Have you ever cleaned house before the house cleaner arrived? Done your hair up nicely before going to the hairdresser? Run your car through the car wash before sending it for detailing?
When we hire someone to take care of something we think we ought to have taken care of ourselves, or who we think might pass judgement on us based on the dilapidated state of our home, hair, car or whatever, we tend to make that last-minute push to make things look better.
Well, when it comes to preparing a manuscript for the book designer, you don’t need to make it look pretty. Honestly, we don’t mind that your manuscript doesn’t yet look like a book; after all, that’s our job!
There are some things you can do (and not do), however, to make your intentions clearer and your manuscript easier to navigate for both the book designer and editor. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts—tips for how to prepare a manuscript. We’re assuming that you are using Word or Google Docs to type your manuscript.
Do’s for Preparing Your Manuscript
- Use descending levels of font sizes to indicate the hierarchy of chapter titles, major headings, and subheadings, and make them bold. If appropriate, number the sections and subsections. This way, the logical flow of your manuscript will be obvious to your book designer. Your designer will understand how to format the headings appropriately. Your editor will thank you too.
- Supply the high-resolution images files separately from your manuscript file. Be sure to discuss the correct file format with your designer. Insert the file name of each image in red at the correct location in your manuscript, making your images easy for the designer to spot.
- Send your images to the editor as well, who will check illustrations, tables and other figures for typos and cross-reference terminology to your manuscript to check for consistency.
- Include the captions for your images, for example, Figure 1-1: My Figure, or Table 2-3: My Table. Check for consistency in labelling.
- Use double line-spacing and at least a 12-point font. Please: don’t get fancy with the font! A serif font (i.e., Times Roman) is preferable to a sans-serif font such as Helvetica, as this will be an easier font for your editor to read.
- Bold or italicize words that you want the designer to highlight. Be consistent yet stingy with highlighted words; your editor might have something to say if you emphasize too many words.
- Press Enter once only at the end of a paragraph. Indicate a new paragraph by using the indent function; don’t use the Tab key to indent the first line.
- If you want text to appear in a sidebar or pull quote, type ***begin sidebar*** and ***end sidebar*** and your designer will take care of it.
Include a table of contents if the chapters have titles. Don’t include the page numbers as the designer will do that after layout.
Don’ts for Preparing Your Manuscript
The overarching theme of the “don’ts” is to avoid doing any unnecessary formatting that the book designer will need to unravel. With that in mind:
- Don’t add text boxes.
- Don’t try to create your preferred layout; you and your book designer will have agreed on a page layout and the book designer will replicate that layout for you.
- Don’t import your pictures into Word, or copy and paste them into the document. Supply the high-res images files separately from your manuscript file.
- Don’t press the Tab key or the space bar to indent the first line of a paragraph. Use the paragraph indentation function. (In Word, that’s in the Indents and Spacing tab of the Paragraph function.)
- Don’t create tables or columns by pressing the Tab key or the space bar to move words over and align them. Talk to your book designer beforehand about how they would like your table data supplied to them.
- Don’t press the space bar twice after the period that ends a sentence. This is a holdover from typewriters and is no longer necessary. The extra spaces just have to be deleted.
As a rule of thumb, ask your book designer and/or editor if you aren’t sure. Check with them beforehand to see if they have any of their own do’s and don’ts for preparing your manuscript.
When you are ready to discuss the next steps for your book, send an email. 1106 Design provides cover design, book design, layout and editing services for indie authors, in addition to author marketing coaching and author website design.