When submitting to traditional publishers or literary agents, presenting your manuscript professionally is extremely important. Attention to proper formatting will help your submission stand out from the tens of thousands of other submissions that are poorly formatted. Proper formatting not only makes your work more professional, it shows an editor or agent that you know something about this industry and have taken the energy to invest seriously in your work. Proper formatting will instantly put your manuscript ahead of the crowd’s.
Picture Book Formatting Checklist
- 12pt Times New Roman, black, regular. (I know ZERO editors who prefer Courier! It is not easy on the eyes when you have to read all day. TNR is universally acceptable.) NO FANCY FONTS. I repeat, no fancy fonts and NO COMIC SANS!
- Place your contact details on the upper left of first page:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Your website/blog if you have one (and if it is relevant to being a writer)
- Place the word count at upper right. E.g. Word Count: 570. Round the word count up or down to the nearest ten for picture books.
- Leave 2-3 inches, or 6-8 cm, between your details and the title. This is space for editors or agents to make hand-written notes, if they desire.
- Center the title. I like to use a slightly larger font size (14-16).
- Place your byline centered below the title in 12 pt. TNR.
- You do not need a cover page for picture books; just leave a two or three lines and start the text below the byline.
- Double-space the main text of your story.
- Your page should have 1-inch margins all round. This is Word’s default setting.
- Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5.
- Left align paragraphs, ragged right
- No lines between paragraphs
- Only one space between sentences, not two
- Place a header on any subsequent pages with your last name and title on upper left, page number on upper right.
- Follow any other submission guidelines of the publisher you’re targeting.
- Do not include a copyright: a registered copyright is a headache for publishers/agents. A copyright symbol is considered amateurish and unnecessary by traditional publishers and literary agents.
If you use Word, here’s how your paragraph settings should look in the story part of the manuscript. If you set them first, you won’t have to adjust things manually as you go.
And here is how a properly formatted two-page picture book manuscript would look:
That’s it. Now your work looks professional. Good luck, and don’t mind the rejection letters! Keep learning, keep writing, and keep seeking to be ever more professional.
MARLO GARNER writes, illustrates, and edits children’s books and teaches writing and revision workshops.