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How to Format your Children's Book Manuscript
Proper formatting will at least ensure the editor will know you are serious. She or he may even read it.
12 pt. Times New Roman or Courier. The easier it is to read, the better. If an editor has to pull out his/her glasses, he/she may as well use your manuscript to clean them.
Put Contact Information and Word Count in Header
Put all of your contact information and word count in the header on page one. On the second and subsequent pages, your last name followed by a dash, and the title of your story (or part of the title if it is long). Below that, your email or phone number. This is to ensure if your pages get separated, the editor knows which manuscript it belongs to. Or she/he could contact you in the case that a page goes missing.This is crucial if you are submitting a chapter book or novel. Pages can get mixed up.
Number your pages - but start that on page 2.
Start your page numbers on page 2, in the lower right corner. No page number on page 1. No need to put the word count again on any page but 1.
Title and Byline
Place your title halfway down the first page, centered. No need for a separate title page. I like to put my title in ALL CAPS and underline it, with my byline below it.
Body of the Story
Skip a line or two under the title, then start your story. Do not center your story/paragraphs. Indent the first sentence just like you would see in an article in the paper. Double space your story text.
If you are submitting a picture book, DO NOT paginate the text as you would envision it to be laid out in final book form. (though I do suggest you make a book dummy/mock-up for yourself so you can see where your page turns are) First of all, it's terrible for the trees. But mostly, the editor will be the one to decide how much text goes on each page, or where the page breaks fall. Your picture book manuscript should be anywhere between 2-6 pages (double-spaced) in length when properly formatted. If it is much longer, you should consider getting it critiqued, because chances are it may be too long. Average word length is between 100-500 words long. (this varies, of course, but if you have a 1500 word picture book, you might need to cut).
Paperclip vs. Staple
Don't staple your manuscript pages together. Use a paperclip. It is neater, and won't snag your soon-to-be editor's new, beautiful linen skirt when she sits on the subway devouring your manuscript. Personally, I use colored paperclips. All day long these editors see black font on white paper. Why not provide a tiny splash of color for their tired eyes?
If you are unable to email your manuscript to an editor, yes, you will have to mail it. Bite the bullet and buy 9x12 envelopes to fit your manuscript. Don't fold your manuscript into thirds! No padded envelopes are necessary either. It may be your gem, but really, it's just paper. Be sure to put enough postage on it. Check the publisher's policy on including a SASE (Self-addressed stamped envelope). If they want one, INCLUDE one. I sometimes also include a self-addressed stamped postcard that has a note to me: "XYZ publisher has received your manuscript". This way I know it made it there and all the editor or assistant had to do was pop that back in the mail to me.
Send it and start writing your next story
Nothing's worse than dwelling on whether or not the editor has read your work, likes it, has used it as a door stop, or is passing it around, thinking of acquiring it. The process is long and slow, so be prepared for a wait. The best thing you can do is NOT think about it. Start writing something new. Find another perfect editor match for the story you just sent and try your luck again. Keep submitting and keep writing!
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
- Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
THE organization for the industry. If you join only one, let it be this one.