How to Format a Book for Publishing

Writers often obsess about the correct way to format a manuscript before they send it to a publisher. If your publisher provides guidelines, their guidelines should supersede these instructions wherever the two are contradictory. But if your publisher does not provide guidelines, if the guidelines are incomplete or if you are self-publishing, following these instructions can help you focus on your book's content instead of its appearance.

Step 1

Set the document to 12-point text in either Times New Roman or Courier font. Set your margins to one inch on every side.

Step 2

Write your contact information on the front page, in the top-left corner: your real name (not a pen name), full address, phone number, email address and website, if you have one. In the top-right corner, include, on separate lines, the title of your book and the estimated word count rounded to the nearest thousand.

Move your cursor down to the middle of the first page and center your first chapter heading. Press "Enter" twice, and then type "by [Your Name Here]." Use the name or pen name here that you want to appear on your book. Set your text to double-spaced lines, press "Enter" twice and begin typing your manuscript.

Step 3

Indent each paragraph one-half inch, the usual default setting for any word processor. Do not separate paragraphs with a space. Do not worry about orphaned or widowed lines (these are lines that belong with a paragraph before or after them, but are left dangling at the top or bottom of a page all by themselves).

Step 4

Insert automatic page numbering at the top left of each page. In Microsoft Word, this is done by going to "Insert" on the menu bar, and then selecting either "Header," or in more recent versions of Word, "Page Number." In WordPerfect, this is done by going to "Format" on the menu bar, then to "Page," and then "Numbering." Edit the page number code by putting your last name in front of it, space-slash-space, the title of your book, space-slash-space, and then Page. It will look like this: Jones / Book Title / Page ##.

Step 5

Before leaving the Page Numbering window, look for the command to make the page number on the front page different. This page number should be at the bottom of the page, centered by itself: 1.

Step 6

Mark scene breaks with a single pound mark, left-aligned: #. Do not include extra line breaks.

Start each chapter on a fresh page. The chapter title or heading should be about a quarter of the way down the page, and insert one extra space between the title and the text.