Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Formatting Guidelines

When authors are getting ready to submit to agents, I see a lot of them who get caught up in what’s really too ridiculous to stress over, and that’s formatting. Listen, folks, follow the simple term paper formatting rules you had to follow in high school or college and you’ll be fine. But for those who are still worried, here are some guidelines. Guidelines, mind you, and not rules. Every agent is different, but if you follow these guidelines, few are going to reject you without reading a word.

Query Letter
Standard business-letter formatting. If you’re using a word processing program like Microsoft Word you can probably use a template, but here are my suggestions:

  • Single space
  • One page only
  • Include your address, email, phone, and web site if you have one
  • Include the date (and make sure to update this with each letter you send, otherwise it gives a sneak peek into how long you’ve been submitting for)
  • A font that’s comfortable for you to read over and over and over. Times New Roman, Courier, Arial. All are acceptable. Usually 11 or 12 point. Again, think of reading 50 of these in one sitting and avoid eye strain.
Manuscript
Again, standard word processing format works best, but here are some guidelines to help you get started
  • One-inch margins
  • Double space
  • One-sided only
  • Page numbers in a header including your last name (should be the same name as on the letter)
  • A font that’s comfortable for you to read over and over and over. Times New Roman, Courier, Arial. All are acceptable. Usually 11 or 12 point. Again, think of reading 50 of these in one sitting and avoid eye strain.
Listen, I am not going to reject you if your margins are less than one inch or greater. I won’t reject you if your query letter is double-spaced. I might not read as much of your book if it’s single-spaced because my eyes will start to hurt, and I might not read as much of anything you submit if you use a fancy script type that’s hard to read. When formatting a manuscript or when submitting anything to an agent, think logically. There are absolutely no rules in this, no matter what people say, just make sure we can read it.

Anything I missed?

Jessica

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