Saturday, February 14, 2009

Just FYI

I ask for 100 pages when I ask for partials.
I figure that gives me enough pages to see if a book really needs to start at chapter six instead of one, and to see if you can get some conflict and tension going such that I want to read on.

I ask for 100 pages.
If you send 100 pages in Courier, I convert it to Times New Roman, and it becomes 76 pages.

Therefore, a savvy query writer might want to send 100 pages in Times New Roman, rather than Courier. Your goal is to have me read a lot rather than a little. 24 pages is a substantial difference in volume.

If you don't believe me, test it yourself on your word processing program.

And I don't switch to TNR cause I like the smaller font. I change to TNR cause it's darker on my screen and easier to read.

38 comments:

Marty said...

Actually a question more than a comment. Is 100 pages a normal request for a partial, or, it that just a preference of yours?

I do think that your reasoning is wise, but I also think that it may be a lot more work for the average agent.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Ooh, good to know. Most agents seem to say they ask for fifty, so I keep that in mind when I write, but of course it's important not to let the book start dragging after that fifty-page mark.

Annette Lyon said...

Now I can gloat. I've had friends insist emphatically that agents want Courier and Courier only.

Julie Weathers said...

All right, 100 pages for a partial. What about when you ask a writer you met at a conference to send pages?

Just wondering.

Julie

Janet Reid said...

Julie, you are in a very special, very very select category of queriers called "cowgirls from Surrey."

Thus, you will send the whole thing, and I will read it.

But it better be pruned down from those numbers I read on your blog or I'm going to send the octopus down to Texas to help you edit.



Her idea of editing is just simply pulling out every eighth page and tossing it aside.

To avoid a "this seems a bit jumbled" response you might want to avoid her assistance.

Julie Weathers said...

Sorry, Miss Janet. I had to pick myself up off the floor.

All righty then, back to edit.

Julie

BJ said...

"Now I can gloat. I've had friends insist emphatically that agents want Courier and Courier only."

This is the same type of advice as 'an editor will reject if there's a semi-colon on the first page'. Too many people think an editor or agent cares about the picky things like this. Too many writers think editors and agents look at subs the way writers look at other writers' work. The thing is, most don't. Most want to be entertained and read like readers, not like writers. It's only when fonts/punctuation/ mistakes/etc. get in the way of their enjoyment that they become problems.

Editor Ellen Datlow hates Courier, and changes everything to TNR. Editor John Joseph Adams prefers Courier. Best-selling SF author and editor Robert J. Sawyer insists that Courier is the only font to use, and on his blog offers a link to a 'Dark Courier' font that is easier to read. Myself - a non-published -as-yet SF author - I prefer TNR.

The thing is, nothing can't be changed. It's easy to select all and change the font of a novel. It's easy to remove extra spaces after periods if the editor prefers one space (though a little more difficult to change one space to two). Editors and agents all have their own tastes, and anyone who says different doesn't understand human nature.

/rant

Gary Corby said...

My dumb question for the day is, in a world where all manuscripts are mere bits on a disk, why not always ask for the whole ms? I presume you would only read as much as necessary to form a decision anyway.

Partial vs full appears to my ignorant eye to be a hangover from the days of paper submission?

Janet Reid said...

Gary,
Knowing there are "only" 100 pages helps me read further (and thus maybe past some problems) than if it was a full novel.

It's an irrational and illogical thing, but it's true. For me anyway.

I have no idea why other people do it.

Marjorie said...

I always send pages of my book in Comic Sans MS. That's cause I am a stand-up comic and Comic Sans appeals to my sense of symmetry. It's not too big, not too small; it fits just right.

Julie Weathers said...

"I always send pages of my book in Comic Sans MS. That's cause I am a stand-up comic and Comic Sans appeals to my sense of symmetry. It's not too big, not too small; it fits just right."

I strongly urge you to just read the agent's site and send exactly what they ask for. The one deviation might be sending five pages along with query. Different fonts, colors, margins...no. Send what they ask for.

I would imagine part of this falls under, "Can they follow instructions or are they a special little snowflake?"

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

Out of curiosity, because I am much like a ferret, I checked the word count on a page of my manuscript.

You get the same words with courier and comic sans. Are you really so confident in your writing that you want to throw away an opportunity to send 24 more pages?

I realize it's a way to make a statement about you being a comic, but save that for later.

Marjorie said...

;-( Nobody gets my humor anymore! I wrote that as a joke: I am a stand-up comic who uses Comic Sans NS.

I must have lost my touch. Just a few years back, people would read what I wrote and think it was sort of funny. Readers would send E-mails telling me my blog was funny, too.

Last night I did a show at The Comic Strip in NYC... and well, all I can say is I wish when I was teaching I could have gotten my classes so quiet.

T. Anne said...

I prefer to write my novels in arial 16 font partially because I'm blind as a bat and the font appeals to me. However, I gladly convert to TNR whenever I send out partials. I just sent one via email and one paper copy last week. I couldn't help scoffing over and over about the paper copy. Probably because I had to get out of my PJ's and venture out in the world on a rainy day, but really, isn't email almost always better?


Suddenly, I'm wishing I was a "cowgirl from Surrey" whatever that might be.

tbrosz said...

You are willing to read 100 pages in TNR? Bless you, for you are a paragon among agents! In my book, that's almost six complete chapters.

*Sigh* If only you did YA fantasy...

Julie Weathers said...

Marjorie, I am so sorry.

It's really hard to tell when someone is joking or not via the written word.

Frankly, after following agent comments for a while, nothing surprises me. Some of the things people do and send are amazing. Just when you think it can't get worse, someone posts about something else that tops the list.

Someone said recently they had to treat all queries seriously as they never know when a person is sending a prank query or not.

Sorry the show didn't go well. Hopefully, it will pick up.

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

"Suddenly, I'm wishing I was a "cowgirl from Surrey" whatever that might be."

I met Janet at the Surrey IWC in October. I signed up for her query writing master class, but on a whim, I also submitted a bit to Jack Whyte's master class.

I was really torn about what to do, but since Jack's class was very limited, I knew I would be noticed if I didn't show. I assumed Janet would never notice I was missing and would just toss my query.

Ummm, yeah. That worked out well.

She noticed.

She did forgive me after I begged on bended knee and later asked me to send pages.

As for the cowgirl part. I decided to just be myself and be comfortable, so I showed up in hat, boots and jeans. No one tossed me out at least. Paul Stevens commented about horses when I pitched to him.

BJ said...

Note to self: When pitching at Surrey, wear denim. You get noticed, and if you spill water all over yourself, it will dry faster.

I remember Janet looking for you in the master class, Julie. All I could think was, 'I wish there were an agent who would miss me.' I think you had a lot of folks in the class wishing they were you. I'm sure there were a few thinking they should turn their name tags around and pretend to be you. Not me, of course. By the time we got to you, I'd already had to say who I was. Lucky me, I was the (very nervous) first customer. But I can proudly say that I was the first victim of Janet's class, and I survived! (with an A+, which I am also very proud of!)

T. Anne said...

Julie,
Sounds like you came out on top. Good luck to you! BTW, good boots, a nice hat and a lil' bit of begging never hurt anything either. Godspeed.

Julie Weathers said...

BJ, I heard a lot of good things about the class and I really am sorry I missed it. Several friends were in there and they let me know I screwed up.

I think an A+ is something to be very proud of. I did need that class, as queries are hard for me, but it was a case of how to be the least rude.

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

T. Anne,

I went to Surrey to gain some knowledge about writing. I didn't even plan to pitch at first, but KC said, "What do you have to lose?"

I responded, "My pride, my dignity, my lunch?"

Even after I set up the appointments, I had no hopes of anything coming from them. I decided just to be myself and have fun.

I think that is the whole secret of a good conference. Be yourself and have fun. Learn what you can and apply it.

And, Janet will deny this, but she really is a sweetheart. Her impersonating Rachel Vater was hilarious.

Janet Reid said...

I didn't think you were rude at all. I just wanted to meet you cause I liked your query letter and you are a cowgirl.

And I was right, I do like you.

Julie Weathers said...

Janet, I'll confess here, the bantering with you really did set me at ease. I was nervous going up there and wondered if I had lost my mind.

That first, "Julie Weathers! She who..." completely erased all my misgivings.

Lisa Norman caught Donald Maass in an elevator and smiled brightly. "Hmmm, here I have you trapped in an elevator and no book to pitch."

He growled at her and they laughed.

It was an extraordinary event.

I really am glad to hear you liked my query letter. I studied your archives as well as several others to try and get a handle on it. The blogs you agents put together do make a difference.

Julie

Adam Heine said...

I write in TNR 10-point, because my eyes haven't died yet and I like to see as much of the text at once as possible. But I always, always send in TNR 12-point (unless something else is requested for some reason).

I never like seeing my work in Courier. Fixed-width fonts always feel so... screenplay. The novels I read aren't in fixed-width, why should my manuscript be, you know?

Julie, I keep meaning to tell you I love your profile pic. Was that from Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale?

Julie Weathers said...

"Julie, I keep meaning to tell you I love your profile pic. Was that from Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale?"

No idea. It was on a free avatar site and it reminded me of my main in PALADIN. It's really hard to find a fantasy picture of a female who isn't wearing a plate bikini.

Jane Smith said...

I've read some research on how different fonts are processed, and it seems that a seriffed (serifed?) font is more "fixed" onto the page, which makes it easier to read for people who have dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies (like me), or who have a condition that I have where it's impossible to focus on one point for too long (if I read when I'm tired, my eyes start to move erratically and so the text looks like it's squirming around on the pages, so I have to close one eye and then all is usually fine). So I much prefer TNR, and find it much easier to read than Ariel.

However, for non-dyslexics, and for people with steadier eyes than mine, a non-serif font is usually clearer, which goes some way towards explaining why there's this continual disagreement about which font is the best.

Just thought you might like to know.

Adam Heine said...

Julie: You probably don't care, but I found it. It was from a computer RPG called Icewind Dale.

That link is to a slideshow of all the avatars from Icewind Dale (yours is a ways in - human female fighter 1). They're pretty good, if you have time to flip through them.

Steve Ulfelder said...

I do everything in TNR 12. I would be scared to write in another size or font, then do a conversion before sending off a ms. Why? Because for me, anyway, font and size contribute to the feel of the words on the page - the pace, the tempo, the setup, the payoff, etc. I was once asked to submit something in Courier. After the conversion, I found myself making edits because my story in Courier felt like it wanted to be slightly but distinctly different than my story in TNR. Can anybody relate to this, or do I need to get out more?

Julie Weathers said...

Adam,

Actually, I am interested.
http://tinyurl.com/Brice-Broaddus is a friend of mine. Fabulously talented artist and creative person. My game plan is to get something published so I have something to offer gaming companies and get a job writing for one.

Of course, actually making a living a a novelist would be fantastic, but I don't think that happens much with a debut author.

I appreciate you looking that up. I'm going to go check it out.

Julie

Julie Weathers said...

Adam, whoa. What an awesome site. Thank you so much for pointing it out to me.

Julie Weathers said...

After the conversion, I found myself making edits because my story in Courier felt like it wanted to be slightly but distinctly different than my story in TNR. Can anybody relate to this, or do I need to get out more?--

Beth Shope actually advised people to convert their manuscripts to another font. Your eye picks up things you haven't noticed on previous sweeps.

Adam Heine said...

Julie: I'm glad you liked it. I know there's a number of roads into gaming companies, but for designers/writers, none of them are easy. Mostly because everyone figures they can write a video game ;-)

Steve: I've noticed that too. When I finish my first draft and go into revision, I plan on changing my manuscript to 12-point font and 1.5 or double-spacing for that very reason.

Julie Weathers said...

Adam,

"Julie: I'm glad you liked it. I know there's a number of roads into gaming companies, but for designers/writers, none of them are easy. Mostly because everyone figures they can write a video game ;-)"

Agreed. I wouldn't dream of the designing phase per se, but I would like to write the stories of the worlds. Some of the games have very rich story lines.

Jen said...

Interesting discussion. I compose in Bookman Old Style or Garamond 12pt. I always single space, skip indents, and then double space between paragraphs. Makes for a mess when I'm done, but when I'm finished, just reformatting the piece allows me to spot errors easily on edit. I do this for my schoolwork as well.

Thank gawd for computers, which makes it so much easier to customize submissions to editor/agent specs, and yet still allows someone to write in a way that is most comfortable for the writer. Gotta love it -- everyone ends up happy in the end.

Aimless Writer said...

OooOoOoo, thanks for the tip! I love it.

BJ said...

Steve, I haven't gone through to edit it after changing to Courier, but the story definitely does have a different feel: more critical, maybe, less creative (in my mind only - I know I'm strange).

It's similar for me when drafting. I always handwrite my drafts, because I *feel* more creative that way, the story seems to flow more. When drafting using a keyboard, the stories I write come out far differently, with a different feel to them, perhaps a different style.

Did I mention I'm strange?

Amber Lynn Argyle said...

Awesome tip! Thanks so much.

Susan Adrian said...

Ha! Just found these comments. Love the "cowgirl from Surrey" bit. :)

Julie: This? "I think that is the whole secret of a good conference. Be yourself and have fun. Learn what you can and apply it." I'd say you're dead on there. Yes, yes.

Having Janet at a conference helps immensely too, though.