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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Format a Manuscript for a Publisher

A question that probably arises more than any other on my forum is how to set out a manuscript for a publisher.

I was going to write a post about this myself, but then I discovered this excellent article by Moira Allen, the editor of, which says everything I would have said and more.

Helpfully, Moira's article covers submitting to both US and UK publishers. I also like the way she takes a sensible, straightforward approach to some issues that cause writers to agonize unnecessarily. Here she is talking about fonts and formats:
Amazingly, people get into heated discussions over what types of fonts editors prefer. Some folks claim that all editors want manuscripts in Courier (the font that looks like your typewriter font). Lately, some editors and writers have come to prefer Arial. So what do editors really want?

The truth is, most editors really don't care, as long as the font is readable. (I can state this with confidence, having done a survey of about 500 editors; 90% expressed "no preference" with regard to font.) Very few editors will reject your manuscript because it happens to be in New Century Schoolbook, Palatino, or Times Roman. Generally, it's best to use a 12-point font size, and to choose a font that doesn't "squinch" letters together too closely.

If you're thinking of submitting a book to a publisher, I strongly recommend giving Moira's article a read. She even covers electronic submissions as well!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,
Thanks for this. I've got a manuscript deadline of September 1st and I'm struggling! I need all the practical help I can get.

This article is really good. Moira has contradicted herself in one part though as she says font is unimportant but then says: "Arial is a nice, readable font -- but it is also a sans-serif font, which many editors don't like. So before you use this font, be sure your editor really, really wants it."

Then after that she says it's unimportant again.

I'm left wondering.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I agree, that piece of advice does seem a bit contradictory.

FWIW, I like Arial myself and use it most of the time. I've written and submitted over 70 books using this font, and no publisher or editor has ever complained.

The only time I've been asked to use a different font was on one occasion when my printed-out text was going to be used as camera-ready artwork. But if you're submitting electronically, I guess it takes only a moment for an editor to highlight the font and change it. In any event, it will almost certainly be changed for typesetting.

So personally, I would disregard the paragraph in question. If you prefer to use Arial, then do so. The only exception would be if the authors' guidelines say otherwise, or you have received specific instructions from the editor or publisher (e.g. in your contract). Otherwise, as Moira so memorably puts it, follow your heart.

Good luck!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Nick.

I didn't identify myself sorry.

Sue Thomason

11:11 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Sue. It's always nice to have a name to refer to rather than Anonymous!

12:29 PM  
Blogger Laura Meehan said...

While some of the no-preference comments may be true, having worked for a publisher and gained a master's in book publishing, I would urge an author to just use "boring" old Times New Roman. Some people do get really aggravated by sans serif fonts, others really hate courier (myself included, as an editor, because it can be hard on the eyes), etc. But I've never heard of anyone being irritated by receiving a double-spaced Times New Roman manuscript, electronic or hard-copy.

Best of luck to you all!
Laura Meehan
Editor and Writer

9:22 PM  

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