I’ve actually talked about this before, but it always bears updating and repeating. Formatting is the lifeblood to our tired eyes. When you send a manuscript out, it should be:
Times New Roman – 12 pt.
1 inch margins
Page numbers – Some say not to include page numbers, some say to include them. Personally I like them because I can remember where I left off if I’m reading on my computer. But to be sure, always look at the submission guidelines of those you query.
What Not to Add
Design: I know some authors like to design their manuscripts so they’re all pretty and artsy fartsy. They add cute little graphics at the beginning of their chapters or sprinkle them around the text. This is window dressing, and we don’t need it. If we sign you, we have to remove all those little cutsies, which is enough to make me mainline engine grease.
Chapter Headings/Formatting: Chapter headings are a particularly fun playground for authors. I’ve seen cases where the chapter headings are formatted with some enormous line spacing, placed halfway down the page, then added about fifteen carriage returns so only a couple paragraphs make it on the first page of each new chapter. Gah.
For us, your manuscript isn’t about pretty pretty and bling, it’s about reading or editing the manuscript. There’s no need to get fancy. In fact, we’d love it if you wouldn’t get fancy. We have interior designers who take care of that business.
Photos: It’s fine to you mention that you have photos, but please don’t include them because it blows up the size of the file. It’s not about the photos – it’s about the story. If your editor decides to use the photos, she’ll correspond with you on how she wants them sent to her.
**A quick sideline about photos – lots of authors (nonfiction) want to use photos in their stories. It’s helpful if you undestand that your editor may feel differently about them. They take up space and add pages, which every penny-pinching, hawk-nosed editor tries to keep to a minimum. If it makes sense to include them, she’ll tell you. But don’t assume they’ll be included.
Acknowledgments/Dedication: I normally ask for an these after we’ve completed the final edits and it’s time to insert all the other stuff, like a TOC and a bibliography (if there is one), and we’re getting ready to do the layout. For query purposes, it’s simply extra fluff we don’t need.
In closing, I have to admit to losing count of the many times I’ve had to reformat submissions just so I could read them. And it always makes the beagle grumble because it’s her job to reformat.
So for the love of the beagle – or some other agent’s or editor’s beagle – keep it simple and straightforward.