Monday, November 24, 2008

Reader Question:
"How do I format emailed pages in a query?"

Dear Agent -

How to format manuscripts for submission is easy to find these days, but when agents ask to have the first five pages included in the body of the e-mail, how should it be formatted? Double spaced? Indents? All that good stuff?



Dear Cory -

First, let me stress this: every single agent has different preferences so anything I write here should be taken with a mighty large grain of salt. The first thing you should do is to check each individual agent's submission guidelines for this information. That being said, here's what I would suggest (as this is generally what I do when I cut and paste anything into email).
  • Turn off your formatting altogether and send your email as plain text. Period. No bolding, no fancy fonts, no weird sizes, no colors. Nothing. Why? Several reasons. 1.) Formatting protocols on every email program differ and what looks pretty and formatted on one computer may come across as gobbledygook on another. 2.) Overly-formatted text is distracting to read and tough on the eyes. 3.) Don't asume that the agent is reading your query on a computer. A lot of us are reading them on Blackberries and iPhones and Treos and other smart phones where email formatting gets stripped away autmatically anyway, so you're wasting your efforts.
  • Single-spacing for a five-page email sample is fine; usually agents and editors ask that manuscripts and partials be double-spaced so as to make it easy to mark-up and make notes.
  • Indents aren't necessary. Use an extra space between each paragraph to add white space, indicate paragraph breaks and make the flow of text easier.
  • Check your grammar and spelling. Then check it again.
  • Do not mark your emails as "high priority" or flag them. It's annoying.
  • Make sure you have no attachments at all, including v-cards or windat files; some agents (like me) have set up their email programs to automatically delete any emails containing unsolicited attachments.
  • If you're still unsure once you've put your query together, email it to yourself or a friend to make sure that it comes through as readable text.
Hope that was helpful!



Cory said...

That's absolutely helpful! I've never seen an agent address this before so I'm marking this down for the future. Thanks a lot :)

Shelli said...

Thanks for great info!
Shelli (market my words)

Jill Wheeler said...

I never thought of agents reading queries on their iPhones! Whee! That would be kind of fun. You could do it anywhere.

Aubrie said...

Yes, very helpful! You don't know how many hours I've spent indenting every single paragraph...and for no reason! My husband could hear the click click of the space bar over and over and he asked,"What are you doing over there?"

Ann Victor said...

Very helpful indeed! Thanks.

Ryan Field said...

I like the last line. I thought I was paranoid, because I usually e-mail everything I submit to my yahoo account first. I also heard this is a good way of having a second back up...but I'm not sure about that.

writtenwyrdd said...

Very useful info, thanks!

starian24 said...

First off, thanks! I've been wondering!

So here's my stupid question of the day: You said to send pages single-spaced in email queries. If we're supposed to send five pages, is it five pages based on the double-spaced file, or five pages based on the single-spaced file? It seems to be a serious difference in how much text we're allowed to send, which is why I'm curious.

Jodi Meadows said...

Plain text! A thousand times yes! You'd think it would be a once a year thing -- at most! -- that people accidentally send their sample pages with strikethrough all over, but you'd be wrong.

Plain text can keep that from happening.

Larissa said...

Very helpful! Thanks!