Novels are published with single-spaced lines, but the industry standard for unpublished manuscripts is double-spaced lines. It’s vital to send a manuscript to a publisher with the correct formatting, even if this changes when the final draft goes to print.
Let’s explore the history behind the double-spaced standard for manuscripts and the single-spaced for finished novels and why formatting a book correctly before submitting your book is key to your writing success.
Why Are Manuscripts Double Spaced?
Manuscripts are double-spaced, meaning there is more room between lines. This makes it far more legible and easier to spot slight differences and mistakes editors need to fix, such as a period where a comma should be.
This is later condensed into single spacing for the final print.
It’s been hotly contested what the exact origins of this double spacing standard are. Some believe it comes from typewriter and typesetting mechanics, but ultimately it isn’t known for sure.
Others would argue that double spacing is unnecessary.
We know that it’s much easier to edit a manuscript when the lines are spaced out significantly. Even the author benefits from this, as they need to edit as finely as possible before sending their manuscript off.
How To Format a Manuscript
There are numerous stylistic instructions an author has to follow in their manuscript beyond line spacing. Remember to always consult with the publisher you are submitting to for their preferred formatting. Here is a standard guide to use unless a publisher has requested something different:
- The text should be 12pt Times New Roman unless the publisher states otherwise.
- Each page should have the author’s surname and the page number as a header.
- There should be no extra spacing between paragraphs, but there should be a ½” (1.27 cm) indentation on the first line.
- The text should be left-aligned, not justified.
- The text should be black on a white page with the most legible layout.
- Sentences should only have one space separating them.
- Margins should be 1” (2.54 cm) wide.
To develop a deeper understanding of these guidelines, take a look at author Jerry Jenkins’ discussion of these elements and where to find them in your word processing software.
Authors should expect these to change in the final version of their novel. For example, although the manuscript uses 12pt Times New Roman, the author can decide that they want to use 12pt Helvetica instead.
These considerations are only prioritized when the time comes to design the final novel when the editing is complete and approved.
Why Are Novels Single Spaced?
While manuscripts are double-spaced to allow for convenient editing, published novels are single-spaced, which is the industry standard for print novels.
This is because single-spaced lines are more natural for the eye to follow.
Children’s books often have much larger spaces between sentences because children need more help to distinguish one word, sentence, and paragraph from the next. As they develop the ability to identify and comprehend text over time, the text is condensed.
However, it’s also because the fewer lines fit on a page, the more pages the book will have, which will cost much more.
For example, a standard 9 ½” × 8” (24.13 cm x 20.32 cm) softcover book with 300 pages will cost about $21.88. But if the lines are converted to double-spaced, there will be 500 pages to print. This brings the cost up to $34.06 per book.
Printing 100 books for $21.88 is much better than printing the same amount for $34.06, especially if the added cost is totally avoidable.
This cost calculator will help to calculate the cost per unit, with or without shipping, or a finished novel, depending on trim size, page number, and binding.
Manuscript vs. Novel: What’s the Difference?
A manuscript is a draft of a novel that the author sends to their publisher, whereas the novel is the final edited work that goes to print and circulation. Both have their own formatting conventions that the author needs to follow, which can differ from one publisher to another.
Many refer to manuscripts as novels, but this isn’t entirely accurate, even though that manuscript will eventually go into print and/or circulation, depending on whether it’s a printed book or ebook.
While there are clear formatting standards in the publishing industry, not all publishers follow these exactly.
Authors must find out their publisher’s formatting guidelines before submitting their manuscripts. The editing process takes longer if they don’t, which makes the author look unprofessional.
The author doesn’t need to worry about spacing the finalized novel, or any other formatting conventions, from the offset. The publisher they work with will help them with this when it comes to printing or publishing the book online.
However, it’s still crucial for them to be well acquainted with the industry standard publication layouts.
Take note that “single-spaced line” refers to the leading of sentences in a paragraph or line spacing in Microsoft Word. Don’t confuse this with putting two spaces after the period before another sentence.
Why Proper Formatting Matters
Formatting a manuscript according to the proper guidelines is critical, as it makes the process of combing through a manuscript and editing so much easier for the editor and publisher and shows them the author’s work is to be taken seriously.
If a publisher can see that the author approached their work professionally and meticulously, they will adopt this attitude to the work as well and will be more motivated to enhance the manuscript’s quality.
Additionally, they will have more time to focus on the content of the work, as they don’t have to spend a chunk of their time fixing formatting errors.
What if an author formats a manuscript incorrectly and mistakes slip through the cracks, even after editing? Publishers receive hundreds of manuscripts every month. After all, they could miss something here or there.
Readers can pick up on even the most minor mistakes if they’re vigilant, which most avid readers are. This could potentially make a terrible impression on the reader, and they could dismiss the book as unprofessional or half-baked.
This sounds extreme, but even minor mistakes can harm an author’s reputation. If they don’t take it seriously, why should the readers?
The same principle applies to finished novels.
If the final round of edits isn’t polished and the book goes into circulation with even a few mistakes, this gives readers a more negative feeling about a novel than if it were devoid of any obvious flaws.
Just as authors need to respect the professional publishers and editors they work with, they also need to respect their readers and produce a novel that gives them a seamless reading experience.
Manuscripts and novels are the same books in different completion stages, with their own particular formatting conventions.
Manuscripts should always be double-spaced to enhance small details and smooth out the editing process. Novels should always be single-spaced for the economical use of paper when printing and for a more streamlined reading experience.