Be sure to check out our podcasts and YouTube videos at the bottom of the page!

092 - What Does A Book Manuscript Look Like?


Hi Guys Nicole Gabriel here! I’m the host of the Let’s Get Your Book Published show and happy to be here with you here today!

Many times I write my podcasts between clients. I’m busy in my head analyzing what the week has brought me and what I have both learned and shared with each client I’ve worked with. It has been a surprisingly quiet week so far…and a rather unusual, but nice time to back up and engage in some strategic thinking, re-working old systems, organizing, and thinking. I honestly don’t get many weeks like this. I’ve had a bit more new client engagement in the last few weeks than usual and I suppose when we have little trends that hit our business we ask what is working and what isn’t. So, I’m thankful for all the new areas I’ve been stretched into this week. It’s always a gift to talk with hopeful new authors—both to find out what they are working on and what inspires them as well as to learn and test my system and knowledge.

As a Book Coach and Designer I am required to shift in and out of topics and projects at a moment’s notice as each new client comes in. I just worked with a client on a baseball novel, and now finishing up with a fortune 500 coach. The variation is so much fun! What I love the most about what I do is learning what my clients do…and the diversity is always something that spans across topics, genres, and backgrounds. It’s the one thing I love the most about my work…working with movers and shakers, game-changes, industry leaders, and big thinkers!

But, one of the themes I’ve noticed this week is a bit of confusion on what a book manuscript actually looks like. Sometimes we just kinda have to pair things back and talk about the basics! So, let’s see if I can use our time here to clear up any confusion you might have as well.

The manuscript…How is it formatted and laid out and what specifically is the content that should be there? What is an ideal word count and how do chapters and other sections look in the final product? Is it one document or one for each chapter?

When you’ve been doing this awhile sometimes you loose track of the kinds of things people want to know when they’ve never written a book before. I often tell myself its time to write my next book so that I can refresh my memory and keep fresh eyes on trends in the industry…as well as talent! I have a few great editors I’ve worked with over the years but I’ve often thought I’d like to add another to my list and the best way to vet someone out is to actually write a book myself. I have a few books in me and whenever I’ve had a lull in my work day it’s always the first place my mind goes…oh yeah! I have time to write my next book!

So, I’ve been noodling on one for awhile now. I’m still working through exactly how I’d like to frame it. Once I get going on it perhaps I can share with you how my thinking works as I pull it all together. Although, I’m sorta one of those free-spirit writers that gets an urge then the fingers just can’t stop going on my keyboard. I always know when the urge is too great to stop it’s time to write! But, what exactly does a book manuscript actually look like?

This week phone calls with potential new clients that had already begun working on their manuscripts reminded me to real things back in and get back to basics. They asked for a few thoughts on where they go from here. Of course, I always like to work with clients well before they start writing, but I know it’s pretty common to talk with a coach when you know you actually have some content and you feel pretty confident you really can make a book a reality first. These clients had what I’d call the “meat of their content” defined but, they were extremely light on word count and also needed a little help framing things in. What do I mean by that?

They didn’t have openings and closings to their content and they weren’t necessarily talking to a particular target audience…there wasn’t a real engagement or dialog happening with the reader. I also was left wondering what they were trying to do with their book…was there a point to writing it and what was it?

You see, sometimes you have to hold hands with the reader. It’s kinda like a first date, right! Since there wasn’t an alluring engagement with me as the reader, I was left wondering what I’m supposed to do now? What kind of relationship do they want with me? What are they offering me in exchange for my investment of time? I’m not sure if they are respecting my intelligence or if they are they pushing an agenda. Nothing set up me for expectations so I might immediately disengage.

As a reader we want to know before we begin what our benefit would be…are we going to be taught or entertained? How’s this partnership with reader and writer going to work?

With each client we chatted about what they are doing in their life and how a book fits into that, so as a coach, when I dive into the content after the discussion I can either see how it aligns with a particular narrative or it doesn’t.  If an argument is being made, does what I’m reading help me buy into the narrative? If a story is being told then is it entertaining and engaging to hold my attention?

With the clients I spoke to I wasn’t readily able to see what was expected of me as the reader. I wasn’t real clear on what was being offered to me. I was being told to pay attention but not why. I wasn’t told who was telling me the story — their background — and why I should trust them.

When you are writing you need to talk to your reader like you are having a conversation. If I asked you “What is your book about?” You should be able to sum that up pretty quickly and tell me in a sentence, maybe two. But, if I gave you just a few seconds to catch my attention then how would you do that with your book? Now that you have a readers attention, then how do you hold it? You always need to begin your book with engaging content and keep going to draw the reader into what you are promising to deliver. Then tell the reader what you plan to deliver and why you are the person to do that. What makes you the expert? There should always be opening dialog explaining the journey you are about to take them on. Tell the reader why you broke the book into sections and why you chose the structure for explaining your content. Make a statement then provide validation. Tell them the value you will provide then tell them why that’s meaningful to them.

I’d like to tell you about each client I talked to recently, but I will respect a certain level of privacy. But I will give you a 30,000 foot view of what was going on with a few manuscripts I reviewed and the authors writing them.

One author had numerous quotes presented in a book about different thinking, but I wasn’t sure what the objective was in the thinking. Was it simply to make the reader think? Was it to introduce a new way of thinking? Was there a reason to change thinking because some of us might argue we like our way of thinking. I could sum it up as I didn’t know who was teaching me to think this new way or why I would care to. But, this doesn’t mean what was written was terrible, it just means some of these things need to be explained or summarized. As I always say, there is an opportunity to showcase a message that can leverage the door open into new business engagements…when you use to book to market what’s next for the author.

Another author that I spoke with was a retired auto exec and wanted to write about the successes and failures of the brand they worked on. But, again, I was not told why I care to know this. The target market wasn’t clearly defined or spoken to. Was this for enthusiasts of the brand? And was the goal to be a coffee table book or a book to promote some kind of action for future enhancements of the brand or the industry? Again, a well-written book, but I wasn’t sure what value it was providing me. I suggested the author utilize the book (and others to come) as an opportunity to leave a legacy showcasing (from an insiders prospective) how to turn around a brand or a company acknowledging the failures and how they could be learned from to push forward into redefining the American automotive industry into the future. This is where there is a brilliant opportunity to not just leave a legacy but to open a door as a subject matter expert to speak on all Automotive senior boards as an expert and to even get paid for doing it. At the very least a great opportunity to book a few speaking gigs and sell books. So much opportunity available here if seized appropriately.

What I love about speaking with new potential authors is that I see how well my system can be leveraged in any industry and for any book topic. I also see how well-packaged my offer is. I learn where I fall short or excel in the presentation of my offer. You see, I just did a podcast the episode before this. In this episode I acknowledge the literary agent and the systems they are a part of. I know that on the surface I’m not going to give you all the glam, but I am confident of one thing — I can get you a comparable, if not better, result! But, how I convey that may fall short. I understand that because it’s me, myself, and I that I can only present some of that image that they entire team puts the face on. So, with each potential new client I learn what it is that the new author is seeking. What are the stumbling blocks that keep them from moving over the threshold from concept to finished product. Much of the time its one of these limiting beliefs: ( we will call these the top 10 limiting beliefs that stop a would-be author)

Top 10 Limiting Beliefs That Stop A Would-Be Author

  1. I don’t know if what I have is good enough
  2. I don’t know what the steps are (or who I can trust to teach me)
  3. I don’t know how to format a manuscript
  4. I don’t know how to drum up content or if I have enough to make a book
  5. I don’t know how to market or sell my book
  6. I don’t know who would buy my book
  7. I’m worried what people will think of me
  8. I’m not talented
  9. I don’t have the time
  10. I’m worried about the cost

All of these obstacles can be easily overcome with a little guidance…and with enough passion and drive we can easily get you over the finish line and completing your book in no time. But, since this podcast is all about how your manuscript looks, let’s start there!

The way you structure your manuscript will get you over the finish line with clarity and purpose.  So lets begin with a few questions and answers:

Q & A Manuscript Formatting:

Q. Do I need a special program or software?
No. You just need MS Word

Q. Do I put the entire manuscript in one document file or does each chapter go in a separate file?
For some reason this is a common question. But, one continuous Word document with simple bolding or page breaks for each chapter is perfect.

Q. Do I need to do special formatting or add page numbers or a contents page?
The simpler the better. No. In fact, it’s far easier for a designer if none of this is there.

Q. Do I use track changes?
The Editor will use track changes with you to knock out the corrections but you don’t want to send this format to the Designer. All track changes should be accepted first.

Q. What do I provide to the Type-Setter or Interior Book Designer?
You never send anything to layout that isn’t 100%. You are just wasting your and the Designers time if you do. If you are awaiting a foreword or a testimonial its best to complete the manuscript then send the final Word doc manuscript to the Designer. Be sure that all special marks, track changes, and formatting are removed.

Q. Can the Interior Designer give me my original Word doc back?
This is a common question, but no! Once it is handed off to the Designer it no longer exists in Word format. It now gets imported into the Designers layout program (likely InDesign) and they can export into common formats like a PDF or HTML or an image file, but never back into Word.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to create content that aligns with your message and present it in a useable and functional order for everything that you do outside of your book. Are you someone that speaks on stage…or is that a goal you have after you produce your book? You don’t have to recreate the wheel with what you do on stage and the content in your book. Of course you want to give surprises and additional dynamic and audience-specific content on the stage, but use the book to do the leg work for the structure of your content. A book is a really great opportunity to flush out all the stories you might share on the stage. Perhaps you can break it up into sections that make sense for your speaking topics. But, remember that both your book and the content of your speech has to be geared toward something that is ultimately income-generating. Let me explain why…

In my case, I wrote my first book Finding Your Inner Truth about so many wowza and amazing experiences that happened to me over a period of time. When I was first writing it I knew that I had to tell these stories and that they just had to come out of me. I seriously couldn’t even hold them back when it was finally time to give birth. I had been pregnant with ideas and stories for some 10 years! But, as an inexperienced speaker and author I had no thoughts whatsoever on what would manifest from what I wrote. I honestly really didn’t even care. My stories had to be told no matter the outcome! But I also suspected there would be at least one other book to come later and whatever I learned after birthing the first one would be corrected in writing the second one. But, the second book was another that birthed out of me so quickly that today I’m still not entirely sure what’s in it! I actually sometimes open it up and think, I wrote that? I believe most of it came in a kind of channeled manner…I remember sitting down saying “OK God, let’s write!” And there really wasn’t much editing or time working over the material and I really had no additional thoughts about how I would use the content. My third book was much the same. But, by the time I reached my 4th book I knew that I had to write material that I would leverage in my every day. I learned that this was the most optimal way to also teach my clients to write. I also knew that some would come in a bit novice like me and just feel compelled to write and that was fine too.

But, for more advanced and aware authors, I would challenge you how to still tell your story, but also contour the content so that it is leveragable for ever single touch point you have in your personal and business life. This would begin to set the foundation (or platform) in which you engage others. Of course, not all books are written to be income-earners, but its honestly got to be something you’re thinking about when you are no longer concerned with just telling a story, but you’re looking to create a lasting impact with your message.

If I were using my first 3 three books to take a stage, I would have to know that I would not speak at corporate functions because the topics would clearly not fit that environment. So, if I plan to use my book to speak, then I have to align with my audience and know where I can find them to get in front of them. Knowing how you serve your audience is part of the key in writing your content.

Really when it comes down to it, every author has some level of engagement with an audience because this is the nature of the industry. You’re going to write your story then you’re going to repeatedly speak your story over and over and over. So, if you’ve done your homework then your message will align with your passion and your life purpose. So, one can quickly see that this should align with how you earn your income for the greatest impact.

Before we close things up here. I want you to really think about this. Is what you are doing  daily living passionately through you? Does it fill you with joy? If it isn’t, then you can also use your book to better align you. You can also make a plan to write at variable intervals in your personal or professional life…leading to a series of books with some particular end goal in mind.

Myself, I have written about all the things that I love — my spiritual quest to live within my highest and greatest truth; my love of my canine companions; health, wellness, and nutrition; and of course all things book publishing. I do believe my next book will be a greater dive into living and loving consciously. I’m even thinking it will be a vegan cookbook…as so many of my friends have requested this for years.

So, when it comes to writing your manuscript, don’t worry so much about how the formatting looks, as this is part of the reason why you hire professionals to help you. But, do know that no one on your book team knows your passions or your why. It’s your job to do the heavy lifting here. I’m happy to coach you through identifying the key points to get your started on your journey. I do offer a complimentary interview to see how we can align you with your purpose-driven passion and get you on your way to becoming an author. I’m not one of these big systems with a script. I’m an intuitive coach that will listen to your ideas and help you define your how and align you with your why.

Keep listening and please let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to cover. We do appreciate your positive reviews and comments wherever you listen to our podcast. Thanks for joining me here today. May you be well…

Wishing you peace, love, and light…

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Join Our Email List

When you join our email list you'll automatically get a free copy of Nicole's  
Let's Get Your Book Published ebook