I've been a little MIA lately - conferences, queries, polishing, editing is really time consuming.
I hope I am posting this in the right place (and I did a search of the archives beforehand).
I've found a lot of links regarding electronic submissions, but some are 1-2 years old and best practices change rapidly. I might be over-thinking it. Here are my questions - I hope someone can tell me the latest methodology to adopt:
(1) When pasting the query/synopsis in the body of an email, do you use TNR, 12 pt font, single spaced with an extra space between paragraphs? What about sample pages of your manuscript with the body of an email? Is that single spaced or double spaced?
(2) If you are requested to submit 25 pages of your MS within the body of an email, how do you count those pages? Do you do so directly from your manuscript (TNR, 12 pt font, double spaced)?
(3) If you need to include query/synopsis/sample pages in the body of the email, do you just add extra spaces between each to differentiate between the three different documents?
(4) If you are requested to submit sample pages, do you include chapter titles?
A best practice is to reply to an agent in the format features which the agent initiated correspondence with you, if an agent did initiate correspondence. If not, second best practice is standard online block format business letter formatting.
The initiated agent's e-mail program and access hardware-software can be determined from the message header metadata. Does the agent compose messages on a PC, use an Apple or Windows e-mail client, an IMAP or POP protocol, and what typeface and font definitions are native on the agent's e-mail client.
1.) Line spacing is problematic for e-mail, Outlook on PCs, for example, a hard return converts to two hard returns on Apple smart phone displays. Plus, smart phones abbreviate sentence width and might add a greater-than caret > at the truncated line end. Too much content alteration in most cases to do anything besides default to plain text ASCII in UTF-8.
Below, an example of an e-mail message metadata from a smart phone:
<html><head><meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8"></head> <body><div>Thank you</div><div><br></div> <div><br></div><div><br></div><div id="composer_signature"> <div style="font-size:85%;color:#575757" dir="auto"> Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone</div></div> <div><br></div><div style="font-size:100%; color:#000000">
Looks like Greek to many e-mailers. The text typeface and font definitions display as the html Rich Text the message was sent in: Times New Roman, 12 pt, roman, black. Also, sent from a Verizon, Samsung galaxy. Character set UTF-8.
2.) Yes, page count from the manuscript. Line spacing considerations the same as for 1.); that is, the receiver's default display could add stray line spaces. Best practice is to omit line spaces, except between paragraphs, and allow the receiver's default settings to reset whatever formatting to the receiver's preferences.
3.) Adding extra line spaces becomes more problematic due to 1.) and 2.) above might do so by default. Two line spaces become four, for example, three become six. Best practice is to label sections with a subheader title: cover letter, query, sample pages, synopsis, etc.
4.) Yes, if the chapter subtitles are part of the manuscript, use them. No all caps, no bold, no centered or flush right, no italics, just plain text subtitle and perhaps an added Roman numeral if no number is extant in the manuscript, bracket with parentheses. For example;
The Bloggart Belows. (Chapter II)
If an agency submission is for an unsolicited letter of introduction, best practice is to just send in as plain a format as possible. If an agency response to a request for further content, plain text is still a best practice, though some clue to the agent's preferences may be gleaned and used.
Trial content submission e-mails self-addressed only, say sent from a PC and received on a smart phone, is a best practice. Also, consider that the recipient is only interested in the content, hopefully, and will make allowances for uncontrollable cross-platform and cross-application glitches. Also, avoid text walls: single line spacing between paragraphs, sections, and subheader titles, even if the net result on a recipient's default display turns one line space into two. The general idea is not to multiply glitches that are controllable.
Thanks. I've also learned to reply directly to an email if someone requests pages. Starting a new thread might cause the original email to get pushed to another folder if rules are in place.
Hard returns are very problematic. I send myself an email *from* different accounts *to* different accounts to see how it looks before I send anything to an agent. Still inpredictable.
Also, guidelines are often vague. I understand the reasoning behind including material within the body of an email, but sending an attached *.docx would be so much cleaner.
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Agents are anymore the screening frontline for novels yet behind the curve in submission methods. Savvy agencies use submission management ware, at least Submittable if not a proprietary server service. Conscientious agencies accept DOCX, DOC, WPD, PDF, RTF, TXT, and INDD submissions through a submission manager.
Submission manager software has the benefit of sharing secure content interoffice. An agent can delegate initial screening, for example, to interns or externs. And so much more practical submission management utility. The learning curve is comparatively shallow.
Also, agencies are behind the curve for Internet security. They generally economize on the software and are naive about it. The unsolicited submission no-attachment practice is an outdated and flawed security method. A robust Internet security application is economical and necessary though can be a resource hog.
Eight in ten computer users use Windows PCs. The ratio inverts for cellphones: eight of ten use Apple OSs. Publication culture, eight in ten use Apple OS PCs. Apple and Windows play rough with each other. My publication studies dissertation was about navigating the rapids of cross-platform and cross-application technology.
Frankly, I believe much of the culture resists submissions, consciously and nonconsciously. No wonder why, though. The barrage of mediocrity and worse tries even the most patient mind-set. However, the slush must be waded through to get to the gems in the rough.