How to Format Children's Books
Publishing a book for children is a viable project, but you must know how to format the manuscript before you send it to a publisher. There is different formatting for picture books and chapter books that you must research and use.You may also send your manuscripts to print-on-demand companies to have the book published outside of conventional book publishing outlets. Be aware, however, that each print-on-demand company may have its own specifications for book formatting.
Fomatting Chapter Books
Proofread your manuscript for spelling and grammatical errors. A publisher will not look at and accept your manuscript for publication if there are grammatical and spelling mistakes. Use the spell-check and the grammar checker in your word processing program to help you spot these errors. Be aware that not all software programs, such as OpenOffice Writer, have robust and useful grammar checking functions. Hire, if you can afford the cost, a professional editor or proofreader to check your manuscript for errors. As an alternative to a professional editor, ask a friend or colleague who has experience with proofreading to vet your document.
Use a readable font, such as 12-point Times Roman font or Dark Courier. Do not use a fancy font like a handwriting font or italics and bold for emphasis. The story, not the font, should highlight the drama of the narrative.
Justify manuscript paragraphs to the left of the document with 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, left and right. Double-space paragraphs with indents and do not create spaces between paragraphs. A double-spaced manuscript makes it easy for the acquisition editor or literary agent to read your manuscript. Add page numbers to the top of the manuscript so the reader can maintain the document order if he or she drops the pages. Add the story title and your name to each page so the editor or agent can identify the pages of your manuscript.
Put your name and return address of on the manuscript in the upper right-hand corner on the first page. Use the header function in your word-processing software to accomplish this task.
Print the first three chapters of the story on plain white paper. Some editors ask for the entire document, but the majority will decide whether to publish your book or not from a sample of your writing. Print on only one side of the paper. Do not staple the papers together, but use a clip.
Formatting Picture Books
Proofread your manuscript for spelling and grammatical errors. You have fewer words in a picture books, but standards of book formatting still apply to books for younger children.
Use a readable font for the text, such as Courier New, in the manuscript.
Type your manuscript as a regular short story. Do not break up the text in the manner you think the editor should place your words. The editor will decide the text flow of the picture book in relation to the illustrations. Do not indicate page breaks or double-page spread layout form.
Do not send illustrations that you create to the editor or literary agent unless you are doing a picture book without words. Publishing companies hire illustrators for this task, and unless you are a professional artist or you are working with a professional artist, the results will not impress an editor. Do not tell the editor what illustrations you want for the text. Illustrations are the role of the designer and illustrator.
Anne Cagle has been writing ever since she was a toddler who could scribble with crayons. Her first published article, at age 12, was in a teachers' newsletter. She was published in "Optical Prism" magazine and has worked as a reviewer for the Webby Awards. She holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon.