Do You REALLY Know How to Format your Manuscript?

I thought I did (and may have been a little neurotic about checking every page, making sure new chapters started halfway down, and researching favored fonts.) My manuscript looks lovely on a computer screen, but thanks to a super helpful post by agent Vickie Motter it now looks great on an e-reader too!

With Vickie’s permission, I’m reposting her tips for getting your manuscript to look perfect no matter how an agent reads it. Do not ignore this! REFORMAT NOW! I spent three hours yesterday (and gave myself an awesome case of carpal tunnel) deleting tabs. You’ll see why below:
  1. Vickie prefers Times New Roman, 12 point font. I’ve checked a lot of other websites and all agree that as long as it is legible an agent isn’t going to reject your manuscript.
  2. She suggests one-inch margins all around, although she’s not positive if it actually makes a difference on an e-reader. (Anyone want to test it out and let me know?)
  3. Don’t ever use the TAB key! Tabs do not show up on e-readers. To fix this: Select all (highlighting your entire document) and then right click. Choose Paragraph. Under the Indents and Spacing Tab, go to Indentation. Set Left and Right at 0″. Set Special for First Line (this will make your paragraphs automatically indent) by .5″. (I removed 290 pages worth of tabs yesterday. I promise, if you do this now you will be grateful later!)
  4. Paragraphs should be evenly spaced. While you’re still under Paragraph, choose the Spacing Tab. Before and After should be at 0 pt. (not at Auto), and Line Spacing should be Double.
  5. New chapters should start on their own page. You can either hit Enter to move the text down, or Control+Enter.
  6. Don’t put chapter titles in a fancy font. The same font and text size are fine.
Here are a couple of tricks I learned last night to make sure that all this work pays off:
  • Selecting all the text will change your chapter headings and any hanging indents. Double check them!
  • Use View to see many pages of your manuscript at once. If you’re like me and are concerned about widow/orphans your formatting didn’t pick up (it happens), having an extra blank page between chapters, or starting the first page of new chapters at exactly the same distance from the top (like I said, neurotic), then changing the View will save you a lot of scrolling.
  • Don’t forget to top every page (except the Title Page) with a header that includes: Your Name/TITLE and the page number.
  • Test your manuscript! Load it onto an e-reader and see how it looks.
I think that covers everything! If any of you have other suggestions or questions, please leave them in the comments section. I’ll try to answer them all or at least try to find the answers!

And go visit Vickie’s blog, Navigating the Slush Pile. She posts several times each week with tips for authors, her favorite reads, and information about upcoming conferences and events.

***UPDATE: I just learned something that will eliminate all your tab searching! Hit ctrl+f (for Find and Replace) and put ^t (that’s the No. 6) and then put nothing in the Replace box. It will eliminate all of your tabs! I just replaced 624 tabs from my WIP in about five seconds!***


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