How to Format a Book for Print Publication

How to Format a Book for Print Publication

Every publisher has their own guidelines for submissions. Ignore them and your manuscript won’t get past the first reader. You can make the formatting part of manuscript preparation easier by setting up most of the formatting before you begin to write. When you’re done writing, you will be ready to make minor changes for each publisher before you submit.

What follow are general guidelines for formatting your title page and manuscript. You can use this to create your own book manuscript template.

Title Page

Start with contact information and word count, in any corner. The top left is specified most often. The contact information should also include your agent, if you have one. The word count can be your word processor word count or, not so common, 250 times the number of pages. The line “Submitted for first publication” makes it clear your manuscript is not previously published.

John McJumpinjack
277 Winding Road
Upper Bug-tussle, ON, Canada, R4E 8R3
(888) 555-1111

Agent: Elmer Wu
44 Fifth Street
Castle Rock, Maine, USA 56356
(888) 555-4634

Word count: c. 120,000
Submitted for first publication.

Put the title and author in the center of the page.

The Fires Burned All Night
by John McJumpinjack

The Manuscript

The manuscript proper has a header with the first word of the title / author last name / page number right aligned. Pagination starts at 1 on the page with chapter 1. The title page does not have the header.

Fires / McJumpinjack / 1

Use double spacing throughout and either a tab or five character indent each paragraph. This is the case for both fiction and non-fiction. Never start a new paragraph with two hard returns (quad spacing). The other kinds of paragraph spacing that you see in books are done by the publisher.

Scene breaks should have either a double line space or a left aligned single or double hash mark. Some authors use a double line space with a centered symbol. Again, check on what the publisher wants before you submit.


Chapters start on a new page with the chapter heading centered a third of the way down.

The font should be non-proportional 12 point; Courier and Courier New are both good, but Courier New is the standard.

Italics are indicated with underlining, not with italic font.

The manuscript should be printed on 20 or 24 pound paper with a brightness score in the high 90s.

Despite all of the contradictory advice on how to format a book manuscript, this article has come out rather short. This is the basic information needed to set up your book template in a way that will minimize the work needed to reformat your manuscript according to a publisher’s guidelines. The hard part is writing the book.

Article by Ivan Izo.


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