THIS ARTICLE APPLIES TO ALL CHILDREN’S BOOK MANUSCRIPTS – INCLUDING PICTURE BOOKS.
Here’s what I do in Microsoft Word. (If you need a visual, an example is included in the book version of my Crash Course.)
Font and Paragraphing
- 12 point font. Times New Roman. (Courier is another acceptable option – but that font hogs up the paper). Whatever you do, please don’t try to flag the attention of an editor by using splashy font. All that will do is make you look like an amateur.
- Double space your manuscript. How? – hit ctrl+A to select the body of your text, then go to the menu at the top of Word and select Format->Paragraph. A new window will pop-up. Under Line Spacing: select EXACTLY. Under At: enter “25” Click OK. This will make your line spaces just over double your font size. And there you have it.
Page 1: Header information
You will want the header of the first page of your manuscript to be different than the rest of the manuscript. To accomplish this, go to File->Page Setup. Then click on the Layout tab. Check the Different First Page box. Now go to the first page of your document and put your contact information in the HEADER.
- To get to the header, from the menu up top, click View->Header and Footer. Your header will “open” on the page.
- On the left side, enter your first and last name. Hit enter.
- Enter your street address. Hit enter.
- Enter your city, state, and zip. Hit enter.
- Enter your phone number. Hit enter.
- Then your email address. Hit enter.
On the right side, you’ll want to specify your word count. Like “Word Count~ 500”. To place this statement on the first line of your header, you’ll need to set a Right Tab.
- To do this, click on that first line after your last name so your cursor is there. Then select from the menu Format->Tab. A pop-up window will appear. Under Tab Stop Position: enter 6″. Under Alignment, click on Right. Then click the SET button in that window.
- Now hit the tab key on your keyboard and notice what happens. Your cursor will flush right.
- Enter your word count and click out of the header.
Title Your Work
Now hit Enter 10-12 times. You should be about half-way down the page. Enter your title in all caps. NO BOLDING. NO UNDERLINE. I never bother with a byline since it’s assumed from the header. Hit enter twice and begin. And please, DO NOT PUT A COPYRIGHT on there. There is no need and some say, the appearance of copyright on the manuscript will flag you as an amateur. Want to know why? Your text is automatically copyrighted as soon as you write it. So putting the symbol on your document only points out to an editor or an agent that you might not know this. If you want to know more on copyright, read this from Wikipedia.
Chapter Titles for Chaptered Books
If your book is chaptered, center the chapter title and write “CHAPTER ONE–CHAPTER TITLE” in all caps.
Then hit enter twice again. Your subsequent chapters should each begin a new page, so learn how to insert a page break. Select Insert-> Page Break. Click Page Break. Done. Eight hits to the enter key will be where you start with the chapter title. 2 Enters to start the text.
Your Story Text
Indent paragraphs. To indent, it’s as simple as hitting the Tab key on your keyboard. Please don’t hit the space bar 5 times. This is a real pain in the neck and totally unnecessary. This was the old school way of doing things before the arrival of the personal computer.
The same goes for spacing between sentences. ONE SPACE is the standard now. Two spaces is what you do on a typewriter. So with that in mind, if you ARE using a typewriter, then follow the old rules. But everything I am describing here assumes we have a computer and we’re using Word or Works.
Do not double-space (hit enter key twice) between paragraphs unless this is intentional for your story-telling.
Slug and Page Numbers
On Page 2 and every page thereafter, a slug (your last name, a slash, then keywords from the title) and a page number should appear in the header. To do this, click into the header as described before.
- Enter your SLUG in the upper left. This is LAST NAME / KEYWORDS FROM TITLE. Like LIU / JOHNNY’S DAY OFF
- Next, insert a page number by setting a right tab like we did before and clicking the # icon in the header/footer toolbar.
Now your slug and page number will appear in every page header after page one automatically.
Phew! You’re done!
For an example of what your final product might look like, see the paperback version of WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE.