Manuscript Format Gaffes

Make sure your submission is dressed for success.

Once glance at the manuscript told me the author was at best a hobbyist—not serious about the craft of professional writing.

All that without reading one word of his novel.

Even if the story were great, any literary agent or acquisitions editor would begin an evaluation having already counted several strikes against it.

A quick scan revealed three deviations from the format editors expect. Together they communicated the author either didn’t know the standard or didn’t care. Neither signals a prime candidate for a professional partner.

This manuscript’s errors:

Line spacing
Manuscripts should be double-spaced, with 12-point Times New Roman type—and no extra space between paragraphs. (This author used a custom variation of single-spacing, with extra space after each paragraph.)

Hard returns
This author typed the manuscript as if he were using a typewriter—using the “Enter” key at the end of each line. Before the manuscript could be edited and typeset, each hard return—except those at the end of paragraphs—must be removed.

Editors expect at the top of each page the author’s last time and a short form of the project title (such as Jenkins/Left Behind or Warren/Purpose-driven). The author provided that, but embedded it within the text at the top of each page. But when the text is edited, what’s at the top won’t stay there. It may be pulled to the bottom of the previous page or pushed down to midpage. To keep your slugline anchored, place it what Microsoft Word calls the “header.” (Open the “Header and Footer” menu and type your slugline—using 10-point Times New Roman.)

More Format Specs
To learn more about how to dress your manuscript for success, click here.

Then editors and agents can assess your work based just on what you’ve written.

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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