How “Fancy” Should Your Manuscript Be?
A reader asks:
When sending in a manuscript, how much fancy things do you do? I mean the creative font of the, “Chapter 1,” or the swirly design that is sometimes in between paragraphs to demonstrate a lot of time has passed, or its a new scene. Does the publisher just decide it all?
Agents and editors do not want “fancy” in the manuscripts submitted to them.
Unless the agent or publisher you’re submitting to has guidelines that contradict these instructions, the following conventions are worth following.
1. Font: 12-point Courier or Times (or their variations).
2. Type style: Regular, not bold or italics
3. Page format: double-spaced, one-inch margins all round.
4. Print quality: inkjet or laser; fresh cartridge
5. Alignment: flush left (never justified)
6. Special spacing: extra line to indicate scene change or passage of time; (no fancy symbols or swirlies, just the space).
NOTE: Something that drives some editors wild is the presence of extra spacing between the paragraphs of a double-spaced manuscript. Students do this frequently because they type their drafts in single space with one space between paragraphs and then change from single- to double-spaced without deleting the space between paragraphs.
7. Chapter headings: the words “Chapter One/Two/etc” can be in the same size as the text (12 point). It’s ok to make “Chapter One” a little larger than your body type, for example 14-point instead of 12-point. Begin the new chapter about seven spaces from the top of the page.
8. Italics to indicate unspoken dialog, etc: Some guides on the web will tell you to underline anything that you want to appear in italics in the printed book. I don’t see much point in that. It seems to me that a page in italic type is easier to read than a page of underlined type.
Fancy type for chapter headings and interesting symbols between scenes can wait until the book is in production.
Visit The Rejecter to read an interesting discussion of manuscript formatting.
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