The Composer Toolkit

score cover templates in Word:

Contact ACA for new cover templates

Composer Gallery:

Make sure ACA has your updated biography, photo, and email address, to keep your ACA page listings current.

Score preparation:

These guidelines are for members of ACA whose music is published and distributed by American Composers Edition (BMI).

Upon completing your work, including editing and proofreading, it is necessary to register the new title with BMI for tracking performances. In order to do this, fill out the ACA New Work Registration Form.

Before you submit a score to ACA for registration, ALL rights to any other author's work that appears in your piece must be cleared for public performance and print distribution. This includes any texts sung or spoken, music tunes embedded, audio samples, etc.  See guidelines for text clearances if needed.

ACA will then complete the BMI registrations on your behalf, and ACA will also add this title to the ACA online database in your works list at . Current members can also add titles, notes, and edit their composition info online, after the initial listing has been approved.

Your scores need to be formatted in a way that is clear and easy for performers and conductors to read, properly sized and formatted, in PDF format.

PDF digital image files will be deposited into the ACA digital E-scores collection, and used as a master for print edition order requests.

PDF files are now offered for sale by ACA as electronic downloads from our secure website server, where we allow customers to have an account on our site with access to the PDF files they have purchased.

If you have large electronic files  such as wav, aiff, msp, or video to submit, contact ACA for access to our secure ftp upload webpage for your scores and mp3 files.  You must use the ACA server on for delivering large files to ACA.  ACA will provide you with this folder and instructions to use it.

Page numbering - please use continuous numbering through all movements. Don't start over with page 1 in the 2nd movement of a score or a part. Continuous page numbers please. If it matters whether the pages are on the right or left in a score or part, you can clarify by placing page numbers in the corners where you want them, and insert blank numbered pages as needed to keep page turns intact. Or put odd numbers on the right side in every case, so it will be clear to the printer how to set up the print job.  If a cover is needed to get the music to start "in" - ACA can make the part cover no problem.  ACA can also make the score covers for you. You don't need to do that unless you want to.

Please do not send bound, printed "perusal" copies of your music scores or parts to ACA for any reason. We no longer deposit to our library in paper format except single side masters (scores/parts) for works by custodial legacy plan composers when PDF files are not available. 

Your PDF files must be high resolution taken directly from Finale or Sibelius-like programs. If you have to scan your music, please have it done professionally.

Staff lines, notes, and text need to be absolutely clear, without any blurring, in order to be useful to performers.

Set up your shorter works - scores and parts - at letter size, or 9 x 12 concert size, or 10 x 13 for the best chance to sell more copies through our ACA Sales to Music Stores and Distributors program. Binding in booklet format is the preference for most customers. 

We can accommodate single sides printing on request for performers, for pieces that have no clear page turns, and accordion foldouts in some instances are possible.  But when these works are sold to libraries and re-sellers, they are usually back to back, booklet bound.



*** More information in your scores will enhance the value and interest of your work***

  • For works with poetry texts, please include the full printed text in your score, separate from the underlay, and be sure to credit the author or poet on the title page, even if it is yourself or a well-known public domain source like Shakespeare or the King James Bible.
  • Every use of a text or translation that has been written since 1923 needs to have permission granted to you by the copyright holder before you have permission to set the text into your musical work. The permission should be in writing from the author, estate, or publisher. Try to obtain permission to perform the text with the music in public and to distribute sheet music, so that you don't have to go back for additional permissions later on. The permissions and text credit information should appear on the page with the printed text.
  • Your title page itself should contain the title exactly as it should appear in a formal concert program, including appropriate capitalization and diacritical markings, along with movement titles in their order. There should be a page number given where each movement begins, like a table of contents.
  • If your work requires audio or visual playback, specific instructions on the use of the recorded material-format should be given in your score, and a copy of the accompanying material should be provided to ACA with the score.  Imagine that someone is looking at your score 50 to 100 years from now, and create instructions and descriptions that are more general and universal.
  • Your score should indicate the approximate duration for each of the movements, in addition to the total duration of the work. This will help get your piece programmed. Indicate if individual songs or movements can be performed as stand-alone pieces.
  • Other information to include in your score: story source material (if any), dedications, for whom the piece was composed, if anyone specifically, info about recordings of the work, and details of instrumentation, including number of percussion players, and whether a conductor is required, if not already obvious.
  • Any special instructions, special equipment, special effects to be used, as well as special staging or dramatic movement should be mentioned in the opening front matter of your score. If there are any deviations from standard notation, an explanation should appear following the instrumentation page.
  • If ACA is the designated publisher or distributor of a particular work, you need to deposit a master copy of the score and any and all required performance materials masters (PDF) to ACA together with the registration, or immediately following a premiere performance for which the registration has already been done, and after final edits are made.
  • ACA now has a special category for each composer page where works by other publishers can be listed.  Your list of ACA works must be only the ones that ACA manages as publisher. ACA can't answer questions from customers about your non-ACA works, but you are welcome to provide a list with the name of the publisher contact, and we will list these on your page at the end of your list of ACA works. 
  • If there is a recording of your work available, please submit this to ACA via audio CD, downloadable mp3 link, or by ftp transfer of mp3 files.


Scores should be printed on paper that is 11 x 17" or smaller (10x13, 9x12, 8.5x11), with at least .5 to 1 inch of white space around the edges of the music. Page numbers must be inside this margin.  Leave a generous amount of blank space on all margin sides. This will enable a clean copy or scan to be made for any future re-printings of your music.  Re-formatting PDF files to accommodate necessary printing margins or special hand-placement scanning jobs will incur fees.

Most conductors and performers prefer portrait, not landscape format.  Legal size or 8.5 x 14 format for orchestra or choral scores is not practical. Legal size landscape format is to be avoided if at all possible.  Landscape format can work in letter, 9x12, and 10x13, but does not work in legal format because of the binding requirement. If your score is less than 20 pages there is no need to ever use a coil or comb binding - help us make your scores look really good and save money too.

Scores that will end up being less than 50 pages should not be formatted on any size above 10 x 13, unless you want the customer to incur large binding fees. 

Libraries and most customers prefer the booklet layout with a staple binding. If you are submitting scores that are fewer than 50 pages, but on sizes larger than 10 x 13, you are not keeping up with current print production formats - please make the effort to re-size your pages to 10 x 13 or smaller, or ACA may have to do this for your scores to facilitate printing.

Longer pieces (more than 60 pages) will automatically get a coil binding, so the page layout is your choice.  Some printers can make a booklet out of longer pieces but 55-60 pages is generally the top range for this.

Don't try to squeeze a piece for full orchestra onto a legal-size page template. If you want dealers to buy your scores with the intent to sell multiple copies, make it easier to keep costs down for ACA and the list price customers see will reflect this. Binding and shipping is also easier and less costly when scores are in booklet format.

Writing names of instruments, important instructions or page numbers too close to the margin or near the edges of the paper is risky, as this might be cut off in print duplication.

Remember, odd numbered pages should be on the front (right) side of the page. Page 1 is your title page. If necessary, insert blank sheets to keep odd numbered pages on the right side. Work out your measures layout such that the page turns are optimized for the performers. If you number pages on the outside corners, there will be fewer mistakes in getting your back to back printing the way you want it. Remember that professional printing production people are not always musicians, and they may not read  your lengthy instructions about how you want it printed. ACA can help you set up the PDF print file correctly.

FILE NAMES: When you save a file to your computer, whether it is a Finale, PDF, mp3, etc. Please start the file name with your surname, followed by the title. Truncate as needed, to keep the file name to a useable length of not more than 12 or 15 characters. Example: Howe_Prism.pdf     or      Sacco_Sonata_BsTbnpart.pdf

If you email a file that does not have your name at the start, it can get lost after being downloaded by the recipient. Name your score and parts files carefully. The  most important thing is to be consistent so that all the files for a piece will line up alphabetically in the right order in a folder. Use a consistent title for your piece, not "Guitar Concerto" when the registered title of the work is actually "Chamber Concerto for Guitar."

COVERS: If you are distributing your own ACA-published scores, please use an official ACA cover available in the various size formats - contact ACA to receive the template Word docs. The files are MS Word compatible, and must be saved (downloaded) to your own computer. Once you open it on your own computer, click in the title area to activate the text box, with title page information that you edit for your own scores and then re-save with a new title to your own computer. These can be printed as such or converted to PDF.

CONTACT INFO: Be aware that ACA and other publishers rarely list their phone number on score covers. Our website URL and EMAIL is sufficient for contact information. Please revise your own cover templates to reflect this, as it is confusing to performers who try to contact us, or to order scores by contacting an old ACA mailing address or phone number. We are doing our best to revise pages for you on your previously submitted score materials.

At the bottom center of your first page of music, we require this line:

©2017 [Your Name]; Publishing license granted to American Composers Edition (BMI)

If you are sending out your scores without ACA covers,  the following information is required at the bottom of the title page:

American Composers Edition (BMI)
New York, NY

Creating your own listings on by using the Add a Composition tab is great. Be aware that after saving the data, you can go back and edit it, but it may not appear on the website for a few days. These listings are informational. The deposit of score materials must be done separately, by email is preferred. File storage and large file transfer is available at no charge to you on with a login and folder provided by ACA.




PDF icon Instruments Abbrevs.pdf60.59 KB