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Book Designer & Self Publishing coach

The Squeaky Clean Manuscript

Manuscript Prep.

July 3, 2020

A Squeaky Clean Manuscript Saves Time, Money, and Hassle in All Steps of Your Publishing Project.

A clean document saves time, money, and hassle in all steps of the publishing process from editing, design, and proofing to creating an ebook. By stripping your document of all unnecessary formatting like extra returns and spaces, and by using style sheets to add indents, bullets, and to determine alignment not only ensures a tidy book or ebook but also helps to maintain your formatting down the road.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to compare a typewritten manuscript to the text I have imported into my design software to manually restyle everything from bullets and block indents to italics and boldface. Restyling is a recipe for disaster. Worst case, things get lost. In the best case, you have more proofing to make sure the designer caught all the formatting. Either way, you have added unnecessary time and more chances for error for both you and your designer.

A clean manuscript…

  • makes your book easier to layout (whether designed by you, a publisher, or a contract designer);
  • creates a better ebook as well as making the transition to an ebook much smoother;
  • helps ensure formatting like boldface, italic, and numbering doesn’t get lost when importing text into design programs;
  • saves design time;
  • saves you time and stress in proofing;
  • minimizes introducing errors when the designer has to remove the unnecessary formatting;
  • and a clean manuscript helps when submitting your book to a publisher.

12 things you can do to save time and money

Following these tips can save you lots when sending your book to an editor or designer.

  1. Combine all of the book’s chapters in one file and order them in the way you want them to appear in the book. 
  2. Remove all boxes and indicate boxed text with notes to the designer or editor. I like to highlight notes using square brackets [ ]. That way, I can search for them and make sure I see them all when preparing the book.
  3. Use style sheets for all the different styles in your document.
  4. Use styles to create space between paragraphs.
  5. Use heading one in your style sheet for chapter titles.
  6. Don’t use spaces to indent. Set indents in the stylesheets.
  7. Don’t use Word’s automatic numbering and bullet features and remove hyperlinks.
  8. Keep the document simple. Best to stick to one font family. And use a standard font like Times, Arial, Helvetica.
  9. Remove extra spaces.
  10. Use dashes consistently: N-dashes (–) for ranges, M-dashes (—) for parentheticals, and hyphens (-) for modifiers and phone numbers.
  11. Convert quotation marks to “smart quotes”, also known as directional quotes. Directional quotes are the quotation marks that curve in toward the quoted text.
  12. Always avoid typing text in all caps.

Most experienced designers will request a file of the manuscript to determine how much cleaning up they will have to do before they start design. There are times that I spend more time cleaning up a document than designing it.

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