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How to Format a Picture Book Manuscript for Publishers



By Marlo Garner

When submitting to traditional publishers or literary agents, presenting your manuscript professionally is extremely important. Attention to proper formatting will help your submission stand out from the tens of thousands of other submissions that are less well—or downright poorly—formatted. Proper formatting not only makes your work more professional, it shows an editor or agent that you know something about this industry and have taken the energy to invest seriously in your work. Proper formatting will instantly put your manuscript ahead of the crowd’s.

Picture Book Formatting Checklist

  • 12pt Times New Roman, black, regular. (I know ZERO editors who prefer Courier! It is not easy on the eyes when you have to read all day. TNR is universally acceptable.) NO FANCY FONTS. I repeat, no fancy fonts and NO COMIC SANS!
  • Place your contact details on the upper left of first page:
    • Your name
    • Your address
    • Your phone number
    • Your email address
    • Your website/blog if you have one (and if it is relevant to being a writer)
  • Place the word count at upper right. E.g. Word Count: 570. Round the word count up or down to the nearest ten for picture books.
  • Leave 2-3 inches, or 6-8 cm, between your details and the title. This is space for editors or agents to make hand-written notes, if they desire.
  • Center the title. I like to use a slightly larger font size (14-16).
  • Place your byline centered below the title in 12 pt. TNR.
  • You do not need a cover page for picture books; just leave a two or three lines and start the text below the byline.
  • Double-space the main text of your story.
  • Your page should have 1-inch margins all round. This is Word’s default setting.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5.
  • Left align paragraphs, ragged right
  • No lines between paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences, not two
  • Place a header on any subsequent pages with your last name and title on upper left, page number on upper right.
  • Follow any other submission guidelines of the publisher you’re targeting.
  • Do not include a copyright: a registered copyright is a headache for publishers/agents. A copyright symbol is considered amateurish and unnecessary by traditional publishers and literary agents.

If you use Word, here’s how your paragraph settings should look in the story part of the manuscript. If you set them first, you won’t have to adjust things manually as you go.



And here is how a properly formatted two-page picture book manuscript would look:




That’s it. Now your work looks professional. Good luck, and don’t mind the rejection letters! Keep learning, keep writing, and keep seeking to be ever more professional.

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    • Marlo Garnsworthy says:

      When you are writing, developing, and revising a picture book text, writing art notes for yourself can help you determine what could be cut from the text because it could be shown in the illustrations. But in your submission to traditional publishers, art notes should only be included when they are necessary for an understanding of the story and/or add essential information to the narrative. No matters of style or design should be included. No incidental information is relevant. When you submit, carefully chosen and sparing art notes can provide clarity for an editor, but if in doubt, leave them out. Place them on the line below the relevant text and format them as I have done in this example but also italicize it (the comment form won’t let me do that!):

      [Art note: Format an art note like this.]

      Happy revising and good luck with your submission!


    • Marlo Garnsworthy says:

      Hi Missish, I probably need a little more info to answer your question. Are you asking about art notes, too, or are you asking about formatting in general?

  1. Mark Glover Masterson says:

    Nov. 5th, 2016

    Hi to you Marlo,

    Great! site and your picture book manuscript ‘How To’ points are so appreciated.
    Can a manuscript also include illustration notes (Illo) as I read about on other info sites?
    A short bracketed sentence to describe the visual so the publishing house will not miss out on the pun, etc. And will my manuscript also include the all the character’s dialogue?


    – Mark in Vancouver, Canada

  2. Delia Hardy says:

    Thank you for this. It is so helpful for a newbie writer.
    I’m wondering also about page breaks. In your manuscript example above, is each new paragraph a new page?

  3. Jason Krauth says:

    If I write a children’s book that rhymes, should I start a new line at the end of each sentence or continue it as if I was writing a paragraph the didn’t rhyme?

  4. Karen Norling says:

    I have a picture-book manuscript that would target children up to three years of age. The manuscript contains approximately 280 words. As such, it is made up of individual sentences, double spaced. The way I envision it is that there would be a picture for each sentence. Should I sent it to publishers divided into sentences, or should I run all the sentences together (with periods, of course). I found something on the internet that seemed to indicate I should do the latter, but I’m not sure if I understood what I read.

  5. Jane says:

    Hey, if I am creating a manuscript with lots quotes by different speakers, do I indent per quote or should everything just be justified left? Also, do I sinkage space within a quote but double space between quotes? Thanks for your help:)

      • Laura says:

        I am also curious about demonstrating page breaks in my manuscript. Should I just run one continuous script or double space to denote a new page? I noticed you didn’t answer previous questions pertaining to this issue. Please help.

        • You do not need to show page breaks in a picture book manuscript. It’s great that you’re thinking about them, as that’s an excellent revision tool and will help with your picture book’s pacing. If the manuscript is acquired by a traditional publisher, the illustrator will work with the publishing team to determine the best places for page turns. – Marlo Garner

  6. Synthia Estep says:

    Hello, Thank you so much for this article. What is I already have someone to illustrate my picture book? Do I still send it in with no pictures?

  7. Heather Malone says:

    I am writing a rhyming children’s book about various countries. Should I write the manuscript in stanza form or in sentence form? Also, along with the rhyme, I am thinking of adding an informational box on each page that would further explain each country’s customs. I am not sure about how to write this into a manuscript. Any help would be appreciated!

  8. Brooklynn says:

    I am hoping to illustrate my own book and have already begun that process. I was planning to go ahead and send my manuscript in since they have to be submitted to two different dept. anyway. Should I include page breaks because I already know where I would like them? Also, what would be the best way to inform the publishers that I would like to illustrate the work? Thanks

  9. Shayla says:

    I am writing rhyming picture books. Should I add an additional double space between stanzas? Also, is it acceptable to use all caps in certain words that need emphasis?

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