Writers like to write. It’s hard to question that. But some writers really hate to format their manuscript. This is why the self-publication market is rife with badly formatted books, which makes them unreadable (and therefore unbuyable). The same applies for a number of small publishing houses which don’t invest enough in the proper presentation of their books. Thankfully this does not apply to them all.

The first port of call, however, is the initial submission of the manuscript by a writer to an agent or publisher. If it’s printed upside down in white on a white background with fifteen inch margins (I’m sure someone’s tried that, right?) then it’s likely to get thrown in the bin. Style might be a personal thing, and editors often disagree about what is ‘proper’ (the various news outlets I’ve written for all had different house styles, so much so that I had to relearn how to write for each of them), but there’s generally a set of guidelines that most publishing houses follow, and the rules usually boil down to common sense.

For example, double spacing the manuscript is not to make it look longer, it’s to give the editor room to write notes. Using the Courier font is not because Times New Roman isn’t pretty, it’s because Courier is fixed-width and therefore makes it easier to count the words (and you thought bean-counting was bad!).

There’s a really good manuscript formatting guideline at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, which can be found here. It doesn’t just give you a list of what to do – it explains why you’re doing it.

Categories: Writing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *