At my writer’s group, we have had a few new members come to have someone look at their manuscripts before they submit them. And the biggest question is how to format your children’s manuscript?
I remember my first time writing a picture book and sending it out, my formatting was all off. It’s one of the five major mistakes I made and I WISH someone was there to tell me what to do–then I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself. 🙈
So that you don’t look like an amateur (Like I did), 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:
There are many different places you will send your manuscript and they all have slight variances in formatting. We will focus on the final submission process to format your children’s manuscript. This can be tweaked slightly for the other types, so it’s the best way to start the formatting.
Here is the Step-by-Step Guide to Format Your Children’s Manuscript-
1. Your Contact Information
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
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
I prefer an approximate word count for my manuscripts, but you can list exact word count on picture books. If you’re writing a chapter book, middle-grade, or YA novel, I would stick to approximate word counts.
**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
Halfway down the first page of your manuscript you will want to include your title and written by. The title should be in all caps when you format your children’s manuscript but the written by can be standard lowercase.
Picking a title is always one of the hardest things for me, but there are two things I try to focus on when I write mine:
- Is it related to my story?
- Does it make the reader curious?
This will hopefully help you get passed the submission process. And if the editor wants to change it later, then that’s ok!
4. Name, Title, & Page Number in the Header
You will need to make sure to complete your header when you format your children’s manuscript. This should include your last name/title of your book and the page number aligned to the right.
**Note: You should keep this for ALL submissions except when you copy and paste your manuscript into the body of an email. It helps make sure that your pages don’t get lost whenever someone prints out your story.
5A. Illustrator Notes (Picture Books Only)
In plotting your perfect picture book, I talked about Illustrator Notes for authors that are not creating the images for their books (If you haven’t read it yet, you can do that here. It’s worth the read, especially before you submit!)
These will be aligned to the right side of the manuscript, under the line that you need the note for. Here’s 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.
- 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 or if you are using a narrator’s voice but it’s a grandpa talking to his grandson.
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.
Instead, simply list your chapter in your story. I like to spell mine out and make them bold to signal a page break, but you don’t have to. The main goal is to keep consistency for them all. So if you spell your numbers out, they all should be and the same with bolding the letters.
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.
Some industry standards to note:
- Use Romans 12pt font, and double-space your manuscript
- Follow each person’s SPECIFIC guidelines before submitting
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