I had a letter recently via my Dear Della page in Writers’ Forum from a lady who was anxious about the layout of a novel when submitting to publishers. I know there’s a wealth of information out there about writing, but sometimes the basic stuff is overlooked. And the hardest questions to ask are the ones we feel we ought to know already.
So here are some basic presentation guidelines for writers who are interested in how to present a novel to publishers.
How you lay out your manuscript can vary from publisher to publisher, for example, Mills & Boon have very specific requirements (these are laid out in detail in their guidelines). So do check if this applies to individual publishers. However, as a general rule, use the following guidelines:
- Use double line spacing and an easy to read font. Times New Roman size 12/14 is an industry standard.
- Left and right hand margins should be approximately 1inch.
- There should be a title page which should include your name and address, (phone number and e mail address optional) the title of the story and the approximate number of words.
- The title and page number should also appear on every page of the manuscript. It’s usual to put them in the header and footer. This will also prevent your pages going awry if you later alter your document.
- Each chapter should begin on a new page.
- Dialogue is indented, as are new paragraphs. There should not be a double space between paragraphs.
- A double space to indicate scene breaks is only necessary if it’s not clear there’s a scene break without one, for example if there is a time gap or a change of viewpoint.
- Text following a gap (including dialogue) is not indented.