I'm getting close to finishing a novel and looking through online guides for the formatting process. From what I've seen, everyone is strongly recommending double spacing and an indentation of .5inch/1.27cm

My understanding is that this is for readability purposes for the editor, and not the final format that they book will take. Most books on my shelf have the indentation being usually the length of 2-3 letters and the spacing between lines is not double-spaced.

Here's my problem, for specific pages on my novel, the layout and position of the words has to be where I want them, and so what I wish to submit needs to have the final formatting of what the book will look like when printed.

What I basically want to ask is:

  1. Would it be alright to explain to the publishing agents the reasoning, and submit the manuscript formatted the way I want it to look like on page? (with single spacing so I know which lines are on which page)
  2. If so what would a standard page-size, indentation and margins be for published books

Thank you very much for helping out.

  • 1
    The bulk of the work needs to be in standard formatting (and I'd add Times New Roman 12pt), but whatever you make different from that will still be different. I've written with adjusted margins for when a character was reading a letter, having a flashback, or a dream sequence. I don't know exactly what formatting you need to preserve. Is it something like poetry? The words need a certain spatial orientation (to make a pattern)? Also, do you mean Literary agent?
    – DWKraus
    Apr 12, 2021 at 5:40
  • Hey there, thanks for the answer. Yeah it's stuff like the orientation of words for a pattern and I did mean literary agent, should have made that clear in the original post. I also just can't get over how bad the recommended formatting looks, but if that's what agents want I guess I'll have to go with it
    – Bob
    Apr 12, 2021 at 12:04
  • I didn't give you a real answer. Sorry, I don't have much to offer on formatting. I pay attention to the words, lose track of the shapes. Formal formatting is good for me, since those choices are made and I can ignore them (except for the occasional exception I mentioned). To get it perfect, you may need PDF's or something like that. Good luck.
    – DWKraus
    Apr 12, 2021 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


Each publisher has their own standard for the layout of books. For a technical book there would be some leeway for formatting that the author says is important for comprehension, but that will be limited. Donald Knuth, even then well known, had to invent TeX and essentially self-publish to have full control over the layout of the later volumes of The Art of Computer Programming.

For a novel, most publishers will insist on their specified submission format, or something close to it, and will publish the book, if at all, only in their own standard publication style, which may not be exactly the same as another publisher’s. Moreover, the layout and pagination will probably not be the same for a hardcover or trade-paperback as for a mass-market PB.

If you are playing games where some words form pictures on the page, or something of that sort, you can explain your intent to your editor or prospective editor. You may get special accommodations for a few pages only, but are more likely to get "this is our publication style, if you don't like it, find a different publisher." If you really want detailed control over the layout, you will probably have to self-publish.

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