Formatting: Gift Wrapping Your Baby

September 26, 2007 at 10:08 am | Posted in Bria, format, writing | 8 Comments

So an agent has my first partial from my first query – talk about nerve racking! Getting it ready was painful – like salt in your eyes painful.  So today, I’m going to lay out how to layout. 

Formatting your manuscript correctly may not be a make or break deal, but it does show professionalism and preparation that everyone desires in a business partner. So, open your Word document and let’s get started with the basics. 

Step One: Margins 

·    Under ‘File’ on your tool bar, click ‘Page Setup’
·    Click the Margins tab at the top
·    Ensure that you’ve selected ‘Portrait’
·    Enter ‘1’ in the drop down boxes for Top, Bottom, Left, and Right
·    Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner 

Step Two: Font 

Personally I use ‘Courier New’ size 12. It’s easy for pages/word calculation. 

Anything you wish to be italicized in your manuscript, should actually be underlined. Do not italicize in your manuscript. 

There is a difference between hyphens and em-dashes. For an em-dash, Word will turn 2 hyphens into an em-dash  

Step Three: Page Format 

·    Under ‘Format’ on your tool bar, click ‘Paragraph’
·    Next to ‘Before’ and ‘After’ enter ‘0’ – ‘Auto’ will NOT do what you want it to.
·    In the drop-down box under ‘Space’ click ‘Exactly’
·    In the selection box next to where you just picked ‘Exactly,’ type ‘25’ – DON’T type ‘lines’ as was previously there, only ‘25’
·    At the top of the Paragraph Formatting box is the tab ‘Line and Page Breaks’ – click this
·    Ensure that all the boxes on this page are unmarked
·    Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner Step Four: The Header 
·    Under ‘View’ on your tool bar, click ‘Header and Footer’
·    When they pop open, in the Header Type: 

BOOK TITLE IN CAPS / Last name                                                        Click # in toolbar 

·    By clicking the ‘#’ on the toolbar, each page will be numbered  

Step Five: Page Set-up

Starting a Chapter Each chapter should begin 1/3 of the way down the page. This helps editors and agents calculate book length.  

REMEMBER: When submitting, check the Editor/Agent’s website, they may have specific formatting guidelines and you should always follow those when submitting to them.  

These are the basics. I hope they helped.  There are some great resources out there. Here are two: 

Remember, the work is in the writing, the formatting is the gift wrap. 

Go Write



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  1. I did not know about underlining your italicized words! In fact, I have a CP who always underlines when I think it should be italicized and now I know why. Sheesh. Where did you find that out? I imagine probably in one of those craft books I’ve yet to read, right? 😦

    Thanks, Bria!!

  2. Hey Ally!

    In the old printed days, it was difficult to tell the difference between some words when they were AND weren’t italicized. To simplify that, the formatting was to underline – and we still do it in the electronic age.
    Have a great one!

  3. great advice. these are the types of things in the whole publishing process that pile up a very daunting challenge in my mind.

  4. Thanks for the great summary and clear directions, Bria! I went and double-checked mine!

  5. Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments. Look out! I may start posting spreadsheets next and lists, man I love lists!

    Anyway, some folks (I believe e-pubs) mentioned that underlining your italics has gone away. I checked with a print editor and confirmed that most print houses still underline.

    If yours does something different, let us know!

  6. […] 10. Formatting Your Baby It caused controversy in the comments and the FlanTastic chat, but the info there was checked by two print editors so I’m standing by it. […]

  7. […] Ok, I would love to add an extra line to every page and squeeze in to that last good hook before my page deadline, but the suggestion was to ignore this impulse. While the rules don’t state each page MUST follow the 25 lines guidelines, judges can often be, I believe the term was “Old School” about it. Avoid doing anything outside the standard formatting we’ve all come to know and love. If you need to brush up on formatting a page, check out our post: Gift Wrapping Your Baby […]

  8. […] ink on paper. If you’re looking to see how to set up proper formatting, we did a post on it HERE. 4. TELLING: Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t as horrible as I expected. The opposite was […]

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