How to Format Your Manuscript

Formatting Your Manuscript

When you publish your book with Black Lotus Books, we’ll sell and distribute your book in digital and paperback form. Formatting a manuscript for eBook conversion is simple enough. When your reader downloads your eBook, the text size, type, and spacing will in most cases be reformatted for their device and screen size. But when your book goes to print, additional considerations need to be taken to ensure your text and pages look polished, and are formatted for the best reading experience.

Why Formatting Matters

Poorly formatted books can make your eBook and paperback difficult to read. There are many factors that improve readability, such as font type and size, and letter and line spacing. These factors are called typeface or typesetting. Some fonts are easier to read on a computer screen or electronic device, while others look better in print. There are other factors that must be considered, such as the quality of the printer we use, and the paper color and type.

It’s a lot for any self-publisher to consider; often times, these factors are overlooked by indie authors. When you publish your taboo book with Black Lotus Books, we take all of these factors into consideration for you.

Do What You Can

To best ensure your book can be edited, formatted, and sent to print in a timely manner, we ask that you format your manuscript to the following simple specifications.

This will ensure that when our editors get your manuscript in hand, they’ll be excited to read your story. The better your book, the easier it will be for us to sell. The better your book sells, the more money you’ll make. It’s a win-win situation, so it’s worth your time to format your manuscript as best as you can before submitting it.

Don’t Let Formatting Issues Deter You from Submitting Your Manuscript

Formatting a manuscript can be tricky business. Depending on the word processor you use, you may have a harder time than most. If you do have trouble, please let us us know!

We’d rather get a poorly formatted manuscript with a great story, than nothing at all. We want to help you get your creation out into the world, and we’re willing to do a bit of manual labor to make that possible.

Microsoft Word Documents Preferred

When you submit your manuscript for publication, we would prefer you send a Microsoft Word document (.DOC, .DOCX). We can take a .PDF as well.

If for some reason you only have a .MOBI or .EPUB file, we can accept it. However, we will have to convert it back to a MS Word or PDF file before it can be edited. If your manuscript is long, we may have to return it to you so that you can make the necessary formatting changes outlined below, after which, you can resubmit it.

Download Our Template

If you already have Microsoft Word installed, you can download our Template. The page size, margins, page numbers, font type and size, as well as chapter headings, are already in place. When starting a new chapter, you need only copy and paste the chapter title onto the new page.

Starting a New Story Couldn’t Be Easier

If you’re starting a new story, using the template will streamline the writing process and save you countless hours since you don’t have to go back and re-format your book.

Copying Your Current Story Into the Template

If your manuscript has already been written, you can copy and paste your manuscript onto the template. However, while the page size and margins should all remain correct, your text may need to be reformatted. Should that happen, following our basic formatting guidelines will get you back on track.

Of course, you don’t have to use our template at all. You can simply apply our Basic Formatting Requirements to your current manuscript.

How to Format Your Manuscript - Free Manuscript Template
Download our Manuscript Template. It's pre-formatted with the correct page size, margins, fonts, and chapter headings. Best of all, it's free! If you have any trouble with the download, contact us. We can email it to you directly.

You can also create heading styles and paragraph styles, which you can easily apply to portions of your manuscript you need to fix.

In some newer versions of Microsoft Word, you may find that when you copy and paste the title to the new page, the 76pt spacing above the title disappears. If this happens, feel free to add a blank space above the title, and set it to 72pt.

How to Format Your Manuscript - Title Spacing Probelm in MS Word
If your version of word removes the Before spacing on your chapter titles, simply as a space above the title, and set the font size to 72pt.

Basic Manuscript Formatting

The following is a list of our basic formatting requirements. If you’re unsure how to achieve these settings, we’ll explain in detail below. If you have any trouble formatting your manuscript, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here for authors and we’re happy to help you in any way we can!

Basic Manuscript Formatting

  • Page Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″ / 140 mm x 216 mm
  • Page Margins: Mirrored Margins; Top and Bottom .75″, Inside and Outside .5″, Gutter .3″
  • Chapter Headings: Font – Times New Roman, 26pt; Before Spacing – 76pt; After Spacing – 36pt. Chapter Titles should be centered with no indent.
  • Body Text: Font – Times New Roman, 10pt. Body text should be justified.
  • Indents: First line of chapters and new sections should NOT be indented. Regular paragraph indents should be set to .25″.
  • Line and Paragraph Spacing: Single Line. Do not put spaces between paragraphs unless there is a clear break in the story. For short breaks, use one line. For large changes in scene or shifts in perspective, use three lines.
  • Avoid Orphaned Words and Sentences (Recommended): While it’s not a requirement for submitting your manuscript for review, before your book goes to print, your editors will ensure your words and paragraphs fit neatly on the page. If you really want to impress your editors, check your manuscript for orphaned words, sentences, and paragraphs (see the description below).

Page Size

While US Trade size paperbacks are more popular (6” x 9”/152 mm x 229 mm) romance and erotica books tend to be shorter in length than most novels. Fewer words on larger pages can result in a very thin, unappealing paperback book. Conversely, slightly smaller books with more pages are more attractive to prospective readers. For these reasons, we prefer to print paperback books in Digest size (5.5” x 8.5”/140 mm x 216 mm).

Depending on the length and subject matter of your book, we may decide to print your paperback books as a different size. However, in most cases, we’ll be printing digest size paperback.

When formatting your manuscript, please set your page size to 5.5” x 8.5”.

If you’re using Microsoft Word, you can:

  1. Select the Layout tab, and choose Size under Page Setup.
  2. If the digest size isn’t automatically available to you, simply select More Paper Sizes at the bottom of the list.
  3. Select the Paper Tab. Choose Custom Size under the Paper Size. Change the Width to 5.5″, and the Height to 8.5″.
  4. Select OK.
How to Format Your Manuscript - Page Size Step 1
Step 1: Go to Layout and select Size.
How to Format Your Manuscript - Page Size Step 2
Step 2: Select More Paper Sizes
How to Format Your Manuscript - Page Size Step 3
Step 3: Choose the Paper Tab. Select Custom Size. Make the Width 5.5", and the Height 8.5". Select OK

Page Margins

Your margins should be set to .75” at the Top, .75” at the Bottom, and .5” on the Inside and Outside. Your Gutter should be set to .3” Your margins should Mirrored.

To do this manually, simply:

  1. Select the Layout tab.
  2. Under the Margins option, choose Custom Margins. This will bring up the Page Setup window.
  3. Select the Margins tab.
  4. Set the Top and Bottom Margins to .75″. Set the Inside and Outside to .5″. Set the Gutter to .3″.
  5. Under the Pages option on the same tab, where it says Multiple Pages, select Mirror Margins.
  6. Hit OK.
How to Format Your Manuscript Page Margins
Step 1: On the Layout tab, select Margins. Your margins should be Mirrored, with the Top and Bottom set to .75", and the Inside and Outside set to .5". If not, select Custom Margins.
How to Format Your Manuscript Page Margins
On Page Setup, select the Margins tab. Your margins should be set to .75" on the Top and Bottom, and .5" on the Inside and Outside. Be sure the Gutter is set to .3" Your Pages should be set to Mirror Margins

Chapter Title

Your chapter titles should be set to Times New Roman, 26pt, Black, and be centered. Make sure your chapter titles are not intended. You should have the spacing before your title set to 72pt, and the spacing below the title set to 36pt.

Creating a Heading Style (Optional)

Using Microsoft Word, you can easily create a Style based on these formatting settings. To do so, simply:

  1. Select your chapter title.
  2. Right click on the highlighted title.
  3. Select Styles.
  4. Choose Create a Style.
  5. On the Create New Style form Formatting window, name your chapter heading style.
  6. Select Modify.
  7. On the Create New Style from Formatting window, name your new style. Try to make it something memorable so you can easily find it from the drop-down list later.
  8. On the option for Style Based On, choose Chapter Title Heading 1. This will ensure that all of chapter titles will be set as H1 Headings; something which will ultimately be necessary when converting your manuscript to eBook, as your table of contents will be based on these.
  9. On the same window, ensure your Formatting is set to Times New Roman, 26pt, Bold, Centered.
  10. On the bottom of the same window, select the Format option.
  11. On the drop-down menu, select Paragraph.
  12. On the Paragraph window, choose the Indents and Spacing tab.
  13. Under General, make the Alignment Centered, and the Outline Level 1
  14. Under Indentation, make the Left and Right Indentation 0″.
  15. Under Special, select None.
  16. Under Spacing, make the Before spacing 72pt, and the After spacing 36pt.
  17. Under Line Spacing, select Single.
  18. The check-mark box “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style” should be unchecked.
  19. Click OK.
How to Format Your Manuscript - Creating a Chapter Heading Style
1. Select the chapter title. Right click on the highlighted space, and choose Style.
How to Format Your Manuscript - Creating a Chapter Heading Style
2. Choose Create a Style from the dropdown list.
How to Format Your Manuscript - Creating a Chapter Heading Style
3. Name your new style, and select Modify.

Why the Title Spacing Matters

While this might seem like a chore to format correctly, this very specific title font and spacing will ensure the lines on all of your pages are symmetrical.

On some versions of Microsoft Word, you can view your pages with gridlines, by going to the View tab, and checking the Gridlines tab.

Of course, when we finalize your typesetting prior to print, we will change your titles and fonts to give your book the best look and feel.

Body Text

Your body text should be set Times New Roman, 10pt, black, justified.

If you want to create a paragraph style based on these settings, you can do so by following the same steps listed under Creating a Heading Style. But instead of choosing Heading 1, simply create a Paragraph style.

Indents

Your normal paragraph indents should be set to .25″. To do this, simply:

  1. Select your paragraph text.
  2. Right click on the highlighted portion and select Paragraph.
  3. On the Paragraph window, select the Indents and Spacing tab.
  4. Under General, set the Alignment to Justified.
  5. Under the Indentation, set the Left and right to 0″
  6. Under Special, set it to First Line, By .25″.
  7. Under Spacing, Set the Before and After spacing to 0pt.
  8. Under Line Spacing, choose Single Line.
  9. Select OK.
How to Format Your Manuscript Indents and Spacing Settings Paragraphs and Indents

These settings will apply to all of your highlighted text. You may need to go back through your text and check that the first paragraph of each chapter or of each new section is not indented.

To remove the indent on the first line of the chapters and sections, simply select the first line of text, right click and select Paragraph, then set the Special Indentation to None.

When you start a new chapter, or a new section, do not indent the first line of a paragraph.

When you begin a new paragraph, simply hit enter. Do not hit TAB.

Line and Paragraph Spacing

While its true many editors prefer you double-space your lines in your manuscript, when you submit your manuscript to Black Lotus Books, please use single line spacing. We can easily change your document to double-spacing for editing purposes on our end. Your lines should be single spaced. Set your line spacing to Single.

Do not ad spaces between normal paragraphs. The only time you should use a space between paragraphs is if there is a scene change. If there is a larger change in scene or a shift in perspective, you can use three spaces, with the second space containing three asterisks.

How to Format Your Manuscript Indents and Spacing Settings Paragraphs and Indents
How to Format your Manuscript Indents

Avoid Orphans (Recommended)

Now that your manuscript is properly formatted, you’ll want to go back through your story and look for orphaned words, orphaned sentenced, and orphaned paragraphs. Orphans break up the flow of your story. They can distract the reader. To a professional eye, they are a tell-tale sign of a self-published author. You want to avoid them whenever you can, and rest-assured, when our editors are formatting your manuscript, we’ll be asking you to correct them where we find them. Fixing orphans is simple, so long as you know what to look for.

Orphaned Words

Orphaned words occur when the last line of a paragraph contains fewer than three words. This does not apply to short lines of dialogue. However, if the dialogue occupies more than one line of text, you’ll want to ensure the last line of the dialogue has more than two words.

Orphaned Sentences

Orphaned sentences occur when the last line on the page is the first sentence of a new paragraph. You’ll want to ensure that the last paragraph on your page has at least two lines in it. The same applies to the first few lines on a new page.

Orphaned Paragraphs

Orphaned paragraphs occur when the last page of your chapter includes a remnant of a paragraph. You’ll want at least one full paragraph on the last page of your chapter.

If at all possible, try to ensure that at least 25% of the last page of your chapter has content. You may need to go back through your chapter and more text. If you feel doing so would disrupt your story, try removing some content.

Fixing Orphans Is Easy

Scanning your document and removing orphans is an excellent opportunity for you to clean up your writing. Perhaps your sentences are too wordy. Perhaps you could use simpler language. Maybe you could add more descriptions; a bit of backstory, perhaps?

Text highlighted in red are examples of orphaned words and sentences. Avoid orphans at all costs. Use fixing them as an excuse to clean up your writing.

Submitting Your Manuscript for Publication

After you’ve formatted your manuscript, run it through a spell-checker one last time. After that, submit your manuscript by emailing it to: [email protected].

Please be sure to include the following information in your email:

  • Book Title
  • The Series and Volume (if applicable)
  • Your Author or Pen Name (You are legally allowed to enter into contracts and sign documents under a pseudonym)
  • Approximate Number of Words
  • Book’s Taboo Genre: Taboo Romance, Taboo Erotica, or Dark Fantasy (Taboo Fantasy)
  • Sub-Categories or Description Tags (Include as many as possible)

You don’t need to include a title page, or any ‘frontmatter’, or ‘backmatter’. If you have a book cover you would like to use, please sent it along with any other pertinent information you’d like us to have.

We look forward to reading your manuscript!

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