Submitting a manuscript used to be easier. We all knew the format: 1 inch margins, Courier 12 pt font in WordPerfect, 25 lines per page, 5 spaces indent each paragraph. But woe upon us, computers and printers kept getting upgraded. Suddenly Courier didn’t produce dark print anymore. We had to download a font called Dark Courier to print our pages in a readable type. Some people diverged to Times New Roman, but stalwart writer that I was, I stuck with the old ways.
Then editors starting sending edits in Track Changes. We had no choice but to convert to Word. Computers got upgraded again. Now a font called New Courier produced dark enough print so that I could delete Dark Courier font from my machine. Soon printouts were no longer an issue at all. Online submissions became the norm. Instead of copying a manuscript and mailing a heavy box at the post office, we could attach a file on our computer and hit the send button. This was better, right?
Not necessarily, because now each publishing house had different formatting requirements. Witness the two houses for which I’m now writing. Let’s call them House A for my romances and House B for my mysteries. Both agree on .5 inch indent for each paragraph, em-dashes instead of hyphens or en-dashes, and one inch margins. But here’s where they differ:
House A: New Courier 12 pt.
House B: Times New Roman 12 pt.
House A: 25 lines per page
House B: Double spacing
House A: six lines down the page; capitalize first letter of each word
House B: one space down the page is blank, then the chapter heading comes on the next line. Then this is followed by another empty space before the text. Chapter heading should be bold and centered. First line of every chapter should begin flush left.
House A: No specific instructions
House B: Page number bottom center with .5 inch footer and .5 inch header. Header should have centered Author’s last nameBook Title
House A: Four asterisks centered
House B: Five asterisks centered
House A: Three periods with no spacing before, between or after.
House B: Three periods with a space before, between and after.
You get the idea? Plus the front material, meaning the title page, dedication and acknowledgements, as well as the back end info, might be different, too. You have to carefully examine the submission requirements to give your work its best chance.
The more you configure your work, the more often you’ll remember the next time. And if you’re just working with one publisher, you’ll have no problem…at least until you try to format for Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook.
How do you deal with this confusion?