How to Format Your Novel for Beta-readers and Agents

Having your novel properly formatted when sending it out to beta-readers or agents is important. Not only does it look professional, but it keeps your readers from being distracted by huge blocks of text.

If you are an indie author and planning to publish through Amazon, Smashwords etc…I HIGHLY recommend paying for a professional to format your novel. There’s a lot more to this kind of formatting and a professional will ensure your novel looks just right.

Spacing

From the moment you open your word document, go to the PAGE LAYOUT tab. Go to SPACING and in the AFTER box, change the spacing to 0pt. This will remove the large spaces between paragraphs.

You may want to also click on the PARAGRAPH tab and change your spacing to double. Agents will want it this way, but for my own use, and for beta-readers, I prefer to leave it as single.

FONT

The standard font to use is TIMES NEW ROMAN. This is the best font to use when sending to an agent. But there are other options. I prefer to use BOOK ANTIQUA, or you can use COURIER, or GARAMOND. Don’t choose fancy fonts. Stick with simple.

INDENTS

This is where people get confused.

First of all, don’t use the tab key unless you’ve reset the indent. Always indent 5 spaces. I’ve gotten into the habit of hitting the space bar 5 times. If you can reset your tab length, do that. But 5 spaces will give you the perfect indent.

Indenting the first line of a paragraph indicates a pause. It was drilled in our heads in high school and college to indent every line. DON’T do that with your manuscript.

The start of a chapter should NOT be indented, because there is no need for a pause. Check any novel on your shelf and you’ll see what I mean. This is a page from Philippa Gregory’s, Changeling. You can see there is no space at the start of the chapter.

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The next indent is up for debate. When you use an asterisks (*) or symbol within a chapter to indicate a scene break, do you need to indent? Well…yes and no. I’ve seen many novels that do indent after a scene break. But I’ve also seen many more that don’t. Technically, the indent is not needed after an asterisks or symbol because the pause is already indicated.

This page has a long, elaborate symbol, but it serves the same purpose as an asterisks. And as you can see, there is no indent.

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That’s about it for formatting.

If you want, you can also start your chapters half way down the page. Don’t forget to number your pages and if you’re querying, make sure to add your name and the title of the novel in the header.

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