If the world can’t even agree on universal units of measurement, the shape of power outlets, or how to spell wi-fi, why would literary agents agree on a standard submission format? It stands to reason they differ on what they want. Some ask for the first chapter, some ask for the first three, while others ask for none. Some want a synopsis, some don’t. But they also differ on how they want it, so there is no single answer. The only thing people seem to agree on is 12pt Times New Roman.

Now that I had my “final” draft ready, my query written, the synopsis painstakingly crafted, and a few agents researched, I was ready to send my submission. Still, it was best to take a few minutes to double-check standard formatting rules. This shouldn’t take long.

Reading endless articles and posts about what agents consider ideal, I came across:

“The ideal emailed submission includes… a covering letter, with a synopsis and the first three chapters attached as two separate files.”

“Your safest bet is to include sample pages in the body of the e-mail, under your closing line several spaces.”

“Don’t send attachments. Links to a website [URLs] are ok.”

Remove all [URLs] links to websites.”

“In a day and age when gender is no longer binary… the safe and courteous way to address the agent is:” Dear Jane Smith.

“Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last name COLON. No first names, no nicknames.”

“Simply use the first and last name.”

It goes on, and on, and on… so I won’t.

Everyone agrees that your manuscript must be double-spaced. But what about if pasting it into the body of the email?

Yes, it should be double-spaced. But also, no, it should really be single-spaced. Double-spaced is easier to read on devices, but also, single-spaced is easier to read on devices.

Awesome.

Eight hours later I was ready to send my first query.

 

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