How to Format Your Children's Manuscript Like an Expert - Journey to Kidlit (2023)

Take the first step to writing your children’s book story. Download the free children’s book template here to help you get started.

You’ve seen what a children’s book looks like as a real book, but what does it look like as a manuscript? This is an essential question to answer before you EVER submit your story to a publishing house, agent, or professional for critique. So how should you format your children’s book manuscript?

Like most new authors, I had my formatting ALL wrong and it definitely led to some early rejection letters. This is why I’m going to help you avoid making those same mistakes. Below, I’ve created an easy, step-by-step guide to help you format your children’s manuscript. All you have to provide is your amazing story!

How to Format Your Children's Manuscript Like an Expert - Journey to Kidlit (1)

How to Format Your Children’s Manuscript Like an Expert:

Depending how new you are to the writing world, you may not know what a children’s book manuscript looks like. (Let alone how to format it.) This is why I’ve created an easy-to-follow guide for you to set up your document.

In order to get started, you’ll need to open up a new Microsoft or Google Document. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re going to create together. 👇

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When you set up your document, make sure you’re using a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial size 12, double-spaced. You’ll also want to have standard 1-inch margins, which should be the auto-setting for your document if you haven’t changed anything.

Once you have that, you’ll want to add the information needed in order to get your story set up like the one in the image.

Here is the Step-by-Step Guide to Format Your Children’s Manuscript:

1. Your Contact Information – Added in the Upper Lefthand Corner

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(Video) How to Format Your Children's Book as a Manuscript

The first step when you start a new manuscript is to put your contact information on it. That information includes:

  • First and Last Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email

This information goes in the upper, left-hand corner of your Word document. I prefer to keep it single-spaced to save room for my story on the page.

**Note: For email submissions and first pages, this information won’t be included. Unless you’re submitting to an agent or editor with an attachment of your manuscript.

2. Your Target Reader & Word Count – Added in the Upper Righthand Corner

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In the upper, right-hand corner you should include your target reader and word count when you format your children’s manuscript–If you don’t know who your book is for read my article on the different age levels for children’s books.

To do this, simply tab over next to your name to type your category and age range. Then tab over on the next line (where you’ve listed your address) and include your word count. This way they’re on the same line as your contact information.

You can list an exact word count or an approximate, it’s completely up to you on which you prefer. But if you’re writing a chapter book, middle-grade, or YA novel, I would stick to approximate word counts since it will round out nicer. (And if you’re writing a picture book, don’t include your illustrator notes in your word count.)

**Note: This will also be left off when you copy and paste your manuscript in the body of an email for submissions. If you keep it in, it will mess up your formatting.

(Video) Quick Tip: How to format your children's book manuscript for an editor or agent

3. Your Title and Written By – Located About Halfway Down the Page

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Halfway down the first page of your manuscript you will want to include your title and written by. (You can find halfway by hitting the enter key about 12 times with a single-spaced document.)

Your title should be written in all caps but your byline or subtitles should use standard capitalization rules when you’re formatting your manuscript.

I know choosing a title is always one of the hardest things for me, so if you struggle with this too, here are two things to help you find a title that catches a reader’s interest:

  • What’s the story plot of your story? (Either your main character’s goal or problem.)
  • How can you make it intriguing as a title that will grab someone’s attention?

This will hopefully help you get past the submission process. And if the editor wants to change your title later, then that’s ok!

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4. Page Number with Title/Last Name – Double-Click to Add This to the Header

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You will need to make sure to complete your header when you format your children’s manuscript. This should include your title slash last name and the page number aligned to the right. (To add page numbers, go to Insert -> Page Numbers.)

(Video) How to query your children's book to an editor or agent in 4 easy steps

You want to make sure to add this to any submission you’re sending as an attachment or printing to give to someone. This way they’ll know the order the pages go together for reference or if they were to drop them after printing.

5A. Illustrator Notes (Picture Book Manuscripts Only)

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Illustrator Notes are how a non-illustrating author adds images to the text. In order to insert them into the story though, you don’t want them to stand out. So you’ll align them to the right of your story. You can also italicize them or change the color so they really blend in.

In plotting your perfect picture book, I talked about Illustrator Notes for authors that are not creating the images for their books. But here are some tips for when you should use Illustrator Notes:

  • When you’re writing an illustration-heavy manuscript (IE: little to no words). These notes will need to be well-thought-out, creative, and detailed in order to intrigue an agent/editor.
  • When you use words or phrases that people can’t picture, like a charging herd of Crumblezars on planet Zod. (That might need some clarification…)
  • Or when you have an obscure character or introduction to the story. For instance, if your main character is Frank but he’s a dog the whole time then you’ll want to insert an illustrator note at the beginning that says “Frank’s a dog.”

5B. Chapter Breaks (For Longer Manuscripts Only)

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When you want to format your children’s manuscript but have a lot of chapters, you may think you should include a table of contents. Don’t.

You only have the first few seconds to intrigue an agent or editor and don’t want to lose them by listing all of your chapters. Especially, when they won’t have any reference to the story or characters. (Save your table of contents for a separate attachment you can include with your submission if they ask for it.)

Instead of a list of all your chapters upfront, simply list your chapter in your story when it appears. I like to spell mine out and make them bold to signal a page break, but you don’t have to — you can spell out your numbers, center your chapter breaks, or even add titles. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but whatever you do, keep your formatting consistent.

(Video) The Reason You need an Editor for Your Children's Book -- Journey to Kidlit Podcast Ep. #15

Tie it all together.

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Those are the main elements when you format your children’s books. Be sure to include contact info, target reader, word count, header information, and title. If you have references or an author’s note, those will be at the end of the manuscript.

And if you have any additional questions, sign-up for the Kidlit Formatting Mini-Course! This will walk you through additional information including advanced writing techniques for both picture book and chapter book writers. 😃

Also, be sure to check out these articles before you submit to make sure that your manuscript is ready to be sent:

  • Target Your Perfect Reader
  • Have Your CritiqueGroup Review Your Manuscript
  • How to Write a Query Letter
  • How to Find the Right Agent
  • How to Know the Publishing House for You
  • Everything You need to Publish a Children’s Book

Now You Know How to Format Your Children’s Manuscript!

How to Format Your Children's Manuscript Like an Expert - Journey to Kidlit (13)



How do I format my children's books for KDP? ›

Select Import your entire book, including the cover...

Click Create Book from PDF. Go to the File menu and select Save for Publishing. Click Save. This saves a file in MOBI format that's ready to be uploaded to KDP.

What is the proper format for a manuscript? ›

A manuscript format should feature letter or A4 page size, 12-pt Times New Roman (or similar) font, 1” margins, double-spaced lines, and 0.5” paragraph indents. As well as formatting your document correctly, you'll also need a title page, page numbers, and a header.

How do you format a manuscript to make it ready for publication? ›

The 15 Scribe Manuscript Format Rules
  1. Use A Standard Font (Times New Roman or Arial) The most common print font is the serif font Times New Roman. ...
  2. Black Text on White Background. ...
  3. 12 Point Type. ...
  4. 8.5 x 11 Page Size. ...
  5. One Inch Margins. ...
  6. Left Justified Alignment. ...
  7. One Space After Periods. ...
  8. Double-spaced Text Lines.

How do you format a PB manuscript? ›

Picture Book Formatting Checklist
  1. 12pt Times New Roman, black, regular. ...
  2. Place your contact details on the upper left of first page: ...
  3. Place the word count at upper right. ...
  4. Leave 2-3 inches, or 6-8 cm, between your details and the title. ...
  5. Center the title. ...
  6. Place your byline centered below the title in 12 pt.
9 Dec 2014

What are the five formats of children's literature? ›

Understanding Children's Book Classifications - article
  • Picture books. Picture books are targeted at children ages 2 to 8. ...
  • Chapter books. Chapter books are for children ages 7 to 9 and they are 4,000-15,000 words in length. ...
  • Easy Reader. ...
  • Juvenile books. ...
  • Middle grade. ...
  • Young Adult books.

What is manuscript with example? ›

A manuscript is a handwritten or typed document, especially a writer's first version of a book before it is published. He had seen a manuscript of the book. ... discovering an original manuscript of the song in Paris.

What is the minimum pages for a children's book KDP? ›

The minimum page count is 24 pages, and the maximum page count depends on ink, paper, and trim size options.

Does KDP do formatting? ›

KDP offers a variety of tools and resources to help you with formatting your book. We recommend these if you're not familiar with formatting a book within a word processor. Alternatively, if you want to hire professional help, you can find service providers on this page.

What is the best size for a children's book? ›

Determine the Size of Your Children's Book

The size of your children's book is your personal preference, but standard children's book sizes are 8 x 10 or 10 x 8 (landscape).

What were the 4 steps in making a manuscript? ›

What were the four stages in making of a manuscript?
  1. Preparing the paper.
  2. Writing the text.
  3. Melting gold to highlight important words and passages.
  4. Preparing the binding.

What are the four steps to prepare a manuscript? ›


What are the 7 steps of publishing process? ›

Publishing Process Steps and Descriptions

What are the 7 steps to self publishing a book? ›

Here's how you can self-publish a book in seven steps:
  1. Write a book people want to read.
  2. Edit with feedback from beta readers and editors.
  3. Hire a book cover designer.
  4. Format the manuscript for ebook or print.
  5. Pick a self-publishing platform.
  6. Self-publish the book!
  7. Keep marketing your work after publication.
9 Aug 2022

How long does it take to format a manuscript? ›

For standard formatting and layout for the interior of a print book, you can expect it to take about 5 weeks. Keep in mind, if there are a large number of editing and/or formatting requests, this timeframe could increase significantly.

What is the layout for a children's book? ›

Children's book layout is the act of selecting what text and what illustrations will go on each page of children's book. This is particularly important for picture books and early reader books, as these books are intended for the youngest readers who rely on illustrations to aid in story comprehension.

How do you professionally format a book? ›

7 Ways To Format a Book for Publishing
  1. Set your margins to 1 inch; set indent to .5 inch.
  2. Align text left-justified.
  3. Use Times New Roman font, black, size 12-point.
  4. Set headers and footers.
  5. Begin the chapter about one-third of the way down the page, then add four spaces (hit return twice) to begin writing.
2 Feb 2022

What is included in a children's book manuscript? ›

Those are the main elements when you format your children's books. Be sure to include contact info, target reader, word count, header information, and title. If you have references or an author's note, those will be at the end of the manuscript.

What format do publishers use? ›

In general, a document with standard manuscript format will have the following features: 8.5"×11" or A4 paper size. Courier or a similar monospaced serif font. 12-point (10 pitch ) or 10-point (12 pitch) font size.

What are the three main formats of literature? ›

There is a lot, but luckily they all fit under just three major genres. The rest are all sub-genres, and even the subgenres have subgenres. The three major genres are Prose, Drama, and Poetry.

What are the 3 characteristics of a children's book? ›

Three Traits of a Good Children's Book
  • An Interesting, Relatable Story. The story in a good children's book will be engaging and captivating. ...
  • Engaging Language. A good children's book will typically have interesting language. ...
  • Multicultural.

How many pages should a manuscript be? ›

The perfect book length rests somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words. That translates to about 200 pages. It's highly unlikely to find a literary agent who'll represent your 300,000 word novel.

How much money do you get for publishing a children's book? ›

On average, though, the royalties from children's books range from 1% to 5% of the RRP of the book. A higher percentage may be given to authors who are either i) extremely experienced and well-known, meaning that bookstores will buy the book simply because of the author (NB.

Can you make money with KDP low content books? ›

It really depends on what niche you pick, how you market your book, what royalties you set, and and how much you sell your book for. Rest assured, once you've found a profitable low content niche and created a successful launch strategy, you can expect to make good money selling low content books on Amazon KDP.

Can I convert Word to Kindle format? ›

4. Click "Computer" in the Windows Start menu, and then double-click on the icon representing the Kindle hard drive. Drag and drop your Microsoft Word document to the Documents folder on your Kindle. The document will now appear in the Kindle library interface.

Can I pay someone to format my book? ›

Yes, you can pay someone to format your book! There are many companies and freelancers who offer book formatting services. You can often bundle an interior format with a cover design, so you have fewer people to hire. This is typically a cheaper option than hiring a cover designer and interior formatter separately.

What format works best with Kindle? ›

An EPUB file is the most widely used, and best supported format for an eBook. It plays on virtually all devices, including: Kindle.

How many pages is a good children's book? ›

Picture Books

Though the standard is 32 pages, they can technically come in page lengths that are any multiples of 8: 16, 24, 32, 40 or 48 pages. They are reliant on both text and illustration and text length can range from 100–1000 words, sometimes more.

How many pages should a children's book have? ›

Story-based or fiction picture books are usually 32 pages long and vary between 500 to 1000 words. They are designed for pre-schoolers and children in the first few years of primary school, and are usually intended to be read aloud as a shared experience between an adult and child.

How many words should a children's book be? ›

According to Writer's Digest, “The standard is text for 32 pages. That might mean one line per page, or more. 500-600 words is a good number to aim for. When it gets closer to 1,000, editors and agents may shy away.”

What is the 5 step writing process in order )? ›

The general steps are: discovery\investigation, prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing.

What are the parts of manuscripts? ›

Manuscript Components
  • Title Page. ...
  • Abstract. ...
  • Significance Statement (all journals except BAMS) ...
  • Capsule (for BAMS only) ...
  • Body Text. ...
  • Acknowledgments. ...
  • Data Availability Statement. ...
  • Appendix.

How do you write a good manuscript? ›

  1. Organise the manuscript properly.
  2. State the study question and study rationale clearly.
  3. Explain the materials and methods in a systematic manner.
  4. Structure the materials and methods and results sections in a similar manner.
  5. Make the discussion section concise.
  6. Explain if -and why- your study results are important.

How can I improve my manuscript? ›

Four ways to improve your next manuscript
  1. Be consistent with your figures. The figures of a manuscript are the result of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, as well as the whole point of the paper. ...
  2. Be concise in your writing. ...
  3. Engage the reader. ...
  4. Practice writing everyday.
22 Nov 2016

What are the 7 processes of creative writing? ›

The 7 stages of the EEF's writing process: Planning, Drafting, Sharing, Evaluating, Revising, Editing and Publishing.

Who should be first author on a manuscript? ›

The first author should be that person who contributed most to the work, including writing of the manuscript. The sequence of authors should be determined by the relative overall contributions to the manuscript. It is common practice to have the senior author appear last, sometimes regardless of his or her contribution ...

How should a manuscript look? ›

Prose manuscripts should be double-spaced with margins of an inch to an inch and a quarter. (Poetry can be single-spaced.) Stay away from fancy fonts. Use one that is easily readable, like Times, and a size that is comfortable, like 12 point.

Which is the first section of a manuscript? ›

The introduction section comprises the first portion of the manuscript, and it should be written using the simple present tense. Additionally, abbreviations and explanations are included in this section.

What are the three things to consider in publishing content? ›

Content Marketing Checklist: 13 Things You Must Do Before You Publish Content
  • Align your content with specific sub-goals. ...
  • Target specific elements of your audience. ...
  • Optimize for one or two keyword search phrases. ...
  • Link to additional content, both on and off of your site. ...
  • Ensure your headline is as magnetic as possible.
14 Aug 2012

What are the 4 distinct types of publication? ›

There are 4 types of periodicals:
  • Newspapers.
  • Popular Magazines.
  • Trade Journals / Magazines.
  • Scholarly Journals.
8 Nov 2019

How many steps does it take a book to get published? ›

This includes copy editing, proofreading, cover and text design, publicity, and sales. This whole process generally takes around 18 months. This is partly because it takes a long time to do good work on a book, and partly because publishers are juggling many other books.

What format is best for self-publishing? ›

Now, with that established, let's take a look at five common book formatting options:
  • Option #1: Vellum. Source: Vellum. ...
  • Option #2: Scrivener Compile. ...
  • Option #3: Book Design Templates. ...
  • Option #4: adobe InDesign. ...
  • Option #5: Hire a professional Book Formatter.
6 Sept 2019

How much do self published authors make on Amazon 2022? ›

Self-publishing platforms pay up to 70% of each book sold to authors (fantasy authors get between 40% and 60%). Of authors who have published their first book in the last 10 years: 1,200 traditionally published authors have earned $25,000+ a year. 1,600 self-published authors have earned $25,000+ a year.

What makes a high quality childrens book? ›

Cover-to-cover. Like a piece of art, a good children's book is greater than the sum of its parts. It is honest, has a sense of wonder, and shows respect for the young child. The text and illustrations are integrated to raise the quality of the book.

What makes a successful children's story? ›

Here are some criteria for writing a good children's book:

The story is easy to follow for your chosen age-range. The illustrations are high-quality and professional. It's relatable to a wide range of children. It can entertain adults at the same time.

What is the 5 finger rule for choosing books? ›

The number of fingers they're holding up by the end of the page tells them if the book is the right level: 0-1 fingers: It's too easy. 2-3 fingers: It's just right. 4-5 fingers: It's too hard (or best read aloud with a buddy).

What techniques are used in children's books? ›

Literary techniques – alliteration, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification – might or might not be included in a story. They play with words to develop interest and variety. Together, these are known as literary devices. Both are important to purposely teach and develop.

How long does formatting a book take? ›

For standard formatting and layout for the interior of a print book, you can expect it to take about 5 weeks. Keep in mind, if there are a large number of editing and/or formatting requests, this timeframe could increase significantly.

What is an example of a manuscript? ›

A book or document written by hand, esp. before the invention of printing. A written or typewritten document or paper, esp. the copy of an author's work that is submitted to a publisher or printer.

What do publishers look for in children's books? ›

A strong plot

A solid story with a strong ending will always grab an editor's attention. Often, plots in children's book submissions trail off or deviate in the middle of a story, or the ending falls flat. Keep things relatively simple - trying to do too much will weaken your plot.

Do publishers prefer word or PDF? ›

If you're an author, you know that publishers prefer your work to be submitted in the Portable Document Format (PDF). But do you know why that is? Here are the 3 main reasons why submitting your work in PDF is the way to go. A PDF is a read-only file that cannot be modified without leaving an electronic footprint.

What do publishers look for in a manuscript? ›

Still, there are some basic elements every publisher considers when evaluating a potential project. Those elements are: content, market, competitive titles, and author platform.

What is the structure of a children's book? ›

A good children's book will have an evident beginning, middle, and end. This helps the child reading the book grow and learn along with the main character. There should be a problem or incident the main character needs to solve from the beginning.

What size font are children's books written in? ›

We recommend a larger font for kids' books, rather than the standard 11 or 12 point font used for adult books. Try using font sizes between 16 24 point. For the youngest age groups, a larger font is especially important.

How many pages should be in a children's book? ›

Picture books are typically 32 pages because books are produced in page-count multiples of eight. However, you will also see some with page counts of 24, 40, or 48 pages. Nonfiction picture books and books for writers with a demonstrated audience tend to run longer.

How many copies does the average children's book sell? ›

Generally, most picture books sell around 5,000 to 10,000 copies in hardcover form, and few are made into paperback. Most will also go out of print within about two years. Easy readers have similar compensation packages, but royalties are not split on novels.

What are the 5 elements of a book? ›

A story has five basic but important elements. These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What font is most used in children's books? ›

SERIF fonts: Myriad Pro, Georgia, Plantin Infants, Alegreya, Garamond Pro, Crimson, Baskerville Old Face, Century Schoolbook. NON-Serif fonts: Helvetica, Gill Sans, Quicksand, Century Gothic, Avenir Next, Lato.

What is the most popular size for a children's book? ›

For example, the common children's book sizes are 8.5” x 8.5” or 7” x 10.” Conversely, the book dimensions for a novella would typically be 5” x 8.” Venture too far out from these standard book sizes and your self-published book might seem out of sync with its genre.


1. Becoming a Children's Book Author - Journey to KidLit Podcast: Episode 1
(Journey to KidLit)
2. How to write a picture book story that attracts an agent like literary agent, Adria Goetz
(Journey to KidLit)
3. Kidlit Distancing Social How to Get Your Manuscript Submission Ready
(Children's Book Insider)
4. Know if Your Story's Ready to Publish - Journey to KidLit Podcast Episode 3
(Journey to KidLit)
5. The Steps it Takes to Make a Picture Book - Breakdown of the Publishing Process
(Journey to KidLit)
6. FOLD Academy: Finding Your Audience: Marketing Kids' Books with Vikki VanSickle
(The FOLD Canada)
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