Standard Manuscript Formatting

I wrote this post late last night. When I checked it this morning, I found a few things I'd left out. They are in red.

Hi LDSP. I'm new to all of this. I was looking at some publishers' websites to find their submission guidelines because you always say how important it is to follow them. It seems that all of them are just a teeny bit different in what they ask for in formatting a manuscript. Do I need to reformat for every publisher? Also, one publisher said to submit my novel using "standard formatting." What does that mean?

Most publishers put formatting guidelines on their websites to prevent someone from sending in a 500 page manuscript, 9 pt type, single spaced, with 1/4" margins all around. Ugh! (Yes, I've gotten more than one like that.)

No, you don't have to reformat for each publisher, if you use standard formatting (unless they're just obnoxiously picky). If you use the following formatting, you should be safe with 99.9% of agents, editors and publishers.

Basic Page
  • Margin—1 to 1.5" all the way around. (I prefer 1.5"—more space if I need to write notes.)
  • Font—Courier or Times; 10 or 12 pt type. I prefer Courier, or another serifed, monospace, easy to read type because it's easier for me to read (although I have peers who prefer Times). I also prefer a 12 pt type for the same reason.
  • Line Spacing—Double-space. Absolutely necessary so the reader doesn't go blind.
  • Left justify the text.
  • Paragraph Indent—First line, 5 pt or 1/4". I prefer set tabs, not auto-indent. My typesetters always cuss me when I send them an auto-indent mss because when they convert it to their typesetting software, it deletes the indents and sometimes it's hard to tell where new paragraphs begin.
  • Header—In the top right hand corner, on one line of text, put your last name followed by first initial/TITLE (all caps)/Page #; right justified. For example:

    Publisher, L./MY BEST SELLER/1

    This information on every mss page is very important because we often get pages out of order, and sometimes mixed with other mss.
  • Do not print on the backs of the pages, one-sided only.

Cover Page
  • Use same margins and font as other pages. No header on cover page.
  • Contact Information—Your name (your real legal name, not a pen name), full mailing address, phone number (with area code) and e-mail address in the top left corner. Single-spaced; left-justified. For example:

    LDS Publisher
    123 My Street
    My Town, ST 00000

  • Title—Centered, about the middle of the page, or just above. One double-spaced line beneath.
  • by—Centered below title; one double-spaced line beneath.
  • Name—(or pen name) centered below "by"; one double-spaced line beneath.
  • Word Count—centered below your name; one double-spaced line beneath.

First Page
  • Header—in top right hand corner. Start on page 1. (Do not count the cover page.)
  • Chapter Title—Hit return/enter two times (no more than six times), using double-spaced lines. Center title on page. Do not use all caps, or bold, or bigger font sizes. If your chapters don't have titles, type: Chapter 1 or Chapter One.
  • Mss Text—hit return/enter two times using double-spaced lines. Start your story.
  • Scene Breaks—If you feel you need to insert an indication of a scene break, hit return/enter two times, type ###, center it, hit return/enter two more times, go on with your story.
  • New Chapters—Start each new chapter on a fresh page, using the same Chapter Title formatting as above.
Picture books and screenplays have their own special formatting.


Th. said...


Followup question on standard fonts:

Now that MSWord's default is no longer Times New Roman, I'm expecting that Cambria and Calibri will start appearing in MSs --- not because people are sneaky but because we're so used to just sticking with the default.

Do you see this changing? Because frankly, those fonts are much more attractive than the old standbys anyway.

(How long did it take Times to become an acceptable substitute for Courier? And was that Microsoft's doing as well?)

Sue said...

I'm curious... Do you think LDS publishers will eventually convert to electronic submissions / equeries? In order to save trees and all of that jazz? It's becoming increasingly common in the non-LDS publishing world, but it sounds like LDS publishers are resisting.

LDS_Publisher said...

As long as the font is EASY TO READ, most publishers/editors are not going to throw a fit and reject your mss based on font choice alone.

However, we're used to estimating final page count based on Courier. If your font is smaller, larger, thinner, etc., it makes that more difficult. (We also use word count to estimate final page count, but that requires some math.)

L.T. Elliot said...

Thank you for this. It is VERY helpful.

Th. said...


If, as Sue suggests, we switched to esubmissions, we wouldn't need to count words at all. The machine would do it for us and much more precisely.

Just sayin'.

Noble M Standing said...

Both Wido and Valor have e-submissions. Just check the sub guidelines.

Personally I like Arial both to read and to write in. I hardly see new courier anymore in books. Everything is in Times which I have no problem reading.

Just a thought.

onelowerlight said...

What is the difference between auto-indent and the other indent style you mentioned? Does it mean that you prefer the writer to manually hit tab before every paragraph? It's going to be a pain to reformat 650 manuscript pages for that, but oh well...

Haley Hatch Freeman said...

Great infor for manuscript formatting. This is the first time I've heard to add a word count, interesting.