How to Format Your Children’s Manuscript Like an Expert
Take the first step to writing your children’s book story. Download the free children’s book template here to help you get started.
You’ve seen what a children’s book looks like as a real book, but what does it look like as a manuscript? This is an essential question to answer before you EVER submit your story to a publishing house, agent, or professional for critique. So how should you format your children’s book manuscript?
Like most new authors, I had my formatting ALL wrong and it definitely led to some early rejection letters. This is why I’m going to help you avoid making those same mistakes. Below, I’ve created an easy, step-by-step guide to help you format your children’s manuscript. All you have to provide is your amazing story!
How to Format Your Children’s Manuscript Like an Expert:
Depending how new you are to the writing world, you may not know what a children’s book manuscript looks like. (Let alone how to format it.) This is why I’ve created an easy-to-follow guide for you to set up your document.
In order to get started, you’ll need to open up a new Microsoft or Google Document. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re going to create together. 👇
When you set up your document, make sure you’re using a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial size 12, double-spaced. You’ll also want to have standard 1-inch margins, which should be the auto-setting for your document if you haven’t changed anything.
Once you have that, you’ll want to add the information needed in order to get your story set up like the one in the image.
Here is the Step-by-Step Guide to Format Your Children’s Manuscript:
1. Your Contact Information – Added in the Upper Lefthand Corner
The first step when you start a new manuscript is to put your contact information on it. That information includes:
- First and Last Name
- Phone Number
This information goes in the upper, left-hand corner of your Word document. I prefer to keep it single-spaced to save room for my story on the page.
**Note: For email submissions and first pages, this information won’t be included. Unless you’re submitting to an agent or editor with an attachment of your manuscript.
2. Your Target Reader & Word Count – Added in the Upper Righthand Corner
In the upper, right-hand corner you should include your target reader and word count when you format your children’s manuscript–If you don’t know who your book is for
To do this, simply tab over next to your name to type your category and age range. Then tab over on the next line (where you’ve listed your address) and include your word count. This way they’re on the same line as your contact information.
You can list an exact word count or an approximate, it’s completely up to you on which you prefer. But if you’re writing a chapter book, middle-grade, or YA novel, I would stick to approximate word counts since it will round out nicer. (And if you’re writing a picture book, don’t include your illustrator notes in your word count.)
**Note: This will also be left off when you copy and paste your manuscript in the body of an email for submissions. If you keep it in, it will mess up your formatting.
3. Your Title and Written By – Located About Halfway Down the Page
Halfway down the first page of your manuscript you will want to include your title and written by. (You can find halfway by hitting the enter key about 12 times with a single-spaced document.)
Your title should be written in all caps but your byline or subtitles should use standard capitalization rules when you’re formatting your manuscript.
I know choosing a title is always one of the hardest things for me, so if you struggle with this too, here are two things to help you find a title that catches a reader’s interest:
- What’s the story plot of your story? (Either your main character’s goal or problem.)
- How can you make it intriguing as a title that will grab someone’s attention?
This will hopefully help you get past the submission process. And if the editor wants to change your title later, then that’s ok!
4. Page Number with Title/Last Name – Double-Click to Add This to the Header
You will need to make sure to complete your header when you format your children’s manuscript. This should include your title slash last name and the page number aligned to the right. (To add page numbers, go to Insert -> Page Numbers.)
You want to make sure to add this to any submission you’re sending as an attachment or printing to give to someone. This way they’ll know the order the pages go together for reference or if they were to drop them after printing.
5A. Illustrator Notes (Picture Book Manuscripts Only)
Illustrator Notes are how a non-illustrating author adds images to the text. In order to insert them into the story though, you don’t want them to stand out. So you’ll align them to the right of your story. You can also italicize them or change the color so they really blend in.
In plotting your perfect picture book, I talked about Illustrator Notes for authors that are not creating the images for their books. But here are some tips for when you should use Illustrator Notes:
- When you’re writing an illustration-heavy manuscript (IE: little to no words). These notes will need to be well-thought-out, creative, and detailed in order to intrigue an agent/editor.
- When you use words or phrases that people can’t picture, like a charging herd of Crumblezars on planet Zod. (That might need some clarification…)
- Or when you have an obscure character or introduction to the story. For instance, if your main character is Frank but he’s a dog the whole time then you’ll want to insert an illustrator note at the beginning that says “Frank’s a dog.”
5B. Chapter Breaks (For Longer Manuscripts Only)
When you want to format your children’s manuscript but have a lot of chapters, you may think you should include a table of contents. Don’t.
You only have the first few seconds to intrigue an agent or editor and don’t want to lose them by listing all of your chapters. Especially, when they won’t have any reference to the story or characters. (Save your table of contents for a separate attachment you can include with your submission if they ask for it.)
Instead of a list of all your chapters upfront, simply list your chapter in your story when it appears. I like to spell mine out and make them bold to signal a page break, but you don’t have to — you can spell out your numbers, center your chapter breaks, or even add titles. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but whatever you do, keep your formatting consistent.
Tie it all together.
Those are the main elements when you format your children’s books. Be sure to include contact info, target reader, word count, header information, and title. If you have references or an author’s note, those will be at the end of the manuscript.
And if you have any additional questions, sign-up for the Kidlit Formatting Mini-Course! This will walk you through additional information including advanced writing techniques for both picture book and chapter book writers. 😃
Also, be sure to check out these articles before you submit to make sure that your manuscript is ready to be sent:
- Target Your Perfect Reader
- Have Your Critique Group Review Your Manuscript
- How to Write a Query Letter
- How to Find the Right Agent
- How to Know the Publishing House for You
- Everything You need to Publish a Children’s Book
Yes!!! THANK YOU FOR THIS!! I was too embarrassed to ask about this, and here is a whole article on this very subject, yay!!!
YES!! I’m so happy I could help you out, Jennifer. 🙂 Better to ask than to send a story that’s not right and get rejected. 🙈 Good luck with your submissions!
Thank you for this Brooke! As a writer with completed stories, figuring out how to polish them before sending out has been a challenge. I do have a have question about paragraph breaks. Do you recommend any resources that gives insight on how to set up paragraph breaks? Like for pacing and/or offsetting dialogue? Any insight on this would be helpful. Thanks again!
You’re most welcome Ron! As for paragraphs, you’ll want to keep the paragraphs standard — you don’t need to add any extra gaps in them unless you have a lapse in time. Then you could add a few symbols to break them (like this ****). However, you don’t want to add too much space because you want the manuscript to appear like one continuous flow. Hope this helps!
4. Name, Title, & Page Number in the Header
Then your eg. directly below this reverses the order: title/name/page no.
Which order is correct?
Hi Jay – Good question! You just have to have your name & title listed before the page number on the header of your document. That way in case pages are shuffled/dropped, they know how to put them back together. The order preference is up to you — I prefer to put my book title before my name but others do it the opposite way. Hope this helps you with your set up!
Thank you for this wonderful article. This has helped me tremendously. I’m writing a picture book about 3 dogs. The dogs tell the story. How do I format this? I don’t want their names written in the actual text. Do I format it like I would a play, with their names centered above their “lines”?
Thank you so much for the help.
Great question! You actually don’t have to name them, but you’ll need some way to differentiate between the three. (If you want the reader to know they’re dogs in the manuscript, just put an illustrator note at the beginning.) You’ll only have to do a play style format if you’re writing an all dialogue story. 🙂 Hope this helps get you started. Good luck with your story!
Thank you for this! Should I start the story directly under the title or start a new page? Also, I have an illustrator. How should I add in my own illustrations?
Hi Sheri – Great question! You’ll want to start the story below the title. (I normally hit enter a couple of times to give it some space.) As for the illustrations, if you’re planning to submit the story to a publisher, you’ll want the manuscript separate. However, if you’re wanting to format for publishing, you’ll want to create the files using InDesign to lay out the text on the images. Hope this helps you out!
Hi there. I know I need an illustrator but, when I was trying my stories out on the grandchildren, I used photographs, some my own and some from bing search, to help them follow. Would these be helpful to the editor/publisher? Or should I leave them out to avoid complications or embarrassment? Cat photos btw.
Hi Linda! I love the ingenious. 🙂 Probably really helped your grandkids to visualize your story! As for your submissions though, you won’t want to submit these with your submission. They should be able to visualize things with just your words, however, if you have bits of ambiguity, you can always use a quick illustrator note. Hope this helps. Good luck with your submissions!
Follow up question based on this. I am an illustrator and I have a book idea. Should I include illustrations?
Great question, Ashley! If you are both the author and the illustrator and submitting for a traditional contract, you’ll want to follow the submission guidelines for an author/illustrator. (Normally, this has you send both the text + a couple of images but it varies per submission so be sure to review their site for what they’re looking for.)
Should I number the lines to show which ones go on which pages?
1 Once upon a time, there was a frog. The frog’s name was Floppy.
2 Floppy had a friend that was a duck. The duck’s name was Flappy.
3 Floppy and Flappy were best buddies.
Great question, Tabitha! If you’re wanting to send your story to a publisher, no. You don’t need to paginate your story. Instead, you’ll want to keep it in manuscript format. However, if you’re planning to self-publish and work with an illustrator, it’s best to paginate before sending them the manuscript so they know ideally what images should go with what sentences. Then I’d suggest have a chat together before finalizing to make sure it makes sense artistically. Hope that helps! 🙂
Hi thank you so much for this. I wanted to know when doing the manuscript you do the pages as well right? Not just everything bunched together? Like what I want on page one on its own page?
Never mind saw you had answered that above.
Yep! You’ll want to keep everything flowing together without any divisions for page breaks or chapters. 🙂 Glad I could help!
Hi my manuscript is a picture book for young readers. Do I write my name upper right including word count for every page. Must the quotes fall under every narration with breaks?
Hey! No – you only need the upper-hand info on the first page. Then just use the header for the rest of your pages. 🙂 And no – only use illustrator notes when needed. Hope this helps! Good luck with your book 🙂
Dear Brooke. I am mentally challenged. Could you send to me in the mail what a entire Children’s Manuscript looks like for a Children’s book??? Because I don’t comprehend what you are saying here at all. My head feels like a ball of 🧶Yarn. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And then let me know only the names of famous book publishers accepting new stories from new writers like me.
Thanks if you do
Hi Debbie! Happy to help you out. Check your email. 🙂
Hello Brooke, would you be able to also forward this email to me?
My email is Chelseaharabedian@gmail.com
Hi Chelsea! For sure – check your email. It should be there. Have fun getting started writing. 🙂
can I get a sample format too? thank you! About to submit and want to make sure I’ve got it all buttoned up!
Check your email Cheryl! You should’ve received something from email@example.com. (If you don’t see it in your main inbox, be sure to look in your spam folder.)
I have just found out your website and I’m so glad I did. There is so much valuable information for those interested in publishing a book! I’m trying to format my picture book manuscript and I would also really appreciate if you could send this sample to me.
My other question is: should I write a synopsis for a picture book?
Hi Mariana – Thanks for reaching out! You do not need a synopsis for picture books. Instead, you’ll send the complete book. You only need a synopsis when it’s a longer book (like a mg/ya novel) because the reader will only receive around the first 10pgs of the book.
Hi! Can you include me on this email? Thank you!!!!
Hi Jennifer – I just sent you the children’s book template. Look for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
This was so helpful! Thank you so much! Could I also be sent this sample format?
So glad it was helpful, Clea! Check your email for the children’s book template from email@example.com
Hi, Brooke! Could you please include me on this sample manuscript, too? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much! Seeing an example really helps navigate this seemingly daunting process. 😬☺️
For sure! Just sent you an email with the subject line “here’s your children’s book template”. Can’t wait to hear how it helps!
Hi Brooke, I hate to piggyback but I would love this information as well. I’m finding your posts so incredibly helpful as I start this journey! I have a couple follow up questions as well, would it be appropriate to respond in email with these?
Great! Just sent you an email with the CB template. 🙂 I’m so glad everything’s been helpful! That’s wonderful news. 🙂 As for your questions, I’d be happy to help. Feel free to either schedule a 1-on-1 exploratory session with me here: http://journeytokidlit.com/schedule-one-on-one/
Look forward to chatting with you!
I would also love to receive a copy of a sample manuscript for a children’s picture book! Thank you so much! You can send to email@example.com
Sure thing, Saunders! Check for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org in your inbox. 🙂
Can I please get a copy too? thanks!
Just sent you an email. Check your inbox! 🙂
This seems to be a popular request, but if you don’t mind I would like to be included as well. Thank you!
Sounds good! You should see an email in your inbox from email@example.com. Have fun writing your story!
Wow, Brooke! This is incredibly helpful and you laid it out so perfectly to help me visualize what needs to be included and where, too. I hate to trouble you because you’ve been so helpful as it is with this article, but would you be able to send me the manuscript sample as well? Totally understand if you can’t send it over! Either way, thanks so much!
Sure thing! Look for an email with the subject line “here’s your children’s book template”. 🙂
Could I also get a copy of what a manuscript should look like, please! 🙏💓
Thank you so much! 😁
Sent your way, Brenda! Check for firstname.lastname@example.org in your inbox. 🙂
I would love a copy, too– having a model would be so helpful! Thank you for this generous post! 🙂
Your website is my number one choice as an aspiring author! It can get a bit confusing when you look at different submission formats. There seems to be such variation between authors.
I live in Australia. An example I saw from Emma Quay for her book “Rudie Nudie” (if goggled you can view this format) is formatted with pagination and double spacing. Does formatting differ between countries and what is expected from publishers? Would it be possible to see an example of one of your stories formatted for submission. Emma’s was the only example I have been able to find anywhere!
My story is based on 24 pages/paragraphs for a 32 page picture book layout.
Thank you very much for providing all of your helpful hints!
Awe, thank you so much Lisa!! That’s so wonderful to hear. 🙂 I’m so glad it’s been valuable for you and your writing. (It’s my mission here!) Yes, you’ll always want to double-space your story, however, you don’t have to paginate it. Formatting doesn’t differ between countries, but sometimes what an agent or editor requests might be a little different. (Sometimes you paste the story, sometimes you attach it, sometimes you need a synopsis, sometimes you don’t, etc.) The key though is even though you’re writing a picture book, you want the text to flow seamlessly between pages. So a typical 300-500 word story should be able to fit on 3-4 pages. You don’t need to start a new page for either a new chapter or page in a picture book.
I also emailed you an example of a manuscript that I use sometimes when teaching. Let me know if that helps you better know what to write! Good luck with your submissions. Can’t wait to hear how they go! 🙂
Hi couldnyou please also send me a copy of the sample manuscript @email@example.com, also what about the synopsis? I want them to know the target audience and intent (mines is about a little girl with a disability aka my daughter) and also with the illustrator notes, if im flowing everything in one to 2 pages how im I detailing the notes per page?
Hi Rosalyn – just sent you an email with the children’s book template to get you started. You will only need a synopsis for longer books like MG & YA novels. In those cases, they’re one page, single-spaced. I just created a mini-course that explains everything in-depth for you to better understand formatting. Here’s a link to the course: https://journeytokidlit.podia.com/courses/kidlit-formatting-101-mini-course
Can you send me a copy of the manuscript as well.
Hi Megan! Thanks for reaching out — I just sent you an email. Look for firstname.lastname@example.org or the subject line “here’s your template”. (If you don’t see it, check your spam or promotions folder. Sometimes it gets tucked in there.) Have fun working on your story!
Thank you so much taking the time to share so much information for rookies like me. Can I ask you to send me a copy of the sample children’s book format?
Many thanks. My email id: email@example.com
You’re welcome! Glad things are helpful. 🙂 Just sent you the template — check your inbox (and sometimes your spam or promotions folder if you don’t see it!)
Hi! My manuscript is for children and I plan to do the illustrations do i include the illustrations or just illustration notes?
And if it’s a lets say 15 page book do i include all those 15 pages?
Hi! I’ve tried several times to get the template emailed to me, but it’s not showing up. I’ve searched all the ways you say to search also…even tried using 2 different emails. Is there someway other way that I can get it? I was so excited when I found this resource. Sincerely, a kindergarten teacher hoping to publish a book. 🙂
Hi Suzanne! Thanks for letting me know — I just sent you an email. Look for firstname.lastname@example.org in your inbox.
Thanks for writing this article! I want my children’s book to rhyme- is there a way to indicate stanzas in the manuscript? I know you’ve commented before there’s no need to delineate page numbers, but would rhyming be a different case? Or would I simply write in sentences? I have an image in my head for where the words would go on the pages and hope to get that across to whoever reads the manuscript.
Hi Sandra! Great question — as for breaking up the pages, you’d still keep it as a cohesive, flowing document like any picture book. However, depending on your rhyme, you might want to add a space between stanzas. (If you don’t have a stanza specific rhyme, then you could just keep it flowing like any manuscript.) An example might be:
telling a sentence
finishing sentence with the word I want to rhyme.
Telling the next sentence
finishing the sentence with the word that rhymes.
Moving on to the next stanza
And setting it up with the same pattern.
Hope this helps and makes sense! If not – feel free to email me and I’d be happy to explain it more. Have fun writing your story. 🙂
Hi Brooke! So glad to find your help! For the rhyming picture book format do I still indent after the spacing?
Thanks in advance!
Great question! For rhyming books, you’ll want to add a break between stanzas to separate the rhyme. Hope this helps!
Hello! This is the best post I’ve found for a new writer like me! I’ve written a children’s picture book and I’m trying to format my manuscript. I was hoping you could help me with adding page numbers. I have just one sentence per page, so for example after the title page and dedication page, the story will start. So would this be page 3?
Do I format…
(The first and second sentence will rhyme)
Or do I break it up into each page?
Page 2: sentence
Page 3: sentence
I hope I asked this right! And hoping you can help. Thank you!
Hi Jackie! Thank you so much 😍 That’s wonderful to hear! As for your question, I have 2 answers:
1 – If you’re planning to submit your story to a traditional publisher, you won’t need either the page numbers or the dedication, etc. for your submission. You’ll only need your story.
2 – However, if you’re wanting to type your final document for a self-published story, then you’ll want to add the page numbers for the text that applies for the page. For instance:
Page 1 – Title Page
Page 2 – Dedication: Sentence of what it says
Page 3 & 4 – First sentence of story, expected on a 2-page spread
Does that make sense? Hope it helps you get started! Let me know if you have any other questions.
WoW its amazing how explanatory this document is for a beginner like me .I was totally lost yet Im happy to know I can be satisfied as a self publisher writing my short childrens bible story! Im very excited to start this journey as an independent writer. Thank you
Happy to help! Congrats on your new book. 🙂 If you want some quick tips on self-publishing, this podcast episode has some quick tips: http://journeytokidlit.com/episode-13-before-you-self-publish/
Good luck with your upcoming books! Excited for you ❤️
Hi there! Thank you so much for this information. I just wrote my first childrens picture book and am so confused about how to format it to send out. I am very visual, and can’t seem to find a complete format example online. The image’s included in this article are very helpful, but I’m more worried I’m going to get the body wrong. Do you have a template example for a childrens book you send out? Or a website with one you would recommend? Thank you.
HI Julieanna! Awe, that’s wonderful to hear. I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂 Are you on my email list at all? I have a PB sample manuscript I send to the list. Let me know and I can get you set up.
Can I please see the children’s book template too? I think I understand what you’re saying but I’m visual ha-ha. Thank you!
Hi Reesa – For sure! Here’s the link to download the template: http://journeytokidlit.com/childrens-book-template
Should be really helpful in planning your story!
Sorry, want to clarify. Could you please send me the sample manuscript for the picture book? I am not sure if I should continue in paragraph format or break between rhymes.
Sure thing! Check your inbox for an email from email@example.com — might go into promotions or spam. Enjoy your day!
Could you also email that to me as well? Thank you so much!
I have been so excited about a book, but have had anxiety about how to format it for submission, thank you so much for posting this!Super helpful.
Oh yay!! I’m so glad it was helpful, Elizabeth! If you ever run into more questions on submissions, we also have a lot of resources for query letter writing, agents, & publishing in general. Good luck! 🙂
Thank you so much for your post. I could read through your posts all day. They are extremely helpful. I wanted to know if you could email a copy of your practice/teaching manuscript that you mentioned in a previous comment. Like the others mentioned. I haven’t been able to find one where I can figure out exactly how to space and indent etc. I am writing a picture book and I am at the step where I would like to format all that I have wrote before sending to an editor. Thank you so much, your posts are so encouraging!
Hi Lanae – I actually just did a tutorial with a screen share in the Facebook group this week, since I get this question all the time. Here’s the link to check it out: https://www.facebook.com/512580560/videos/10158656952200561/
Thank you so much, this has been extremely helpful. I have also learned a lot from reading your posts and the comments and answers! I have submitted my text-only picture book to several publishers and have had two publishers’ express interest, then not! I am hoping that more accurate and appropriate formatting of my manuscript will help me get more positive responses. One question, you state that when e-mailing the manuscript in the body of an e-mail contact information is not necessary, does that also apply when e-mailing the manuscript as an attachment?
Yay! I’m so glad it was helpful, Janice! Yes – proper fortmatting should definitely help your submissions. As for your question, if you have to send an attachment, yes. You’ll want to include the header information as laid out in the post on your document. Good luck! 🙂
Hi! This article is sooo helpful! Do you have any suggestions for what I should do in my manuscript if I have dialogue? How do I correctly space it out if characters are talking back to back? And does dialogue need to be indented if on different lines?
“Hello.” said Linda. “Hey!” said Jill.
“Hello.” said Linda.
“Hey!” said Jill.
Hi Hannah – that’s wonderful news! I’m glad it was helpful. As for your question, yes – dialogue needs to be on its own line for each person’s dialogue. And yes – if all your other sentences are indented, the dialogue also needs to be indented. Have fun with your story!
Hi Brooke, thanks so much for the helpful tips. I was wondering, I have a children’s picture book, with the illustrations already completed- how should the illustrations be formated to go along with the text of the story?
Great question Hannah! You’ll want to make sure the text is separate from the images for submission to be considered. (Formatted how this article lays it out.) Then you’ll want to include high-res jpegs of the images as per their submission guidelines for illustrators. (Normally 2-3 images.) Hope this helps!
What if you already have illustrations done by an artist?
Can I submit the cover letter and the book?
Any advice if it is a series of books? C
Do we tell them that or wait?
HI Jofia – Thanks for the questions! Here’s a link to an article I just wrote on illustrations and submissions: http://journeytokidlit.com/when-you-need-an-illustrator-for-your-childrens-book/
Hi thanks for this but please can you clarify something as I’m not clear. Do I include the illustrations in the manuscript as I go. Or should I write , for example
Pat sat on the bus
(Illustaruon number 1)
And then include all the illustrations at the back of the manuscript? Sorry, I hope that’s clear.
Thanks so much.
Hi Natalie – Great question! You won’t want to include the illustrations and should only use illustrations notes if it’s unclear what’s happening on the page. If you’re a non-illustrating author, you’ll only submit the manuscript for submission and a publisher will find an illustrator for your story later. Here’s an article I just wrote about when the illustrations come in: http://journeytokidlit.com/when-you-need-an-illustrator-for-your-childrens-book/
Hi! Thank you for this!! A big draw of my book is that my daughter is the illustrator. The illustrations are all finished. Can I add those pictures to the manuscript?? Also – we have three books that we are finished. Can I submit them together as a set? Or should I submit them separately? They are children’s books.
Hi Maria – That’s wonderful news! I’m glad this was helpful. 🙂 As for submissions, you’ll want to defer to their submission guidelines for what to submit. (If you’re submitting as the author/illustrator duo then you’ll want to follow both the author/illustrator submission guidelines.) Normally you just submit one book at a time and say this is the “first book in a proposed series”. Hope this helps. Good luck with your submissions!
This has been a very helpful article. The explanations are clear and the images fill in the gaps. I even found the comment section helpful!
I have a few questions I hope you can help with.
1) Are there steps I should take to ensure my work is not used without my permission? I plan on submitting an unsolicited manuscript (not sure this is the best approach) and want to do everything correctly.
2) When submitting a picture book, should I put extra spaces between where I would like a new page to be? Are you able to provide a more detailed sample?
Great to hear Alisha! You can always copyright your manuscript if you’d like, however, it’s not required to start submitting. As for picture books, no — you won’t want to put extra spaces in. Instead, it’ll just be one continuous manuscript. Here’s a link to the formatting mini-course that explains things in detail if you have more questions: https://journeytokidlit.podia.com/kidlit-formatting-101-mini-course
Good luck with your submissions!
Can you send me a sample of your picture book manuscript as well?
Thank you so much!
Hi Brittany! Looks like you’re on the list — let me know if you don’t see what you need. Happy writing!
This has been so helpful! Can I also have a sample of your children’s book manuscript? Thank you so much!
It’s been sent your way. Happy writing!
This was extremely helpful. Thank you so much! What if we are collaborating with an illustrator and already have illustrations? Dodo we include the illustrations on the same manuscript or do we sent them in a separate document? Thanks so much for you guidance.
This is probably a silly question. When I am writing the text, do I separate it how I would want it on different pages in the picture book? So just a small amount typed on each page? Or go ahead and type it all together?
It’s a very common question, Marlowe! You’ll put it all together and let the editor/art director decide where to put the page breaks. However, it’s always a good editing trick to see where the text might fall to see if maybe you need to make some text edits. 🙂
My 8 year old enjoys writing books. She typically does it on a blank book, so no manuscript. I was hoping to help her get it formatted to possibly send out to publishers but I have no idea where to start. Your post was very helpful. I have a question though, should we send to as many publishers as we can, or just a few? I want her to do most of the work so I will be only guiding her through the process.
Awe, I love it! Great job encouraging her to publish — such an awesome experience! I’d recommend trying a few at a time (Like 10) to see what kind of response you get. If you aren’t hearing back or you’re receiving a lot of rejection, you may need to tweak your query before sending out to another batch. If you haven’t checked out the writer on-submission toolkit, I’d highly recommend it: http://journeytokidlit.com/writer-on-submission-toolkit
It’s the best resource to better understand traditional publishing.
First and foremost, thank you for this awesome post. It has been inspiring and encouraging.
I self-published my first children’s book and am seriously considering submitting my second one to a publisher. Would it be possible for you to share with me the children’s book template? I so much appreciate it.
Thank you for all the comments above – all very helpful for me as a novice to submission of manuscripts. Can you help me further please – how do you format a rhyming story manuscript for a picture book? I understand that rhyming stories are not the most popular with publishers on account of the limitations of potential sales because the rhymes cannot be translated into other languages. It is, therefore, even more important to get this right. Do you submit in stanzas? Do you use speech marks and if so single or double? I have written for magazines before but this is my first foray into picture books for young children.
Hi Dawn – Rhyme is nice when it’s broken into stanzas. And if you’d like more information on formatting, check out the mini-course — https://journeytokidlit.podia.com/kidlit-formatting-101-mini-course
It helps explain things on a deeper level. 🙂 Hope this helps! Good luck with your submissions!
I found this so helpful, thank you! I am writing a children’s book with very few words, and am unsure of how to format the manuscript correctly. Do I combine all the sentences into one paragraph? Or would it be best to separate the sentences into different paragraphs to show the intended pages?
thank you for this very helpful article. i would love the manuscript sample to be sure i did everything correctly before submitting. thank you!
I’ve sent it your way! Check your spam or promotions folder in case you don’t see it — sometimes they go in there. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
sorry to bother. i checked my spam and all my email folders and couldn’t find your email. would you mind trying again.
thanks so much!
What if the story doesn’t make sense without the pictures? I don’t understand this concept at all. It seems like a ton of extra unneeded work. I have a completed story that is visually driven. There is zero narration, only dialogue, and I don’t use dialogue to explain anything you can easily see with your eyeballs by looking at the images. It’s almost more of a comic, tbh.
But I’m completely lost on how to pitch my story to agents or publishers. They only want manuscripts! I don’t even have a manuscript, and my story has already been made into an ebook and printed into samples. I have all positive reviews from readers of all ages, especially kids. All my friends children keep begging me for a sequel. And yet, I have no idea how to even get my story in the hands of an agent or publisher. What should I do? 🤔
If you already have the book created and printed, it might be better suited to self-publish. Publishers and agents are going to want an unfinished story to complete. However, if you’re already getting good reviews and feedback, it seems like you’re building a good audience to begin to market. 🙂
Thank you for this article! My question is, how would I write a manuscript for a baby board book/picture book that will have one word or one sentence per page? (Very short.) Would I paginate? Would I put one word on one line? Thank you in advance for any advice.
Oh, and a follow up. What is I have several books I’d like to make as part of a series. They would not be continuous stories; just similar book types about different subjects. I assume to create one manuscript for each book, but can I submit them together as a series?
Wonderful question! Even though you have lots of books, it’s important to only sell one at a time. When you go on submission, you’ll want to send your most polished one and have the query focus on that. Then, after you have a contract, you can show the rest of your stories and talk about a potential for series. But you have to start with one.
Hi Joanne – great question! You don’t have to paginate it, but it’s important to think visually and include some illustrator notes that really help people imagine with you as you’re telling your story. Hope this helps. Good luck! 🙂
is it too late for me to request a copy of the full manuscript🥴 This article was very helpful, but getting a copy of the full manuscript would be the icing on the cake for me. Thank you in advance!
Brook thanks for your time. I am the writer/illustrator and I wanted send a few illustrations along with the manuscript. How do I say that page 4 goes with a specific Illustration. Do I mark the back of the illustration with the note page 4?
I’m glad it was helpful Ernest! If you’re also sending illustrations along with the text, you’ll want to follow the illustrator submission guidelines. (Normally includes 2-3 high res jpegs and a complete dummy, but you want to make sure to check since everyone’s different.) Good luck!
Thank you for this article. However, I’m still uncertain about the manuscript format described because I’ve found other sites, seemingly also operated by writers / editors, that indicate a different format — double spaced lines and indentations for paragraphs. This format is essentially the same as an article manuscript. I’m wondering if certain publishers prefer the format you describe and other publishers prefer this other format. I’d appreciate any advice you can provide.
Hi Carla! Great question — no, those writers are correct. All manuscripts should be 12pt font, double-spaced. And you should always indent your paragraphs. However, my example is showing a picture book, which has shorter sentences. It uses the same format, but just looks different because of how sparse the text is. You should set up your manuscript the same — 12pt font, either Arial or Times, and double-spaced.
Is it best practice to align your text left or can it be centred?
Hi Melissa! Best practice is to align it to the left. 🙂
Thank you for this! Amazing website and articles. Truly a blessing for a new author/illustrator like me!
Awesome site – very helpful indeed. I just wondered if one is supposed to send the complete picture book manuscript to publishers or whether you’re just supposed to send part of it? I always thought with longer books that you only sent the first 3 or so chapters to a publisher so that no one could steal your ideas. I have no idea how much of a picture book manuscript, which would be quite short, are you supposed to send off.
Was looking for some takes regarding this topic and I found your article quite informative. It has given me a fresh perspective on the topic tackled. Thanks!
Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.
would you be able to send me a sample as well. I would appreciate it very much! Thank you.
We actually have a doc you can use to help you get started in our shop. Here’s the link to get your copy — https://shop.journeytokidlit.com/products/sample-story-manuscript
This has been so so helpful. I would also like a copy of the template/example. It would be super beneficial to see. My email is email@example.com
Hi Savana! Glad this was helpful. 🙂 You can get the sample story manuscript here — https://shop.journeytokidlit.com/products/sample-story-manuscript
Hi Brooke! Thank you for all this helpful information. I followed your formatting to write a picture book but I am a little confused as to how to format it when the 2 characters are talking to each other. If one character is asking a question, then for the response would I “enter” to start a new line, and indent it as well?
question from character 1……….
response from character 2…………
Or do I just start a new line for the response but no indentation?
Thanks for your time and help!
Happy to help:
You’ll want to start a new line for the new speaker, and indent it like you would any new paragraph. This includes the previous speaker: anytime you start a new line/paragraph, you should indent.
Hope this helps!
Did not receive the format for writing a manuscript after paying for it.
Hi Sharon! Please reach out to us directly for assistance – firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a format for a query letter l can buy?