If you’re new to the submitting process you might be racking your brain right about now on how to properly format your fiction manuscript.
No doubt you’ve done a quick Google search and found a few examples or read a few books that talked about it and found that they all have slightly different things to say.
That’s because the proper way to format your fiction manuscript is really up to who you are submitting it to.
However, there is a basic guideline to follow so that in case you’re favorite publisher doesn’t post specific guidelines your MS won’t look like a big pile of ….
Overall Manuscript Basics
Font: 12 point Times New Roman
Font Color: Black
Margins: 1 in – 1.5in on all sides
Contact Information: Top left corner, single spaced and left justified. Include the following information:
- Your full name (not your pen name)
- Your Address
- Your Phone Number
- Your Email address
Title: Centered 1/3 – ½ the way down the page in all CAPS.
Example: DESTINY BE DAMNED
Author: Centered 1 double-spaced line below the title (If you use a pen name, use it here)
Example: by Darla G. Denton
Word Count: Centered 1 double-spaced line below your name or top right hand corner of the page.
Example: 70,000 words
Header: Located at either the top left or right of every page except the title page. Include the following:
- Your Last Name
- The Book Title
- Page Number
Example: Denton /Destiny Be Damned / 200
⇒ Tip: Pages are numbered continuously with page 1 being the first page AFTER the title page.
Chapter Titles: Each chapter is started on a new page and put in the center about 1/3 – ½ of the way down from the top and written in all CAPS
Example: CHAPTER 1
Line Spacing: Double-spaced throughout the whole document
Paragraphs: Indent the 1st word of every paragraph 1/2 in. (0.5″).
⇒ Tip: Use the format paragraph feature on your word processor and don’t insert extra lines between paragraphs.
1st Paragraph: Begin 4-6 lines below the chapter title
Space After Punctuation: 1 space.
Dialogue: Start a new paragraph every time you change speakers
The End: Double-space and center the word “End” after the the last sentence of your story.
Click on the following to see picture examples of a proper cover page and MS format.
MS Word is the most common way to submit a document to a publisher; .doc or .rtf files will work. However, you need to clarify with the submission guidelines on what type of file they can read.
Now that we’ve tackled the basic guidelines for formatting your MS let’s dive into word counts and page lengths.
For the purpose of this article I will be referring to guidelines for Romance and it’s sub genres.
Before we get into the numbers lets talk about why page lengths and word counts matter.
It’s all about the money.
It costs money to print a book. Therefore publishing houses have a guideline of how many words or page lengths they will accept from an unpublished writer vs seasoned author.
The amount of books you’ve had published + the amount of readers you have to buy your books =
the amount of page and shelf space publishers are willing to risk.
Books with a higher page and word count cost more to produce meaning more copies will need to be sold to see a decent profit.
When you are starting out it is very wise to stick to the word and page count guidelines set by the publisher you are looking to pursue.
Below is a list of genres and sub genres with estimated word counts :
- Short Contemporary Romance: 40,000 – 70,000 words
- Long Contemporary Series Romance: 70,000 + words
- Contemporary Single Title Romance: 70,000 + words
- Short Historical Romance: 40,000 – 95,000 words
- Long Historical Romance: 95,000 + words
- Regency Romance: 40,000 – 85,000 words
- Inspirational Romance: 40,000 + words
- Paranormal Romance: 40,000 + words
- Romantic Suspense / Gothic Romance: 40,000 + words
- Young Adult Romance: 25,000 + words
- New Adult Romance – 60,000 – 85,000 words
For more information and specific details regarding each genre check out the following:
The industry standard is 250 words per page.
Below is a list of general page lengths for romance:
- Short Contemporary Romance: 160 – 280 pages
- Long Contemporary Romance: 280 + pages
- Contemporary Single Title Romance: 280 + Pages
- Short Historical Romance: 160 – 380 pages
- Long Historical Romance: 380 + pages
- Regency Romance: 160 – 340 pages
- Inspirational Romance: 160 + pages
- Paranormal Romance: 160 + pages
- Romantic Suspense / Gothic Romance: 160 + pages
- Young Adult Romance: 100 + pages
- New Adult Romance: 240 – 340 pages
Surprise! We aren’t done. I decided to add a bonus part to this article that I’m sure you will appreciate.
Below are links with extensive lists of publishers that handle romance. Listed along side the publishers names are links to their submission guidelines. Enjoy!
Wednesday @ 9 am “What Are The Most Popular Genres in Romance and How Do They Compare?”
Friday @ 9 am “Does Your Outward Appearance Really Make A Difference?“
- Do you format your first draft or wait till you’re ready to submit it?
- Have you had a publishing house or agent ask for something different?
- Do you have a formatting tip to share?