The Proper Format – Tips and Tricks

By Jordan Thames


Congratulations! You’ve done what many people have tried and failed to do: written a book! Now comes the next step- submitting to a publisher.

Submitting your first manuscript to a publisher is an exciting, albeit nerve wracking, experience. In the midst of all the thrill it can be easy to overlook some small, but important, details that are critical to include in your initial manuscript. So, we here at Indigo River have decided to put together this handy little blog to guide you through the process.

Context is Key

Including a summary is crucial, as this is the editor’s first impression of the actual content of your book. Make sure that you highlight the key theme, main characters, and any important details that you want the editors to keep an eye out for. I know that after spending hours perfecting your story, the last thing you want to do is condense your work into a small, digestible blurb, but it is necessary. Consider this your elevator pitch.

Chapter Headings are Essential

It may seem elementary, but you would be surprised at how often chapter headings are overlooked. Without the distinction between each chapter, the manuscript just seems like one ongoing novel, each chapter flowing right into the next without any sort of context. Now, if you are submitting a children’s book, then chapter headings are not exactly necessary. However, for any sort of novel they are desperately needed.

Don’t Neglect Your Query Letter

Not familiar with a query letter? We can help with that! Check out our blog How to Write a Query Letter. Chock-full of tips and tricks, it will guide you through the process of writing a query letter regardless of if it’s your first time, or if you’re a seasoned professional.

Have Someone Proofread

Proofreading is an essential part of the editing process, and bribing a friend or family member to do a thorough read-through of the final manuscript can prove to be more useful than you think. Not only is it important to read for spelling and grammatical errors, but assessing the flow of the story as well as the overall theme of the novel can provide valuable insight. The more eyes you get on your story, the better it will be.

Read the Instructions Thoroughly

Every publishing company will have different preferences as far as format, program, and included documents. For instance, we here at Indigo prefer Microsoft Word over anything else when receiving a new submission. Visit the Submit Your Manuscript page here on our website. It contains useful information, and even a video, to guide you through the submission process as smoothly as possible.


So, there you have it! While this is not an exhaustive list of every minute detail, it will get you through an initial submission and help you make a great first impression on your (hopefully) future publisher. It may be a long road ahead but don’t get discouraged, you’ve accomplished an amazing feat! Just keep pushing through, remember the value in criticism, and hold tight to your vision.

The Proper Format – Tips and Tricks