Manuscript Impressions (Part 4 ~ Novels)

While all of the advice I’ve already given about formatting your manuscript applies to novels as well as short fiction, novels do have their own special issues as well. The Big Caveat (always check and follow the publisher’s guidelines) still applies, perhaps even more so in the case of novels. Most publishers want to see your manuscript presented in a particular way. Why? Sheer volume, for one, and overworked editors, for another. A badly-formatted novel manuscript doesn’t just say “I was written by an amateur,” it also calls into question your ability to follow instructions, and your willingness to play by the rules. While this matters for short stories, novels represent a much bigger time investment for a publisher–and who wants to invest a lot of time to work with someone who can’t follow instructions and appears difficult to deal with right from the start?

So, we start with the same basics: Courier/New or Times New Roman font, size 12, typed/printed on one side only of white paper, double-spaced, one-inch margins all around.

Now on to the novel’s special cases:

  • Title page. Contact information goes in a block at the top left-hand corner, the same as for short stories. Word count goes to the right, or centered at the very bottom of the page. Drop down to the middle of the page, and type your title, centered, in all capital letters. Drop two lines, and type, centered, “A Novel by”, then drop two more lines, and add your name or pen name. Down in the lower right-hand corner, you may add your agent’s contact information, if you have one (in this case, you don’t need your personal contact info at the top of the page).
  • Epigraph. As previously noted, if your novel includes an epigraph, it goes on its own page. Always include the source.
  • Table of Contents. Generally a good idea to include this, if only to let the editor know that you understand that novels have chapters. ;) Drop about a third of the way down the page, and centered, type Table of Contents or Contents. Drop four lines (although this can be less if it lets you get the entire list of chapters on one page). Include any prologue, preface, or foreward, but do not list page numbers for these elements. The chapter headings should be left-aligned, and the page numbers right-aligned. The page should be double-spaced. The ToC page itself is not numbered. List chapters like this:

    Chapter 1: The Beginning                                   1

  • Front Matter Order. Depending on what front matter you have in your novel, it goes in the following order: Title page, Contents, Dedication, Epigraph, Foreward, Preface, Acknowledgements. The only real requirements are the title page and contents.
  • Header. Your last name/Novel title/page number, right-aligned.
  • Page Numbering. Numbering starts with “1” on the first page of the actual body of the novel–that is, the first page of the Prologue (if there is one) or Chapter One. Front matter elements (cover page, epigraph, dedication, table of contents, etc.) are not numbered.
  • First page of Chapter. Always begin a chapter on a new page. Drop about one-third of the way down the page. Centered, type the chapter number (Chapter One or Chapter 1). On the line below, center and type the title of the chapter if there is one. Drop two lines and begin the body of the text.

That’s all I can think of specific to novels, but please send questions if I’ve overlooked anything. Next post–the dreaded cover letter!

Manuscript Impressions ~ The Cover Letter
Manuscript Impressions Q&A
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