General Submission and Formatting Guidelines

General Submission and Formatting Guidelines

The authority on grammar and style is The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), now in its 17th edition.

By properly formatting your manuscript, you save us valuable time, which is better spent evaluating and eventually, perhaps, taking on your book.

Every publisher has a unique style and most provide formatting guidelines for the author’s benefit. They will specify what they want if they are interested in taking on the manuscript.

LLA wants to work with your story on its merits and not be distracted by unusual formatting issues that do not fit our requirements.

There can also be issues of file compatibility. In this case, LLA may send it back to you for conversion.

Not all word processing programs are equal, especially when it comes to what is needed for electronic editing and electronic typesetting. Some programs simply have too many complications, like hidden codes built into them, which is why we accept submissions ONLY on Microsoft Word docs; not in the body of the email or pdf.

Overall, LLA’s formatting requirements are relatively simple. But before you start, be safe. Make a copy and experiment with that. That way your “original” manuscript can always be retrieved should something go wrong.



If using Microsoft Word, it is already in standard format. DO NOT self-indent, just hit the ENTER key and it will indent automatically. Below are only specifics.

Font and size: Times New Roman only, 12-point font

Paragraphs: 0.5-inch indentation (or “tab”) but DO NOT use your space bar for indentation

Line spacing: Double, throughout the entire manuscript

Header set up: Please use Times New Roman font, 12-point. We do not use footers.

Header: Last name (far left), title, and page number (far right with/between)

Footer: none

Chapter Headings: bold and centered, not in caps, with chapter numbers written out. Ex:

 Chapter One

Do not underline anything.

Any desired sub-headings can be placed under the “Chapter” heading

Each chapter must begin at the top of a new page, two spaces down.

Please note: The first paragraph after any Chapter heading is set flush left, with no indentation. When ending a chapter, do not use your Enter key to advance to the next page. Instead, look for your “toolbar” option and select “Insert Manual Page Break.”

Tabs: Many writers, especially those who’ve always dealt with printed manuscript submissions, may not even realize they use tabs. If you habitually use your Tab key to indent paragraphs, you are creating tabs. If you do use tabs, then be sure to be consistent throughout your whole manuscript. Margins should be 0, .5, and 6.5.

Please do not use your space bar to indent paragraphs or to center things. To center, locate the tool bar at the top of your Word doc. Under ‘Paragraph’ lines. The first is ‘justified left,’ the middle is ‘centered,’ the next is ‘justified right,’ and the last is ‘block.’ Select the ‘center’ for labeling chapters in the center of the page.

To eliminate extra spacing in between words: CRTL A, go to REPLACE at the top right of your Word doc. In the FIND space, hit your space bar twice, then go to REPLACE WITH and hit the space bar once. Agree to the whole document.

Scene & Time (Transition) Breaks: Must be centered and look like this; three asterisks only:


The next paragraph should be flush left, with no spare line spacing either before or after them.

Please note: The first paragraph after any transition break is set flush left, with no indentation, as in this paragraph or at the beginning of a new chapter.

Prose Excerpts, Letters, Emails, Diary Entries, Poems, Dream Sequences, Etc.: Always set in the same typeface as above (Times New Roman, 12pt.), separate the material with one hard return before and one hard return after, and indent the body of the material an extra .25″ on the right and left side. Italics/bold may be used to indicate emphasis.

Excessive/over-usage of words, phrases: Take the time to go to FIND at the top right of your Word page and put in words to check for excessive usage; deleting them or substituting them with other words or phrases. Use your dictionary and thesaurus for ideas. (i.e. However, because, And, But, …, —, occurred, italics, suddenly, just, now, upon, simply, as, nevertheless, regardless, etc.)

Avoid starting sentences with And or But, having run-on sentences, and ending sentences with … or — unless someone is speaking and is cut off or his “voice” trails off.

Age is written out as one-year-old if it is used as an adjective, i.e. Taylor is a one-year-old girl. Otherwise, no hyphens.

Make sure if a comma is needed before but, i.e. He pet the cat, but the cat did not like it.    Although sometimes it is not needed, as in, i.e. She but touched the light and it came on.

Phrases like, “Yes, sir.” and “Thank you, ma’am.”) should have a comma, and sir and ma’am should only be capitalized if this is what the person is being called, as in a substitute of their name. Don’t capitalize if you are just being polite.

If in doubt, please go to for free information.

Italics: Please utilize italics when you want italics. Do not underline anything in your manuscript. Use italics for thoughts, if the thought is assumed of the person speaking, there is no need to say “he/she thought,” and for emphasized words (not in UPPERCASE, bold or underlined), i.e. That really hurt!

Em- and En-Dashes: Em-Dashes within a sentence should always appear—this way—without spaces around them. And no spaces, either, if you use them to indicate a cut-off remark like—”

Do not use any other form of dash—no [–] or [ – ] or [ — ]. Big difference between em and en-dash. This is an en-dash – and this is an em-dash —, which can be found and memorized for an F-key from SYMBOLS under INSERT on WORD.

Ellipses: An ellipsis is not just two or four periods in a row. It is three … Tip: if it has been your habit to use the Ellipsis available for insertion from your symbols menu, that’s fine, but whatever you do, please be consistent! This is mainly used for trailing thoughts and pauses in dialogue but may be used to go into a remembrance or another scene.

Spacing issues: LLA’s style is double line spacing throughout the manuscriptexcept the author’s contact information at the top left of the manuscript: Name, address, phone number(s), email, and website, if you have one, has no spacing.

Quotes within quotes: No space between the open or closed quote, as in: “‘…darn it.’” All single and double quotes go to the outside of the punctuation, except with question marks (i.e. “Stop!” or “It’s hot,” she said. ‘Pickled Peppers,’ which made him itch.)

Numbering: All numbers used in narrative, if less than one hundred, should be written out as text, except time (1:30 pm), streets/highways/interstates (I-95), as (21st  or as a date, March 6, 2013). All numbers in dialogue should be written out as text (i.e., He picked up fifteen bags.)

Page Sequence: When you send in your manuscript, the following is the required sequence of the pages:

1)    Title Page:

Top left corner, single spaced:

Author Name





Centered and at the middle of the page (Times New Roman, Bold, Italicized 16 pt.):


Word count

2)    Dedication (If applicable) with title “Dedication bold, centered.

3)    Acknowledgments (If applicable) with title “Acknowledgments” bold, centered

4)    Other Materials (such as Table of Contents [for a collection], maps, illustrations, glossary, etc. if applicable).

5)    PrefacePrologueIntroduction, etc. (if applicable) bold and centered.

6)    Chapter One through End of Book, with Chapter Headings in bold and centered. Two spaces from top of page for Chapter and then one space between Chapter and the first sentence flush left.

7)    Author Bio is mandatory as the final page of your MS, entitled:

About the Author

Your author information/bio, using normal chapter format, no more than 125 words; only pertinent literary history.

Perhaps the most important instruction we can offer you is to proof your work or have someone else who is fluent in English grammar to proof your work. Errors are not acceptable.

Computers offer a wealth of corrective measures, but consistency is vital to their use.


  • Do not use your space bar for indentation.
  • Do not insert section breaks, or text boxes, or other formatting oddities.
  • Do not use odd fonts to set something off. Use only Times New Roman 12.
  • Do not forget to review your manuscript at least one time before sending it to us. Use SpellCheck, looking for words that are underlined in red or blue.
  • Make sure all chapters start on a new page.
  • If using a Table of Contents, make sure the page numbers match those listed.
  • Do not send anything but the query in the body of the email.
  • Make sure your documents are not ‘read only.’
  • No photos or art should be embedded in the manuscript. Send any photos/attachments on jpgs.

 Checklist for submitting your work:

  • Your properly formatted manuscript (including author biography at the end) saved as file name: (Your Book’s Title) in Microsoft Word doc.
  • A one-page, single-spaced synopsis of your book, also on a Microsoft Word doc saved as file name: (Your Book’s Title)-Synopsis(beginning, middle, and end; nothing superfluous).
  • Send this material as two attachments with the query in the body of the email.

And be aware that due to the high number of submissions we receive, it may take quite some time before we are able to respond to your submission (three months +).

If this is a children’s picture book, you may have it completed with illustrations, but also have the art on jpgs as some editors the want text and art separate. Be prepared and have it both ways. Even though you may have done the illustrations/art yourself or had it done, this does not mean it will be accepted or used by the publisher.

Writing a Query

Your Name
Your Address
Your City ST ZIP

Phone number


Website – (if you have one, if not, you will need one)


Attached is the synopsis and complete manuscript for (Author’s Name), (word count)-novel (Title), depicting ______. (a twenty-five-word summary of the main point of your novel written in present tense.) The rest of the paragraph mentions the issues and theme of the book. Aim for about 50-100 words.

This paragraph lists your publication credits, if any. Then it tells about your background and why you have the expertise or experience to write this particular work. The whole letter should fit on one page. (This is not your CV or resume, but concise literary background.)


Type Your Name

(Attach as Word docs: Synopsis and full manuscript)

Writing a Synopsis



The synopsis is a one-page, single-spaced summary of your book. It is like the back cover blurb except that you don’t want to keep the agent or editor in suspense. You explain the conflicts and how they are resolved, showing how the characters change throughout the manuscript.

The synopsis is written in present tense, third person.




Getting the facts of your story into one page makes the strong points of the story clear to you as well as to editors. If there are weaknesses in the plot, they will show up in the synopsis, and you will know what to fix before you submit.

Flush left for the opening paragraph, and the first time characters are mentioned make them UPPERCASE; first time only.

Formatting a Manuscript

For the header: (no footer)

Last name at far left, Title/page number far right. Times New Roman 12 pt.

Top left:

Your Name
Your Address
Your City ST ZIP                                                                                                                        Phone number                                                                                                                            Email                                                                                                                                           Website – (if you have one; if not, you will need one)

(Midway down the page)

Title (Times New Roman 16 pt.)

??? words

(Next page; each chapter has to start on a new page with the first paragraph not indented)

Prologue or Chapter One

Each chapter should start on a new page. If there is a Table of Contents, it should be on the first page after the title page for quick reference and easier editing. Make sure page numbers match chapters. It must be double-spaced.

This is the first paragraph of the work; the hook. Grab the reader and don’t let go. If this part of your book is not the best it can be, most editors will not go any further. Make sure it flows, makes sense in the timeline, and is not confusing. Sometimes it makes sense to you because you are the writer, it’s in your head. But to others, it does not.

Polish your manuscript. Have others read it who know good grammar, punctuation, and literature. Literature teachers and college professors are great resources for proofing and reviews.

All our editorial comments are designed to positively influence your creative abilities and enhance your chances for publication.

*** For nonfiction you will need a bibliography, facts to back-up your information, permissions for lyrics, persons, or information used in the manuscript (due to litigation) and a one-page, single-spaced synopsis.

Rules for Preparing an Agent Query

Finish your manuscript. Don’t contact an agent about a manuscript that is not finished. Many, many times authors never complete the work they start. An agent can’t take on anyone who hasn’t at least one, and preferably more, completed manuscripts. Non-fiction books, on the other hand, can be sold with a strong proposal including sample chapters. Pick a unique title. Check this by going to Amazon and putting your title in the search engine. If it comes up, create a new one.

Know your book’s place in the market. These days it’s more imperative than ever that you understand where your book fits in a complicated publishing market. Is your manuscript a mystery or a thriller? A memoir or an autobiography? Make sure you know the difference.

Do your research. Find out what type of books the agent handles and make sure your manuscript fits their profile.  If they do commercial fiction—mysteries, thrillers, romance—don’t send them a children’s book.

Follow the agent’s submission requirements to the letter. Agents receive great volumes of submissions and many will reject yours out of hand if you haven’t obeyed their directions.

Use your manners. Approach the agent with a polite cover letter introducing yourself and your work. If possible, keep the cover letter to one page.

No bragging. There is no bigger turnoff to an agent than a letter that boasts the author’s work will be the next international bestseller. However, it is appropriate to compare your book’s style to that of bestselling authors.

State your credentials. Tell the agent about any credentials that directly impact your writing or your ability to market your book, especially if you’re writing non-fiction. This is not the same as bragging. For non-fiction, it is essential that you have strong credentials in the subject area you’re writing about.

Include a concise synopsis of your book. Describe your book briefly in the cover letter and include a one-page synopsis in your email submission.

Write a brief biography. Include a biography of yourself with special attention to any credentials bearing on your submission. This would contain the pertinent literary history.

Outline your marketing plan. In today’s market, every author must show how they would market their book, even when approaching an agent. That’s because this information will be critical to the acceptance of a book by a publisher.

Stifle your bitterness. It’s amazing how many authors will vent their frustration and bitterness over the difficulties of getting published to an unknown agent in a cover letter. This will assure that your submission will go directly to the trashcan, as will sarcastic asides that dig at the industry.

Be professional and flexible. Approach the agent with a high degree of professionalism, and indicate that you can be a team player and are willing to work with editors on the content of your manuscript.

What will make your submission package stand out? As much as possible, tailor it to the agent you are approaching, and present it in a neat, professional manner. If you have art that is relevant and eye-catching, use that on the cover of your package.


Cover Art that Sets the Mood Cover design creates an opportunity to evoke a mood and convey something of the book’s contents. Good design will draw a reader’s eye and hopefully encourage them to pick up the book and take a look inside. Or in the case of someone shopping on an online store, lead a reader to download a sample of the book. Never underestimate the impact a strong cover can have on your book’s sales.


Truth Can Be Stranger than Fiction Writers frequently draw on their own experiences or true events or people when writing fiction. However, real-life details are not always consistent with the fictional world that is created. When using true information in fiction, the author must take care these facts blend seamlessly with fictional elements, like a chameleon and its surrounding environment. Even if something actually happened, it may not fit in the context of your book, and may weaken the plot or characters. Measure the value of using real facts and events against their impact on the dramatic arc of the plot and themes of your novel.

Accept or except; lay, lie, laid; capital, capitol; abhorrent, aberrant; marmot, marmite Sometimes when you’re reaching for the right word, you can end up with the next, not-so-best thing. It’s always worth taking a minute to check a reference to make sure you’re using the correct term.