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Publishing Tip: No Fancy Shit. My personal take on formatting.

Often, publishers reject stories based on formatting issues because improper formatting signals that a writer doesn’t follow direction well and will be difficult to work with. If you don’t want that, format properly!

Here is my first and most important tip. Really, it should be the ONLY tip, but I’ll expand later.

Read the submission requirements for the publisher/agent/editor you are submitting to. Then format your manuscript (poem, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels…everything) ACCORDING TO THEIR REQUIREMENTS.

Phew. My apologies for the yelling, but seriously, why would you do anything else? That’s like not putting your name on the SAT after answer all the questions right (or any of them right.)

But, you might ask, what about publishers/agents/editors don’t have guidelines? General publishing format rules are out there (and written down here, somewhere…whenever it is I stop blathering on).

The good news is that these guidelines are basic and generate an easy base to use for more specific formats.


So…here’s what I’ve got.

-Standard 8.5×11 paper or file page.

-Clean, legible, professional font (Times New Roman or Courier New not Comic Sans or something Fancy) in 12-point font.

-On that note, no funky colors. Stick with black on white.

-Create 1-inch margins on all sides. (Documents sometimes come with 1.25-inch side margins).

-Use a title page with your name, address, contact info, website if applicable, and word count.

-Use page numbers; begin these on the first page of the story, not the title page.

-Put your name and story title on every page by using a header. This means if the story gets shuffled or knocked, or mixed with another story in the editing process, your story will piece back together easily. (Anthony and I personally print stories to edit them initially. Always good to have that safety net). Examples: Xavier/GREEN GRAVES/13 or Parker “Taming Susan” pg. 211 or Smith – Behind the Green Glass Door – page 88

-Double-space the entire text. This makes it easier to read and easier to write/comment on when editing. But don’t put extra spaces between paragraphs.

-Indent a half-inch for each new paragraph. If you can set your document to do this without using tab, all the better.

-Begin chapters on new pages.

-Separate scenes with a centered indicator * or #. (I prefer ###).


Essentially, formatting is not the place to get creative; your story should have enough of that to forego the fancy borders and fun colors. If you feel the need to do these things, take another look at your story instead.

It couldn’t hurt.

Here is some of what others have to say.

What do you have to say about formatting?