher some idea of the length of the manuscript.
Hope these definitions help you prepare your next manuscript!
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