Don’t Forget Formatting!


I’m still in the process of prepping Heavyweight to go out to agents and a good friend of mine, Bobby Mathews was kind enough to look over the first couple of pages for me.  While he had a bunch of great things to point out to me, the one that surprised me the most was “you need to format your manuscript.”

I scratched my head. I knew he wasn’t talking about e-book formatting and agents list how they want their excerpts to come over: 12 pt Times New Roman font, double spacing, no indentations, etc. I had all that down. When I asked, he pointed me to William Shunn‘s site that showed proper formatting for manuscripts and short stories.

Oops. I had no idea things needed to be set up in that manner. Odd, that I knew scripts needed specific cover pages and whatnot, but not once did it cross my mind that my manuscript did as well. I guess as an Indie author it’s just not something that ever came up.  This is why research is important folks. They could have very well thrown my stuff in the trash (or ya know…deleted the email) when they saw it wasn’t properly formatted. Or maybe they would have sent back a snarky response. Or I could have gotten a nice person who would have gently informed me of the correct way.

I’m glad I found out before queries were sent. It’s such stiff competition out there that any little thing is liable to get you pushed off the slush pile and into the “no thanks” bin. Better safe than sorry. Do your research people!

Anyone have any other bits of important info for the querying author?

6 responses »

    • I used to know AP and MLA inside out but once I was done with school they weren’t so important. Good to know for other things though!

  1. Somehow, I find it difficult to believe that an agent or editor would reject a manuscript because italicized words weren’t underlined (one of Shunn’s rules). My best advice for querying is to write the most compelling query letter you can–not a synopsis of your book. Write something that makes the agent or editor want to pick up the phone and ask you to send the full proposal or manuscript right this minute. Personally, I think writing queries is one of the most difficult parts of getting published, because no matter what genre you write, marketing is a whole new ballgame.

    • Agreed. Hard to convince people to be interested in your work when you only have a couple of paragraphs to explain it. Part of the problem is actually getting it off the slush pile and to the agent in the first place so I do feel there’s importance to having it meet expected regulations, you know?

      • I don’t disagree. I used to be an acquisitions editor, and of course I found it much easier to work with those that were properly formatted. I cringed at poorly written queries and proposals, but if they were compelling and covered everything I needed to know, I didn’t reject them because they were written in AP or MLA style instead of CMS. You are absolutely correct that It IS important to follow an agent’s or publisher’s guidelines, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen guidelines that were so specific that they mentioned italics or bolding.

      • It does seems a bit much, I agree, but who knows…some people are anal about things. Heh Good to get information from the other side of things though. Thanks!

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