Whose Font Is It, Anyway? Self-Publishing and the “Industry Standard” for Manuscripts

I’m working on a rewrite of my upcoming book,  where I”m adding some stuff. One of those items is a prologue that gives some backstory on events further on in the book. The default setting of my documents are Cambria 10 pt. font. I automatically changed it to Times New Roman (TNR), 12 pt. font. Then, as I worked on it today, I asked myself: why did I change it?

For years– probably back since people cut down trees to make their own papyrus, and dinosaurs roamed the earth–the publishing industry standard for manuscripts has been, and remains: Times New Roman font, 12-point font size, one-inch margins, double-spaced, five-space indentation/tab for the beginning of each paragraph. I got used to making all of my manuscripts this way because of how my former literary agent schooled me, back when I was chasing a traditional publishing contract. The purpose of this industry standard format is to make it easier on the eyes of editors, agents, and whomever else in a publishing house may read your submitted work.  However, since I’m riding indie for my publishing career, those parameters aren’t necessary anymore.

Old habits die hard, even when they fly in the face of my personal preferences. Being an independent publisher takes a complete rewiring of the brain, with regard to your writing career. I have to tell myself that it is no longer important that I use TNR; if I want to use Cambria, or Garamond, or Verdana, or Courier New–or even Sans Serif, then do it. As long as it translates well on the page for readers and doesn’t look too crazy, what’s the harm? Now I do agree with the 12-point font size, or at least an 11-point: anything smaller, you risk eyestrain on the part of your reader and anything larger just looks like you are trying to take up space because you don’t have much to say (this does not apply to physical book versions specifically made for the visually impaired, which have very large fonts). The one-inch margins are good, too; adjusting margins up or down to make your book look longer than it really is, is not a good look.

One thing I don’t like  is doing tabs/indentations on paragraphs. When I took typing classes back in the day (on real typewriters, with the metal keys and everything, and the corrective tape on the cartridge), one of the formats we learned in business letter writing is business format: this format has no indentations, and is single-spaced. I like that format a lot and use it a lot in my writing. I also don’t like double spacing all that much, but it becomes more necessary as the books grow longer.

Independent/self-publishing is already seen as being out of the box, bold, different. Why should the way you write your books be relegated to the status quo? This goes against one of the core principles of rolling indie, on any front.

I say all this to say: it’s your book. Design it as you will. Just don’t go overboard and have the entire work in some unreadable font that requires a translator or transcriber. Be yourself in your writing,whatever that may be. Your readers will thank you for it.

Thanks for stopping by.

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