>Queries and Standards

>Surprisingly, for one like me who likes to do things “right”, I hadn’t actually taken the time to check how agents want the manuscript formatted. Sure, I knew all about the double-spaced thing. Everyone knows that, right?

There’s more. Even in these computer-centric days, it seems Courier is still the preferred font. It’s not pretty, it’s not even a proportional font, but I guess if that’s what you’re used to seeing then everything else will look alien, and it’s another example of giving what they want, not want you want.

So I’ve just spent the last hour reformatting the book to fit these guidelines. It might make no difference, but if it goes in front of an agent who has a simple filtering procedure – wrong font, discard – then at least it should pass that test.

And while we’re on the subject of making an impression, a quick word on the Query letter. Considering I’ve just written 600 plus pages of the book, you’d think putting together a single page summary would be pretty straight-forward. Far from it. Apart from the challenge of condensing 115,000 words into less than 1,000 it needs to be something that also passes the “first glance” test.

Until now, all the queries have been formal and polite, business-like. That method hasn’t been a complete failure, we have had some responses and are waiting to hear back from these people, but the more I look around, the more I realise that this is a case of having to make that first impression really stand out, and as we all know, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

So,with that in mind, the query letter had been completely rewritten. Of course, it still contains all the factual information (page count, etc.) but in a more “grab you by the scruff of your neck and demand attention” kind of way. At least, I hope that’s what it does.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I’ll be doing some more submissions this weekend, we’ll see what comes of them.

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5 Comments to “>Queries and Standards”

  1. >I've done this myself, I didn't use courier and it never seemed to come up? It makes a big difference to readability and the word count per page doing that.Not necessarily sure writing a book is the hardest bit really, to come is the endless back and forth with edits – assuming they want to take it that far.

  2. >TBH, I hate Courier (the Word version, at least) but I put it down as "One less reason to reject" – there will always be those out there for whom you have to tick the right boxes before they even read anything.As to "the hardest bit", that was exactly my point. The writing seems like the hardest bit before you start and you'd be forgiven for thinking that after it's completed. But then you're faced with everything else, it makes the actual writing seem easy.

  3. >Artistically, you could always argue that the content is more important than the presentation, but the publishing world sticks to its own methods regardless of whether they make sense to someone in the real world.JM Staczynski's book on screenwriting is both informative and despressing regarding this. A surprisingly large chunk of it is all about presentation. It's not all about the art.It seems odd to spend however many hours writing something to then have to double space it, or otherwise mangle it before you can even be vaguely sure an agent will even read the first page, but it's probably no more bizarre than the rituals we go through when we put together or update our CVs.Would you accept a CV on non-white paper? Or one that included photos? Same thing, I guess. Standards, crazy and mostly pointless at that.

  4. >It's crazy, and you're right, it's very much a sales job getting the book seen, at the start of this process, having never done it before, my thought process was 'write a book', 'get an agent' and 'take cheque to the bank'! Oh no…..Anyways, we have exciting times ahead, we are very confident about the quality of the book and the project in general and I hope we can make 'them' see too.

  5. >It's always possible to skip the step of getting an agent yourself, and tout the book directly to the publishers, which at least means if the agent is having a bad day, the publisher will still get a crack at your magnum opus. After all, they are the one who is going to publish it, why should anyone else's opinion stop them even seeing it?The argument is, of course, that a tried and tested agent has contacts, and a reputation which propels your manuscript into the publisher's hands with a little more oomph.And, of course, as agents take a percentage, they will also only take on things they think might make money. That's got to be slightly reassuring…

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