Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Not to Format Your Manuscript

So, you've finally finished your masterpiece and are ready to mail it out to every agent in the universe. But, first you have to make certain it's as beautiful and professional-looking as you can possibly make it. A knowledge of basic formatting can give your story the extra zip it needs.

Take another look at the paragraph above. Don't read the words. Just look at it. A little boring, isn't it?

How about we tweak it a little bit?

So... you've finally finished your MASTERPIECE and are ready to mail it out to every agent in the universe!!! But, first you have to make certain it's as beautiful and professional-looking as you can possibly make it. A knowledge of "basic formatting" can give your story the extra zip it needs. :)

Isn't that much more interesting? The human eye gets bored looking at things that are the same size or color for too long. Adding different font sizes, colors and formats will ensure that the people reading your story won't lose interest. Plus, it means you don't have to commit to one type of font. Serif? Sans serif? Who cares? Use them all!

Next you have to ask yourself a very important question. Is your story too long? If your story is too long, an agent won't even read it or give it the change it so richly deserves. Fortunately, you can overcome this prejudice toward long stories by lying. In your query, make up an acceptable word count much lower than your novel's actual word count. Then, through the magic of formatting, you can make your book appear much shorter.

1.) Margins. You don't need them. Erasing all margins means that your page count will wind up much lower.

2.) Font size. The obvious advice is to lower your font size. However, did you realize that some fonts take up less room than others? Times New Roman is significantly narrower than Arial. You can cheat it even further by adjusting the kerning (squeezing the letters closer together).

3.) Do not send a Word document. Word documents immediately reveal true word count. All your work could be for nothing if an agent looks down and sees the true word count. Instead, send the pages as jpgs or tiffs. No one will ever know!

Sometimes an agent will complain about characterization or world-building. They have this need to understand every element of a story. As annoying as this is, it's important to anticipate. I recommend drawing sketches based on your novel. Then, when the agent complains that they didn't understand your characters or that the world-building seemed poorly developed, you can send them a picture. Take that, agents!

^This is a picture of my main character. Pretty, isn't she?

Finally, don't underestimate the power of subliminal messaging. There are many ways you can go about this... (inserting dollar $ign$ in place of letter$, highlighting words like publish and fame, or mailing naked photos of yourself to the agent in question).

Good luck, my friends! Go out and format something!


  1. This literally made me laugh and cringe at the same time...which I guess was kind of the point! Go you!

  2. Here I go to format! And use all sorts of fonts in the process, too.

  3. Lol! I especially love the picture of your MC :D

  4. Hilarious post, though I'm a little upset that you didn't mention comic sans, which we all know is every agent's preferred font. ;-)

  5. This is simply amazing. I'm definitely going to start drawing sketches of my characters as stick-figures! :)

  6. Hahaha, hopefully everyone knows you are KIDDING! But sadly, we only learn from the mistakes of others, and others have done most or all of these things. *shakes head* Cute post. ;)

  7. Ha! Awesome! I think we should all submit manuscripts filled with pretty colors. So festive! :)

  8. OMG, can you imagine sending an agent a JPG file? It would be so hilarious and awful at the same time.

  9. Thanks so much for the tips, Sarah. Will be sure to apply 'em! ;)