Which typeface is best for my manuscript?

by W. Terry Whalin


I'm studying manuscript formatting and it seems that Courier 12 is heavily pushed over New Times Roman. Here’s my dilemma: I am an unpublished author with the first book of a three-book series that runs over 150,000 words. I understand this word count gives me which I am willing to accept. Which typeface is better?


The question about typeface for your submission is a good one. Personally I prefer New Times Roman. I like serifs on the typeface instead of the san serif courier. It's important to use an easily recognized typeface--like New Times or Courier--not Old English (yes, I've seen it) or anything strange. You don't want the manuscript typeface to standout--just be something that is naturally there and accepted.

What you do want to standout is your words on the page! The first page has to grab the editor (and your reader) so I'm compelled to read page after page. Most adult-length novels are 80,000 to 100,000 so even at 150,000 you are pushing the upper limit and 200,000 goes almost immediately back to the sender with barely a glance (truth be told). Why only a glance? The additional 50,000 words is going to add considerably to the publisher production costs. Every publisher is going to spend $50,000 to $100,000 on the production side to take your pile of paper (manuscript) and produce a printed book. Now this large number doesn't include any marketing--zero--and only a modest advance to the author(say $5,000). I've seen these actual production numbers inside the publishing company (which the author never sees).

Balance that cost--against your manuscript--and you will have a different vision of what the editor sees when they look at your manuscript. The editor is held accountable to earn that money back (and more) for every manuscript that is published.

One of the best writing books that will give you a bit of insight is Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. Lukeman is a New York literary agent and has seen many of these over-the-transome (unsolicited) submissions. Get this book--and read it. As editors, most of us can tell in a few pages whether the manuscript is something we will read more--or reject it. It's nothing personal--but a business decision--and a matter of time management. As a part-time fiction acquisitions editor, I've received over 300 submissions in the last ten months from literary agents and authors--for six possible fiction books that will be published. Here's the link for Lukeman's book:

As editors, we are actively looking for great manuscripts. As writers, we need to work hard at our craft so we produce manuscripts that compel editors to read them. It's not easy.

W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as an editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and one of his latest is Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Write Now Publications). See more about Terry at:www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the former Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Books and creator of www.right-writing.com. Sign up for Terry's free newsletter, Right Writing News.

© 2008 W. Terry Whalin