Don’t Hit Send to an Editor Before You've Read These Manuscript Must-Haves

That’s right—I’m a book editor, and I’m going to tell you the secret to saving money on your book edit. Editors usually set their rate based on their sample edit of your manuscript. So, you’ll want to make sure those five or ten pages are in tip-top shape before you click Send on that email.

This is because editors use this sample to make assumptions about what it will be like to work with you and your book. If it’s what we lovingly refer to in the biz as a “hot mess,” they’re going to up their quote because they will estimate it will take them longer to do your edit. This means you really have an incentive to get it right with the sample.

Here are the steps to take before you send your manuscript sample:

1. Go through your manuscript and adjust it to meet the formatting standards below.

  • font: Times New Roman

  • color: black

  • size: 12 point

  • alignment: flush left (not justified)

  • spacing: double spaced

  • spaces: one space after periods

  • indent: first line (no tabs to make indents)

2. Get rid of double spaces. Do a find/replace where you find two spaces and replace with one space.

3. Get rid of other extraneous spaces and formatting. Find the symbol that looks like this: ¶. It’s called the “pilcrow” or “paragraph mark” (found in MS Word Home bar). Click on this, and it will show you every space (shown as a blue dot) and formatting mark in your document. This makes it easier to see where you have extra spaces remaining, such as at the end of a paragraph, plus those extra tabs that may be lurking somewhere (shown as a blue arrow). Also be sure to delete any extra spaces between paragraphs.

4. Make sure there are page breaks between chapters. (Don’t just keep hitting the return button until you get to a new page.)

I'm just going to keep hitting this button until a new page pops up.

5. Run spell check. Duh.

6. Look for instructions. I ask authors to submit a five-page sample from somewhere in the middle of their book. If they’ve given me the first five pages instead, or they aren’t double spaced (as requested), I’ll assume if we go on to work together, I may have to spend extra time repeating and explaining myself, which means I may increase my price quote to make up for the extra time I expect to spend. So, follow their instructions to a T to get a cheaper edit.

7. Read through your sample again. If it’s been a while since you’ve read it, this time you’ll have “fresh eyes” and will be able to see errors you missed before. Trust me on this one because the fewer errors remaining, the less your edit will cost. So take the extra ten or fifteen minutes to do this.

If you follow these steps, and your manuscript is formatted in the standard way, your editor is going to think you’re an old pro, which will hopefully translate into savings for you.

Erin Servais is a book editor and author coach for Dot and Dash, LLC. To learn how she can help you with your next project, email her at

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