Submission Format

Submission Format



These guidelines reflect many of the criteria specified by agents for submitting hard-copy writing samples, and they are intended only to standardize the document offered to your fellow NIPers for review and critique. Please do your best to follow them.


Maximum of 25 pages in a standard 12-point font, double-spaced, your choice of one- or two-sided, one-inch margins, with name/abbreviated title/page number in the upper right corner. Page breaks for chapter starts are not required.

Include a cover page (see the sample below), with a premise and/or back cover copy if you wish to receive comments on them.

For any submission that is not the beginning of your novel, include a story-so-far summary.

NOTE: To reduce the cost of providing hard-copy submissions, depending upon how far into your novel the submission begins and the length of the story-so-far summary, you may elect not to include it in the printed version handed out at meetings. To utilize this option, note on the cover sheet that the story-so-far Summary is available in the electronic version of the submission.

Determining the number of copies to bring is a moving target, and the current guideline is reflected in meeting handouts and will be revised depending on the number of active members as indicated by recent participation in roundtable. In addition, some members want to receive only the e-version of submissions, and have agreed not to take a hard copy at meetings.

Prior to the meeting at which you will hand out hard copies, please email Tosh with your e-submission attached in a single file that includes the cover sheet, story-so-far, and submission pages. He will distribute the file to all active members included in the NIP E-list and post the submission in the Files section of the NIP Yahoo Group Home Page.


Formatting manuscripts for submission to agents has in the past been a confusing mix of about 90% standard (everyone agrees) and 10% agent-specific (pet peeves). With the arrival of electronic submissions, new (and generally consistent) guidelines became common for any text within the body of the email and whether or not the agent will accept attachments. For the most part, attachments still have to comply with the same hard-copy guidelines previously in place.

NIP submission format has for years reflected the most common industry standard for two reasons. First, it helps members by encouraging them to write their novels in a format that didn’t have to be altered significantly to submit writing samples. Second, it controlled the understandable (but still sneaky) tendency for writers to cram as many words as possible into our limit of 25 pages.

Font selection is a case in point. The three most widely used submission fonts have generally been Times, Times New Roman, and Courier New. Small variations in word count occur between these choices because of variable inter-letter spacing (Times and TNR) and fixed (Courier New), and the fact that the dimension of a point in one font isn’t necessarily the same as that in another font. But for these three examples, the differences are relatively minor.

Paragraph formatting is another issue worthy of mention. The two standard paragraph styles are indented and blocked. Indented paragraphs are by far the most common for fiction and do not use additional spacing between paragraphs. Blocked paragraphs separated by additional spacing are usually seen only in non-fiction. You can always find exceptions, of course, but the most egregious example of calling attention to your choice is to use indented paragraphs with added spacing in between them.

Boldface is commonly used only for chapter headings, and might include a slight increase in font size for appearance sake. Underlining to indicate italics is a convention long-since abandoned with the advent of the computer and word processor applications. You may find a few dinosaur agents still clinging to its use, but their desks probably feature a Royal typewriter. Using an extra space after ending punctuation is another abandoned practice.

None of these conventions trump the importance of the story. By the same token, there’s no good reason to ignore them. To do so risks diverting agents or reviewers from the story to formatting that calls attention to itself. The way to make it invisible is to follow the guidelines, and NIP as a group encourages you to do that.

The ongoing transformation within the publishing industry and resulting collapse of the printing and distribution monopoly previously held by the agent/legacy gatekeepers has opened the doors to a much less restrictive environment for indie authors. Many of your fellow NIPers have adopted embellishments to both print and eBook formatting, but those variations are best reserved for publication and not incorporated into NIP submissions.


Roundtable date:


Author: (Include your email address)


Seeking: (Indicate which applies: occasional, long-term, or only-for-this-document readers)

Type of review requested: (Include any special focal points)

Reviewer’s name/email:

Your interest in/experience with this genre:

Premise: (If you want feedback)

Jacket blurb: (If you want feedback)

Author’s notes: (Any additional information to assist readers)

The story so far: (If the submission isn’t the beginning of the novel)


The NIP–Austin Files Library on Google Docs includes a template with formatting that works for both hard-copy and electronic submissions. Section 1 of the template has the cover sheet, and section 2 provides the main body of the submission with its own numbering, chapter headings, and scene breaks.

Lorem Ipsum placeholder text is provided to ensure that your submission is properly formatted. Although you can always download another template, for convenience it’s best to duplicate the template for later use and work only with the copy.

You can use the template as follows:

  1. Select the placeholder text in a chapter or scene by highlighting and begin typing so that your text replaces it.
  2. A more user-friendly method is to highlight and copy a chapter or scene from your manuscript, then select a chapter or scene in the template and paste the test from your manuscript on top of it.
  3. When you do that, an options dropdown menu will appear at the end of the pasted text. Click in the box and select “Match Destination Formatting.”
  4. All the text formatting in the template will be automatically applied to all but the last paragraph, which usually retains the bold text of the chapter heading immediately below it.
  5. Highlight the bold paragraph and remove the bold text override.
  6. Save your edits and repeat the process to transfer your submission into the template.
  7. If you do this between the chapter headings and scene breaks, they will remain in place and require no editing on your part.
  8. You can always copy a full chapter including the heading or a scene with the break symbol in the template and paste it as a unit within the template to add chapters or individual scenes.
  9. For submissions later in the novel, change the chapter headings to reflect where you are in the story.
  10. You can also adjust the page numbers in the second section with the main body text to reflect how far into the story you are. Readers appreciate that to assist them in evaluating content and plot development as it relates to story momentum.
  11. Don’t forget to edit the header with your last name and title or abbreviated title.

Representative screenshots of how it should look:

Select the template text:

Slected TextPaste the copied text from your manuscript into the template:

Pasted TextClick on the little “Paste Options” box at the end of the pasted text and then select “Match Destination Formatting.” Note: Ignore the bold last paragraph for now.

Paste OptionsDestination Formatting (almost) “matched”:

Matched FormnattingSelect Bold Text:

Select Bold TextBold Text Removed:

Bold Removed


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