Money-Saving Tips for Manuscript Prep

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by Jim Shubin

Dear Book Alchemist,

How can I prepare my manuscript for the next step? And what is the next step, if I’m self-publishing?

— Only Slightly Confused


Dear Only Slightly,

If you’re self-publishing, and your manuscript has already been proofread, the next step is to deliver it to your book designer or a graphic artist. A little formatting can save a lot of time—and money—at this stage. Even better: Take care of these formatting issues before your proofreader reviews the manuscript, and ask the proofreader to include them in his or her review.

  • In Word, set your paragraph style to Normal.
  • Use a hard return at the end of each paragraph. (Do not add an extra blank line at the end of a paragraph.)
  • Do not use individual spaces or the “tabs” function to indent the first line of a paragraph.
  • Use one space—not two—at the end of each sentence.
  • Use an em-dash (—) rather than one or two hyphens (- -) to amplify or set off a thought within a sentence.
  • Be sure you are using ellipses (…) consistently. There are lots of different “standards” for using ellipses… Choose a style and stick to it.

Using these six basic tips will ensure that the formatting process is efficient. (If you really want to go all-out, Smashwords has an excellent 70-page guide to formatting.)

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