How to Format Your Children’s Book Manuscript ( + Cheeky Template)

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Proper formatting is extremely important when you’re sharing your children’s book manuscript with literary agents or children’s publishers.Every week, hundreds of submissions are reviewed, so making a good first impression with a well-organized, professional manuscript can help to reduce the strain on reviewers’ eyes.

Inspired by editor Jennifer Rees’s Reedsy Live webinar on writing children’s books, we’ve created this post and template to help you impeccably format a children’s book manuscript

Download our children’s book manuscript template

For more comprehensive guidance on how to structure your children’s book manuscript with MS Word or Google Docs, stay tuned.

It is important to remember that while this guide includes the most commonly accepted formatting conventions, some agents and publishers may have their own individual submission requirements that must be adhered to, even if they differ from the standards outlined here.

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1. Save and name your file

Before you do literallyEven though you may be confident that you won’t mistakenly delete your work, it’s always a good idea to save your file. That way, if an unwelcome visitor were to get their hands on it, you can rest assured that your hard work will remain safe. Don’t you agree, Wilbur?

> If Winnie had remembered to save, she might not have lost her book of spells — or her cat! [Illustration by Korky Paul]

If you’re working in MS Word, you absolutely needEnsuring your work is securely stored is important, so it doesn’t get lost in the ether. Google Docs is a great tool to use for this, but it’s wise to double-check that your documents are automatically being saved. Doing this will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

> This cloud symbol will tell you whether your work is being saved to Google Drive.

It can be hard to resist the urge to name a document something basic like “draft1” or “hello,” but it’s important to make sure it has a professional and descriptive title. A good approach is to choose something like “Lastname_TITLE” (for example, “White_CHARLOTTES_WEB”). This will help make the document easier to find.

Watch more videos on the same topic : How to Format A Book for Kids – the DOs + DON’Ts + Tools

Video Description

How to Format A Book for Kids – the DOs + DON’Ts + ToolsnnIf you’ve been wondering how to format your beautiful children’s book, and whether or not you should pay someone for this, then this video is for you. Sharing the DOs and DON’Ts and tools you can use, this video can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, and thousands, if you are planning to write more than just one children’s book. nn// LINKS u0026 RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS VIDEO: //nn🔹 BOOK: “How To Self-Publish A Children’s Book” –🔹 VIDEO: Fonts for your Children’s Book –🔹 VIDEO: Illustration Template Generator –🔹 VIDEO: Children’s Book Trim Size –🔹 VIDEO: Full Bleed vs. No Bleed + BEST Layout –🔹 PLUG’N GO TEMPLATES:

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2. Check your page setup

Our blank page now has its name badge, so it isn’t going anywhere. Now let’s get our page setup in order. Unless the submission guidelines explicitly

  • Letter Size (8.5” x 11”) for the US and Canada; and 
  • A4 (210 × 297mm) for any other territory. 

You should also have one-inch margins on all four sides of the page. Don’t tinker with the margins to hide your book’s word count — this isn’t high school, after all. Publishers will

In many cases, the formatting of a word processor document is the standard setting. If you wish to verify, or if the settings are different, you can access the formatting options in the following location.

  • In MS Word: Layout → Size → More Paper Sizes, then Layout → Margins
  • In Google Docs: File → Page Setup

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Polish your manuscript pre-query

Maximize your manuscript’s potential by collaborating with a seasoned editor prior to submitting it for review!

Learn how Reedsy can help you

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3. Adjust your font settings

Times New Roman (12pt, black) is as close to a universal standard as you get in publishing. Use this unless the agency or publisher guidelines state otherwise.

Even if you see your final book being written in handwriting (like Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy KidWhen submitting your manuscript, make sure it is kept simple and straightforward. Avoid using more playful fonts such as Comic Sans, as this will likely turn off any potential agents.

These settings apply even if you’re writing a picture book. All the fun typography and typesetting that you see in finished books by the likes of Lauren Child, for example, will be added afterCongratulations! Your manuscript has been accepted and is now ready to be worked on by page designers and art directors. Don’t make the mistake of skipping this step and relegating your manuscript to the scrap pile – get it done now!

Which famous children’s author do you write like?

Discover who your writing style is most similar to by taking this quick quiz. It only takes 30 seconds!

> Lauren Child’s What Planet Are You From, Clarice Bean? has wonderfully inventive type. However, her manuscript may have looked a little more vanilla.

4. Include the important information on the first page

You’ll be all set to begin writing on page one! Before you get into the details of your story, make sure to include in the top left-hand corner:

  • Your name;
  • Your address;
  • Your email address; and 
  • Your phone number. 

If you already have an agent and they’re submitting the manuscript to a publisher, they will use their

In the top right corner of your manuscript, you should include the number of words in your work. When it comes to picture books, it is best to round the word count to the nearest ten and for anything with a higher word count, round it to the nearest thousand.

> This is how the top of your page should look. 

Some people will tell you to then state your target reader, or what kind of manuscript you’ve written (for example, “Chapter book, age 7-9”). But as long as you’ve researched the children’s marketThe correct length of your book is very important and a professional can easily tell this from the number of words in it.

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5. Give it a title (the right way)

To move your text to the center of the page, go down approximately six lines from where your details are located. This is the spot where you can write out your title.

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Write a title for your article in all capital letters and center it. Increase the font size to either 14pt or 16pt for an extra special touch. Then, directly beneath the title and also centered, add your byline. If you’d prefer to use a pen name, make sure to include your legal name at the top of the document (see Step 4).

Tempted by the idea of a pen name? Gve our Pen Name Generator a spin and see if you can come up with a fun new nom de plume.

6. Format the body text like a pro

As the narrative progresses, it is recommended to switch to double-spacing which can be accomplished by navigating to:

  • ‘Format’ then ‘Line spacing’ in Google Docs, or
  • ‘Home’ and then the ‘Line and Paragraph Spacing’ key in Word. 
> Left: Google Docs, Right: MS Word

In order to be successful as an agent or publisher’s Perfect Peter and not their Horrid Henry, it is important to follow the conventions for manuscripts of children’s books.

  • Leave two line spaces or one double space between the byline and the main text.
  • Left-align the first line of the text, no indent.
  • Thereafter, indent the first line of every new paragraph by 0.5”.
  • Do not leave extra lines between paragraphs.
  • Do not justify your text — it should be aligned on the left and ragged on the right.
> This is how the body of your text should look. 

To achieve the standard publisher indents at the beginning of each paragraph, it is recommended to use the ‘Tab’ key instead of the ‘Spacebar’ key. Additionally, this formatting can be set as a default for convenience.

  • In MS Word: Home → right-click the Normal style  → Modify → Format → Paragraph → under Indentation → Left: 0.5” → Special: First line
    > In Google Docs: Format → Align & indent → Indentation options → Special: First Line → 0.5”


Your book’s title and your last name should be featured prominently in the page headers, with the page number to the right. This way, a busy editor can quickly locate a page if it gets misplaced on their desk.

When a publisher or agent contacts you to talk about the wonderful children’s book manuscript they have just read, page numbers can be a useful reference.

This area can be tricky to understand if you are not technologically adept. If you are uncertain of what to do, our template can be downloaded to make the process much simpler.

To create a header for your document, double click the top of the page and enter the title of your book followed by your last name, for example: TITLE / Lastname.

In Google Docs there is an ‘Options’ button. By selecting ‘Different first page’ in the ‘Header format’, you can remove the header from the first page. A similar option is available in Word, under the ‘Header and Footer’ tab in the toolbar. You don’t need a header on the first page because all the pertinent information is already there.

> Left: Google Docs, Right: MS Word

Using Google Docs, it’s possible to add page numbers. Be sure to uncheck the ‘Show on first page’ option and decide whether to start the numbers at ‘0’ or ‘1’. To make the page number appear on the far right and keep the name and title on the left, press the tab key. Once this is done, the page numbers are in place.


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8. Start each chapter on a fresh page

Consistency is the most important aspect when it comes to indicating chapter breaks in a manuscript for a children’s book. There are certain approaches that agents typically find pleasing.

The title and byline of your manuscript should be placed at the top of the first page, with the chapter header centered below them.

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It is recommended to use ALL CAPS and 12pt font when entering chapter headers, leaving two blank lines between the header and byline and also between the header and the body of the text. This isn’t a strict rule, but it helps to keep the text organized and presentable.

When you begin a new chapter, it is important to start on a new page. In both Google Docs and MS Word, you can easily insert a page break by clicking ‘Insert’ then ‘Page break’. This process is self-explanatory.

Hit the enter key four times with double-spaced lines, and you should be about a third of the way down the page. At this point, you can add your chapter header in the same way as before: centering it and writing it in all capital letters with 12pt font!

> This is how the start of a new chapter should look. 

No matter what your first thought is, it’s not necessary to include a table of contents in your manuscript – it can take away from the focus of your story.

9. If essential, add illustration notes

Illustrations are half the magic when it comes to children’s picture books. It can be tempting to pepper your manuscript with ideas on what the illustrations might look like (There’s a massive tree, and behind it, a golden castle with dragons poking out of each window!)

Publishers usually prefer to leave the interpretation of the text to the illustrator they have chosen, so agents and editors usually suggest to limit the amount of illustration notes. These should be used only in those rare cases when something is necessary for the plot, but not present in the text.

Here’s how to add illustration notes — just in case it’s utterly

The image is positioned on the right side of the page and is contained within a bracket.

Unless you have similar ambition to Jon Klassen to craft a book that is told by images, you should have no need to add illustration notes in order to help an agent or editor understand what is happening while they are reading.

Your words need to stand on their own — so if you feel the need to explain further, you might want to revisit the ‘Show, don’t tell’ rule.

Creating Middle Grade fiction or a chapter book doesn’t require any illustration notes, regardless of if the author wants to decorate the pages with doodles like David Walliams. Instead, the key is to capture the reader’s attention with a captivating story.

That’s all there is to it! Once you have signaled to the reader that your work is finished by writing ‘THE END’, your manuscript is done.

By taking these steps or downloading our children’s book manuscript template, you can be sure that agents and publishers won’t find any formatting issues in your submission. But, you still need to impress them with a great query letter, so be sure to read the subsequent post in this guide before you submit!

Frequently asked questions

How do I format a children’s book?

To format a children’s book, you will need to consider the page size, the font size, the margins, the trim size, and the line spacing. You will also need to decide if you want to include illustrations and how they should fit within the book. You can use a publishing software to help you with the formatting, or you can hire a professional designer to help you with the formatting.

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What font size should I use for a children’s book?

For a children’s book, the font size should be between 8-12pt. It is important to find a size that is legible and age-appropriate for the intended audience.

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What page size should I use for a children’s book?

The page size for a children’s book should be between 5.5” x 8.5” and 8.5” x 11”, depending on the print format you choose. It is important to consider the size of the book when deciding which size to use.

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How much margin should I use for a children’s book?

The margin size for a children’s book should be between 0.5” and 1”. This will allow for enough space for the text to be legible, while still leaving enough room for illustrations if necessary.

Should I include illustrations in my children’s book?

Including illustrations in a children’s book can be a great way to engage the reader and bring the story to life. Whether or not to include illustrations is up to the author, but it can be a great way to enhance the story.

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