How to Format a Picture Book Manuscript 

If you’ve ever wanted to submit your manuscript to an editor or publisher, you’ve probably wondered how to format a picture book manuscript. In this blog, you’ll discover how to format a picture book manuscript according to ML Publishing’s preferences and some basic rules of thumb for formatting. However, each publisher has their own preferences, so be sure to do your research and review any submission guidelines/requirements before sending your story out.

How to Format a Picture Book Manuscript

Submission & Formatting Requirements

  1. Include an MLA-style Header
  2. Include a Title
  3. Basic Document Formatting
  4. Things NOT To Do

Extra Touches

Must-Haves for Every Picture Book Manuscript Submission

An MLA-Style Header

When prepping your picture book manuscript for submission, you’ll want to immediately provide key information about the document. You can do this in the form of an MLA-style header. 

This header should include your…

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Manuscript title
  • Date of submission
  • Word Count

Your header should also be in Times New Roman font, size 12 (12pt).

It should be left-justified, meaning that the text begins on the left margin. Each piece of information should be in its own line with separation spacing of 1-1.15. 

Here’s what it should look like:

A Title

In the example above you will also see the manuscript title. It should be 1-2 lines down from the header, centre justified, and may be 1-2 pt sizes bigger than the rest of the text if you desire. Many first-time authors tend to underline, bold, italicize, or significantly enlarge their titles when prepping a picture book manuscript — this is unnecessary. Oftentimes, simple is best.

Proper Document Formatting

Now that your header and title have been added to the document, it’s time to adjust your paragraph settings so that the bulk of your picture book manuscript adheres to the proper formatting requirements.

Your main body of text must use…

  • Times New Roman, 12pt

  • Default margins (1 inch all around)

  • Double spacing

  • Indentation of 1.27cm / 0.5 inches at the start of each paragraph

To make these adjustments, open your word processing program’s paragraph settings:

Then, make sure your document has the following specifications:

Finally, press “OK” to apply the new settings.

Things NOT To Do

Of course, there are some things that you must NOT do when prepping a picture book manuscript for submission.

Please do NOT…

  • Include any photos, images, GIFs, videos, etc. — Your manuscript should stand on its own two feet without the assistance of visuals

  • Add tables, extra columns, unusual spacing, etc. — This makes the manuscript difficult to read and understand. Plain text in standard formatting is always best.

  • Use any font other than Times New Roman — NO Comic Sans, NO script, etc. I’ve seen authors use different fonts to identify different speakers, but your characters’ speech should be marked by dialogue tags and a unique sense of voice. You should not use fonts to distinguish speakers, narrators, etc.

  • Incorporate colours — Keep all text the default colour (“automatic”). Do NOT make some text green, red, blue, etc. This makes the manuscript difficult to read

  • Add a cover page — it only takes up space and adds scrolling

  • Include copyright claims — Your creative work is copyrighted on its own, making the copyright claims redundant. You can read more about copyright and creative works HERE

Once you’ve formatted your manuscript according to the above instructions, it should look a little something like this:

I’ve mentioned that here at ML Publishing, I accept manuscripts for my paid publishing and editing services: Publishing Mastermind and the Picture Book Editing Package.

Publishing Mastermind is a 12-month mentorship program where my team and I coach aspiring authors, offer publishing services such as editing, book design, print-on-demand setup, etc., and publish YOUR book by the end of our time together.

The Picture Book Editing Package is a three-phase service where you submit your manuscript to our in-house editor and receive a manuscript analysis, structural edit, and copy edit.

You can learn more about those services by clicking the buttons below 👇

Extra Touches (Optional)

In addition to the above requirements, you may choose to incorporate any of the following as you format your picture book manuscript for submission:

Spread Numbers

If you would like to keep track of where the text will land within the book once it’s published, you may decide to include spread numbers.

NOTE: A “spread” is a double page in a picture book. Think about the pages you would see if the book was open and spread across your desk.

Should you decide to include these, they should be left justified without any indents. These should also be in Times New Roman, 12pt font. They will end up looking like the following:

Author Last Name & Document Page Numbers in Heading

Some companies require authors to include their last name and document page numbers in the top-right corner of the manuscript from the second page until the very last. You may do this if you choose, but it is not required at ML Publishing.

To do this in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  1. Click “Insert” in the toolbar

  2. Select “Page Number” > “Top of Page” > “Plain Number 3”

  3. Make sure “Different First Page” is checked off

4. To the left of the page number (“2”) that has now been added to your document, type your last name

5. Highlight all of the header text (“LastName 2”)

6. In the toolbar, click “Home”

7. Adjust the text settings so that the header text is Times New Roman, 12pt font

8. Double-click anywhere in the grey space beside the document to exit out of “Header & Footer” mode

Questions & Notes for the Publisher

Should you have any questions, concerns, or notes for the publisher, do NOT include these in your picture book manuscript. Instead, list these in your email to the publisher to ensure they are seen and do not distract from the story itself.

And that’s everything! If you would like to see what your manuscript would look like inside a physical book, do not try to adjust the formatting within your manuscript document. Instead, download my FREE Picture Book Template and copy & paste your manuscript materials into the guide.

Want to submit your book to my company? Check out these services we offer:

Publishing Mastermind is a 12-month mentorship program where my team and I coach aspiring authors, offer publishing services such as editing, book design, print-on-demand setup, etc., and publish YOUR book by the end of our time together.

The Picture Book Editing Package is a three-phase service where you submit your manuscript to our in-house editor and receive a manuscript analysis, structural edit, and copy edit.

You can learn more about those services by clicking the buttons below 👇

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