At Easypress we have spent years considering the best way to style your manuscript for submission to your publisher. As an author, we understand it is all about the words on the page, the story you’re telling or the facts you are imparting.
In reality, to get your manuscript published with the least amount of stress to both you and your publisher, care needs to be taken to ensure the manuscript can be processed swiftly and with the least amount of vexation.
A well and consistently styled manuscript can go a long way to ensuring your manuscript requires the least amount of correction in preparing your book.
Easypress would like to highlight some pointers for you to follow and adopt.
Over the years we have seen manuscripts that fall into one of three categories: “The good, the bad and the ugly”.
Most authors are quick to use character styling to denote items on the page which are obvious in the book. Typically, the chapter number, or headers are designated as bold, have a larger font and are centred. The story’s characters and speech are often in quote “marks” or italicised.
However, MS Word comes with a much wider set of powerful tools to allow the author to bring some structure and improved readability to the words on the page.
Styles scan be created to differentiate headings, paragraphs, prose, letters, verse, and more to aid the reader in navigating your story.
Some authors are so focused on telling their story that how the words look in the manuscript becomes a secondary priority.
Perhaps the first thing to understand about using MS Word to style manuscripts is that most authors limit their styling to direct formatting, using bold, italics and underlines. These are fine but most publishers have a preferred layout pattern of styling which will tend to override what the author believes is good styling practice.
Some authors emphasise styling by altering fonts and colours through their manuscripts, which are often replaced by the publisher, who tend to have an internal, or house-style for books within an imprint.
One of Easypress’ clients, the Christian publisher Langham Publishing, regularly style complex academic manuscripts of up to 350,000 words.
Their editorial production team lead by Esther Newton, Vivian Doub and Isobel Stevenson spend a great deal of time styling their manuscripts prior to moving them through their workflow to copyeditors, proofreaders and reviewers.
They recognise that “the point of formatting is for the user”. Good formatting serves the user both aesthetically and practically in making clear what type of content they are looking at and in guiding them through that content. That is why it is important to be consistent in how styles are used within the manuscript. And sometimes even across manuscripts, because readers have certain expectations of how matters will be dealt with.
In achieving this point, the team offers the following advice:
1. Aim to keep pages as clean as possible. Try not to use too many font styles on one page. Italic, bold, bold italic, underline, full caps, small caps and so forth can create an enormous amount of visual clutter. Try to have clearly defined uses for things like italics so that you know what fits and what does not. This may vary from manuscript to manuscript.
2. Move out illustrations, charts, or tables. For manuscripts that have a lot of them, put them all in a separate file and place a clearly marked directive to the typesetter in the text saying "put illustration X somewhere close to this point in the text". That makes it easier to juggle the layout to accommodate it.
3. Be prepared to work with the headings. If a document has a lot of subheading levels, reduce it to only 4 levels of subheadings and see what you can do with bullet points or rewording the text to accommodate lower levels. More than 4 levels of subordination is just a nuisance for the typesetter and for readers. Reducing the number of subheadings can call for creativity in rethinking the organisation. It isn't simply a matter of eliminating the lowest level of headings – sometimes it can be more effective to determine whether the top level of headings is necessary!
4. Make full use of the style tags in Word and of its ability to add footnotes. But if you are the author, don't hassle with details such as spacing and pagination that will change with editing and during layout.
For authors and publishers alike, a well-styled manuscript is a boost to the way the story reads, and for publishers, a well-organised and consistently styled manuscript will lower your editorial and production costs, as well as reducing the time it takes to get your author into print.
Easypress is a global leading supplier of digital publishing software. Its Atomik publishing products are used by some of the largest publishing corporations globally.
Easypress launched Atomik eStylist in 2018 and since then it has established itself as a leading productivity tool for editorial and production teams to aid in the styling of author manuscripts.
Atomik eStylist is an easy-to-use tool for users whose job it is to style manuscripts. It understands how a manuscript should be styled for any book type. The software contains a rules-based engine which has a styling map of the manuscript against the book’s layout. This rules engine can be configured to meet the requirements of almost any book template and layout.
Atomik eStylist learns as it goes through the manuscript and enables the user to complete a task of styling the manuscript in MS Word in minutes rather than the sometimes hours it would take by processing the MS Word manuscript manually.
Easypress believes that greater automation and integration of workflows with fewer manual interventions is at the core to improving business performance and efficiencies.
Creating a SMARTER, cheaper and automated publishing workflow is a key performance driver for publishers to grow, gain market share and work in an agile way, using their content to maximise sales.
Easypress would be keen to discuss how a SMARTER and cheaper digital publishing workflow will develop your publishing business.
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