Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Advent of the Kindle

I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon and got myself a Kindle. Yippee! Since every other agent has already extolled its virtues, I think I’ll skip that for now and just tell you that it’s great. I wonder though how much I’ll use it for pleasure reading rather than submissions and client manuscripts. After all, I do get a lot of books for free.

However, getting the Kindle as well as some recent blog exchanges has made me think of the necessity of revised submission guidelines, and I suspect this isn’t just the case for BookEnds, but would probably be true for all agents across the board.

In the old days of paper and snail mail authors would typically create separate files for each document. If you had a request for a full manuscript you could open that file and print it out. If it was a request for a partial and synopsis you could open each of those files and print each out, clip them together and send them along. Now though, more and more people are asking for submissions to be emailed. So how can you ensure that your submission gets there in one piece and is all safely attached to your letter. In other words, how can you make it easy on the agent and, at the same time, make sure that you’re still getting a reply?

My advice is this (and we will be posting this on our Web site too): emailed submissions should always be sent as an attachment, preferably Microsoft Word (since that’s probably the most universally used program) in one file. And, to be extra safe, I would suggest including your letter along with the attachment. In other words, write a letter in the body of the email reminding the agent that the material was requested and that you’ve attached it. Then include the same letter (and as I’ve said numerous times before, this letter should be similar to your first query in that it also gives a blurb). Think of it as your reminder to the agent of what the book is and what made her get so excited about it in the first place. And for those who want exact rules I would say letter first (including all contact information), chapters or manuscript second, and synopsis last. One file.

I know some of this seems redundant and annoying to you, and I fully understand. However, I also know that even before the Kindle I would often print the material out and there was nothing worse than printing out a partial only to turn to it later to realize that you had no clue who wrote it or how to respond. And, since I’ve been told that our guidelines aren’t completely clear I thought I’d make them more clear.



Anonymous said...

Jessica, is a Zip file OK? That could include, for instance, a synopsis, a partial or full, a bio, each separately within the Zip file. That's what I usually do if an agent asks for more than one document.

Kimber Li said...

Yay for you!

I just printed up a requested Full. It was so tedious I almost slipped into a coma. Yeah, I know I shouldn't complain! Okay, I'll stop.

Anonymous said...

Your suggestion is perfectly logical and should be the preferred format for emailing. However, I think I see one wrinkle...many agents will delete out of hand any emails they receive with attachments. How to distinguish an email with an attachment that is a request by an agent from those they will automatically delete? Or am I missing something here?

Bill Peschel said...

Anonymous: An agent will request the attached file after they've reviewed your query. One can only assume they'll have a way of keeping from automatically deleting it.

Jessica, I'm going through the submission process right now. Some agents are willing to accept e-mails, some are not. Two have set up a page on their website in which you fill out a form (presumably, this would prevent spam blasts).

Because it's so much easier to send queries by e-mail, I focused on that, then turned to the mail-only agents. I've gotten some quick rejections, but several agents are looking at the proposal, and all but one were by e-mail.

Sharon Page said...

The one file idea is great. It must makes it much easier to keep things together.

For submissions, I always put my last name and pen name on the top line, along with my email address. Don't know if that helps, but I saw an author friend doing it and realized it meant an agent or editor can get in touch even if they have on one page of your submission.

Sharon Page said...

Oops, that should be "must make". :-)

Spy Scribbler said...

Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, I LOVE MY KINDLE! Here's a tip: get little velcro stickers for the back to keep it in the case.

I can't tell you how much I love my Kindle. I read SO much more now, because it's always in my purse or at my hand.

It's the best thing since chocolate. You can get a lot of classics for the Kindle for free at

Have fun with it!

kris said...

Welcome to Kindle land! I bought mine to get me through recent travels. It was so very wonderful to be able to pack all the books I needed for multiple weeks overseas without needing to fill half a suitcase to do so.

Spyscribbler, thanks for the tips about the Velcro and the freebies. I must check these out!

Janet Reid said...

Hey Jessica, welcome to the world of Kindle lovers! I hope you love yours as much as I do mine. If the screen freezes (this only happened to me once) the reset button is on the back under that weird slidey panel.

I also suggest for e-submissions that people put their name in the header. Just in case the pages get err...mislaid. That doesn't happen often, but saved the day, the day it did!

Anonymous said...

Wrong. The right way to send a query or submission or anything is to read the guidelines of the agency to which you are submitting and follow them.

Angela James said...

In your submissions guidelines, you might want to consider giving some sort of file naming convention. It's really nice because then you can just forward the attachment right to your Kindle, and you don't have 100 files on there titled "Submission".

You can also forward a zip file to your Kindle, but then, of course, all of the documents (synopsis, partial and query letter) all appear on the Kindle separately, rather than in one tidy file.

Welcome to the world of Kindle. It's a huge time saver for submissions/work!

Briane said...

The one-file idea works great; I get attachments in emails all the time, and have to read them all. Separating the files means I have to click on each to open and print them, and if there's a lot it's tedious. I imagine it'd be the same for an agent.


Janet said...

Anonymous 10:02 - with partial requests, I use the subject line to indicate "Requested Materials" just like you would on an envelope going snail mail. It's worked so far.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


Being an agent with a Kindle, can you discuss how royalties are paid on Kindle Books?

Kindle Books are priced less, so unless the percentage goes up, seems like the author makes less, unless somehow the deal is tied to net.

Anonymous said...

I'm a published author and I love my Kindle. I write in WordPerfect (because Word is awful) and then I convert it to Word to email it to my agent for review (and so she can email it out).

Now with my Kindle, I can also take the almost finished version, convert that to Word, email it to my Kindle, and do my "final" read-through on my Kindle - instead of lugging around a 3-inch thick stack of loose pages! It even allows annotations! YAHOOOO!

And, Sierra Clubber that I am, I'm proud to be killing fewer trees along the way. :)

Plus, I'm reading tons of e-books now. It won't replace "real" books for me, but man oh, man is it great to get books instantly and start reading...


Anonymous said...

Following on my reputation for being a party-pooper, may I say that requesting mss as Word attachments is a mighty bad idea. It's a question of digital hygiene as you don't know what (if any) viruses or funky macros those documents are hiding.

Even if someone requests a Word file, I always send an RTF, which strips out any potential for hidden scripts. RTFs (Rich Text Format) contain all the necessary formatting for a manuscript, so there's no real excuse for not using it instead, and are readable by almost every word-processing program out there. I've noticed that the file size sometimes gets bigger, but I'd rather send a completely clean, larger file and not be blamed for any problem that hits my recipient's PC.

Also, I use various Linuxes and OpenOffice Writer to write, so I'm philosophically against using a proprietary format (even though OO can translate seamlessly across multiple formats, including Word's).

I'm working on something now that I will send across to my epublisher in Word (to make her life a bit easier), but we've known each other for a while, have worked with each other and trust each other. I would not easily accept a Word document from a stranger.

Anonymous said...

Well, shoot. Did I miss something? When I subbed my partial, I snail mailed it. I can't WAIT to go to email submissions!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have to applaud you. Not only is it good for our environment, it's so much easier to send. Just make sure you have a really good anti-virus program.