Monday, 15 May 2017

Guest Post: Let's Talk Formatting by Marci Clark...

As an editor/designer, I see manuscripts come at me with all kinds of crazy, wonky, how-the-hell-did-you-do-that formatting. Be kind to your editor/designer, peeps. Clean up your mess a little before submitting it.

Some houses provide a style guide. Double check for any submission rules before sending your book and risking a default rejection. If the house is relaxed on their formatting, that doesn't mean you shouldn't bother cleaning up the formatting any less than you'd bother cleaning up the content.

If they don't have a style for submissions, a pretty basic format is appreciated. Centered chapter headings, .3 to .5 indent on new paragraphs, 1.5 spaced lines, all black text in a basic font/typeface (making it "pretty" won't impress your editor), and no all capped or underlined words (use italics for emphasis).
Here are a few shortcuts when it comes to cleaning up your manuscript. Note: I have a PC, so I don't know if these translate to a Mac.

Extra Spaces: We are no longer a society of the double space after ending a sentence. One space. One. But if you have a habit of adding two, no problem. There's a quick fix. Open up your find/replace option. In the find box, hit the space bar twice. In the replace box, hit the space bar once. Then select replace all. Do that until the find/replace reaches zero.

Tabs: No. Just no. Do not use the tab button when indenting. Go to the top of the document, select the page layout tab an set your indent for the document there. Sometimes hitting the tab is natural. You can fix that as well. In the find/replace option, find ^t and replace with nothing. Leave the replace box blank. Replace all. Then select all on your document and set your tab as indicated above-through the page layout option.

Spaces Before or After Paragraphs: These hidden spaces may seem innocent enough, but if you are self publishing, these extra spaces can cause the designer a lot of stress depending on which program they use to convert your document. Remove extra spaces by again using the find/replace option. Find: space bar^p, and replace with ^p. Replace all. Do the same, but with the space on the other side of the paragraph break. ^pspacebar, replace with ^p. This will give you clean returns throughout.

Soft Returns: These also are pain when formatting. Find/replace ^l with ^p.

As for the document, please, please, PLEASE do not hit the enter button multiple times to start a new chapter. Nooo!!! Use a solid page break. Ctrl+Enter will break the page and give you (and your designer) a clean start on the next chapter. The problem with hitting enter over and over is that while it may push the chapter heading to a new page on your computer screen, it doesn't always work out that way on your editor's screen. If not, your chapter headings end up in all kinds of crazy places. Just do a page break, and nobody has to wonder WTH.

There are a dozens of little things that could also be done, but this really hits the big ones. Follow these tips, and your editor/designer will love you just a little more.

Marci Clark is a freelance editor, book/cover art/promo materials designer, published author, and all around publishing nerd. She's worked for Kensington Publishing since 2014, as well as several indie houses over the years. She is proficient in self-publishing and would love to help you with all your publishing needs, including premade or custom cover art.

Reach out to her at marci.clark.editing@gmail.com if you'd like to discuss your project with her.

6 comments:

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    1. I know, right, Lisa? Cheers for stopping by!

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  2. Thanks for having me, Sharon!

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    1. You're welcome, Marci! Thanks for sharing your great advice! You rock the editing!

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  3. I didn't know about the 1.5 lines spacing. My editor didn't say a word. Do you think she wants me to change?

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    1. I think your editor reformats every single book that comes her way anyway so probably hasn't picked on you about that particular issue. Now, shall we discuss that Australian vs American English thing? Haha!

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