Give that Publisher What They Want Dernit! #3 Formatting part 1

I am uber stoker to be able to dig into the wild and crazy brain of someone who is out there doing this crazy publishing stuff professionally. When you read this, you’re gonna want to slap yourself silly, because this is hearing it right from someone who does this for a living. For the next few weeks, we will be delving into the slush pile with professional editor and author Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Here we go…

The Writer’s Toolbox: Give ’Em What They Want! Why Formatting Is Important By Danielle Ackley-McPhail

(Originally published in Allegory Magazine ©2011)


So far, we’ve discussed that nothing will help your manuscript if the editor in question is not even willing to read it.

We’ve discussed remembering your contact information, and some basics… How to identify yourself, and your manuscript.

Now let’s discuss the basics of formatting

Formatting #1

Some things are just industry standard and if you are serious about becoming an author you have an obligation to learn what those are. If you are submitting somewhere that for one reason or another does not have submission guidelines always assume they want the following formatting:

Font – Courier or Times New Roman, 12 point. These fonts are easy to read and clear and 12 point is generally a comfortable size for most people.

Spacing (Print) – paragraphs should be first-line indented and double spaced, with no line break in between paragraphs. Some programs have an automatic indent feature. These can cause problems in the typesetting process so, personally, I feel it is better to use a tab for your first line indent. Not sure if any publishers or editors (besides myself) express a preference on that. In either case, whichever you chose use it consistently.

It also used to be the convention to double space after a period. This hails from the days when manuscripts had to be manually typeset. It is no longer necessary in the age of computers and digital typesetting, though many still do so, simply because it was how they were originally taught.

Spacing (Online) – paragraphs should be flush left (no indent) and single spaced, with a line break between paragraphs.

Section Breaks – when a scene changes it is very important the transition is clearly marked. Some authors simply use a line space in between the scenes, others use either a number sign (#), or three asterisks (***) so that it is clear the break is intentional.

The End – Generally a good idea to close your manuscript with these words just so it is clear to the person reviewing it that nothing is missing.

Next week we’ll discuss some more advanced formatting requirements.

Be there or be square, or, ummm… rejected?

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include four urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She is also the author of a single-author collection of science fiction stories called A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers guide, The Literary Handyman and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In An Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections, including Rum and Runestones, Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, By Other Means, No Man’s Land, Space Pirates, Space Horrors, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and Mermaid 13.

She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DAckley-McPhail). To learn more about her work, visit,, or

Website and/or blog,,



Amazon author page


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19 responses to “Give that Publisher What They Want Dernit! #3 Formatting part 1

  1. Pingback: Writing Goals in 2013 « A Word or More

  2. Great advice in your post!

  3. I’ve always enjoyed writing, ‘The End’ when I get to the end. There’s something magnificently satisfying about it!

  4. Great tips again Danielle. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. Jennifer, your blog is always so helpful. And these insider tips from Danielle are wonderful. Have you thought about putting together a page for the posts in this series?

  6. Always a timely topic, and I enjoyed having a section of online submissions vs. hard copy. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks, Deby. Glad you found it useful.

      It’s a topic we should all keep aware off, no matter how long we’ve been at this, especially when editors more often look for reasons to reject slush submissions. Also important to keep up to date on any changes that might take place in the standard guidelines as preferences do change from time to time.



  7. Great post. Will add it to my bookmarks.

  8. Thank you, Tonja. I am very glad that you enjoyed the excerpt.



  9. This is a great idea for a post and nicely written! Thanks a lot 🙂