Friday, March 21, 2008

Formatting Manuscripts for E-Publishing (Part 2)

Here is the second half of my first e-publishing topic. Yesterday's post left off with general manuscript formatting, now here are some other guidelines that have to do with your manuscript. There is some overlap with topics that will be posted later, like Submitting to a Publisher, etc.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments and check my blog next Wednesday if you want a link to a downloadable PDF of this topic.


You should create a header at the top of your manuscript to make sure the person reading your manuscript has some important information about it right at hand. These may be stripped by an e-publisher during the final formatting but serve an important purpose in the meantime.

Title and Author Name
The title of this manuscript and your name should always appear in the header. My preference is to have them in the upper left. I also recommend using a format like:

Title of Book / Maura Anderson

This serves the purpose of the reader being able to instantly associate what they are reading with the manuscript and author it comes from. No having to scroll to a cover page or rely on the filename for that information.

It also means that if it someone happens to print it out, that important information remains with every page of the printout.

Page Number
The page numbers should also appear in the header. My preference is the upper right. This is more useful for those recipients that want to print the manuscript but it doesn’t hurt.

--Cover Page
I always recommend that the first page in your document be a cover page. This page will give anyone you submit the manuscript to an instant way to have your contact information, an idea of what the story is and how long and even a short blurb at their disposal at all times. Because it’s part of the document, it travels with it so there is no need to hunt through emails to find the submission mail if they want to contact you.

Contact Information
Put all your contact information in the upper left corner of the cover page. I include different phone numbers, email, snail mail and my real name as well as my pseudonym. I recommend something like this:

Maura RealName
w/a Maura Anderson
1234 Main Street
SmallTown, USA 98765
realmsoftheraven @
(123) 456-7890 – home
(123) 456-7890 – work
(123) 456-7890 - cell

About 1/3 of the way down the cover page, center the title of your manuscript and state your pseudonym again. I recommend:

Tort & Retort
Maura Anderson

I started including this on the advice of another author and I’ve actually found it to be quite useful. Because e-publishers often send submissions to remote editors to review, the cover email doesn’t always follow them. Plus, if your story is contracted, you have a small blurb ready for the editor to look at and it may be the one they use on the house’s website.

Try to keep the blurb about 250 words which is a fairly typical short blurb length in e-publishing. Align it flush left and place it about 2/3 of the way down the page. I recommend something similar to:

Ambitious and driven patent law attorney, Gayle Osborne, has a secret. Her power suits and take-no-prisoners attitude hide a passionate nature whose only outlet is reading and reviewing erotic romance. If anyone finds out that she is “Miss Retort,” the snarky and opinionated blogger from the Hits & Misses review blog, she’ll lose everything—her reputation, her clients, her job and, worst of all, her gorgeous mentor and boss, Tyler Monroe.

Almost at the bottom of the page and flush left, clearly state the genre of your manuscript. Do not use one of the comparisons that are so popular (aka “Harry Potter meets Sex and the City”). Instead state the genre you would expect it to appear under for sale. I recommend something like:

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Word Count
Right below the genre, list the actual word count for your story. This should be excluding the cover page and should be the real word count as shown by your word processing software. I recommend something like:

Words: 18,236 (actual)

The notation of “(actual)” tells the recipients that you are using that and not one of the formula derived counts of print publishing.

When you send your manuscript as an electronic file, it’s important that the recipients can tell what it is and what it pertains to at all times. In part, this is because of the number of viruses spread via attachments but it is also more professional.

File Name
Give your manuscript’s file a descriptive, meaningful name. Avoid spaces in the filename because some systems still do not handle that well. Include both the name of the manuscript and your pseudonym. I recommend something similar to:


If your manuscript is contracted, your e-publishing house may have a naming standard they will want to use. This is only so it can be found and identified through the submissions process.

File Format
Because of differences in software as well as the ability for viruses or malware to be spread (even unintentionally) through more sophisticated file types, I recommend all files be saved and submitted as Rich Text Files (.RTF). Be sure you double-check this on the e-publisher’s website, however, because incorrect filetypes being submitted will usually result in them simply being deleted with no warning and no notice.

Send Via
This is a place where you have to check the e-publisher’s website. Some e-publishers want you to send submissions as mail attachments. Some want you to send them via a web form.

What to Send
This varies widely by the e-publisher and you really have to check. Some want only partials of your manuscript. Some want a synopsis as well. Some want the full. Follow their instructions for the best chance of a favorable outcome.


Anonymous said...

These posts are wonderfully informative and helpful! Thanks for the articles.

Maura Anderson said...

I'm glad they're helpful, Vincent!

The next one (in two weeks) will be on selecting e-publishers to target.