Tuesday, August 01, 2017

When an agent requests your full manuscript

I've been on a full-requesting-spree these last few weeks, thus have noticed some things which might have escaped my attention had I seen them over a longer period of time.

None of these are deal-breakers. I'm not going to summarily reject your novel if you do/don't follow these guidelines.

My assumption is that you want to look professional and be professional.
These tips will help you.

1. Do NOT include the draft number (#1 is bad, but #100 isn't comforting either)
If you need to distinguish versions, use the date.

2. Do not list  what rights are available.
There's almost no chance you'll list them correctly, plus I'm not acquiring rights; I'm signing YOU for representation.

3. Leave out the dedication, and acknowledgements.

4. Leave out any kind of copyright notice. You don't need it.

5. Double space; 1" margins; TNR or Courier font (I change everything to TNR)

6. Do NOT include links of any kind.  Sometimes my computer tries to open those links while it's downloading the manuscript and confuses itself into paralyzing bewilderment.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

3a, unless the book is dedicated to me.
3b, unless you acknowledge the supremacy of my words and existence.
3c, unless you TNR and 1" margin your undying devotion to me.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A full requesting spree? How exciting for authors on the receiving end of that!

Just the story. All QOTKU wants is the compelling story. Not the extraneous.

Lennon Faris said...

And it's been said before, but worth repeating: send it to yourself and open it up again. Better yet - on another computer. Fonts and formats can change.

My computer was once hiding 'mark up' notes. Have NO idea when that button got pushed. My edits were invisible to me (it looked polished!), but as an emailed document, you could see ALL my edits going back a few months! My face literally turned red. I felt like I'd just walked around a conference in my underwear.

Luckily, checking back, none of the documents I'd ACTUALLY sent had that feature on. It's still a mystery to me...

Moral of story: make sure you have your pants on! I mean, check your emailed document before sending.

Donnaeve said...

That sh*t, I mean stuff happens???

What happened to it just being the cover page (title, by yours truly) and then the properly formatted, beautiful, completed (appropriate word count) ms?

Lennon Faris said...

Forgot to mention: it was a beta reader who caught that. She asked me what all the red notes were for. It was between query rounds.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats to those that have grabbed your attention! All the best to them. :)

Questions for Janet:
1) Did you request any of these solely on the basis of the query? (i.e., the first 5 pages didn't knock your socks off, but the query was outstanding.)

2) Did you request any of these solely on the basis of the first 5 pages? (i.e., the query sucked, but was intriguing enough, and the pages were outstanding.)

3) Did you request any of these regardless of the query/pages (e.g., a personal connection with the author, you know the author's writing from elsewhere, writing contest winner, met at a conference, etc.)?

4) What proportion of fulls do you normally read to the end?

5) What proportion of fulls usually don't make it past the first 50 pages? What's the most common reason you stop reading, especially if you requested because of how good the first five pages were?

Okay, I'm done picking at the mind of a Shark. Oh, one more question: can I have my fingers back? ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Another entry for "Writer - Do Not Shoot Yourself in the Foot". I hope this entry becomes super relevant to me this autumn.

My fear with full requests is no matter how much I revise, after letting my book sit, I always see something that I could do better. Basically, at the end of the writing and revision process, I start rapid fire shooting myself in foot. I feel myself becoming super bi-polar about my book- some days I feel great about it, the next day I want to start over again. I don't have time to be this insane. I'll just get back on my rodent wheel now. I can manage the double spaced TNR but that won't matter if I can't manage full requests.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love all of Colin's questions and would love to know those answers.

*Hides behind Colin and the surrounding kale*

Theresa said...

What a great thing: the Shark on a full request spree! Good luck to all those talented fortunates. And this is a great Query 101 reminder about keeping formatting clean and simple.

MA Hudson said...

Ok, so we leave off the Dedications and Acknowledgements, but what about the Oscar acceptance speeches? Surely you want to see them.

Casey Karp said...

The one I have trouble remembering is to clean out the document properties. I don't think that's a grave sin, but there's sometimes information there that you might not want to share. Like how long a gap there is between when the document was created and when it was last edited.

Or is that just me and my hamster wheel again?

Colin Smith said...

Casey: I'm not an agent, but I really can't imagine any agent taking the time to poke around your document properties, or doing anything with your document other than reading what's on the pages. Most agents either a) aren't tech-savvy enough to know how to dig into the hidden elements of a doc, or (most likely) b) simply don't care about anything other than the story in front of them.

Definitely a hamster-wheel issue. :)

Craig F said...

It took me years to figure out how much the KISS system covers. Maybe because Keep It Simple, Stupid is so simple.

This is one of the places to keep it firmly in mind. This is the real first date point of the relationship between writer and agent. The query is only the sideways glances, tweets and calls of first impressions. Now is the important stuff.

One thing I am sure of is that every book an agents requests a full on entailed a different thought process than any other. Just like there are millions of opinions on how a query works. Each query is its own animal.

RosannaM said...

Well the good news is, I would not do any of those things Janet listed. The bad news is, I wouldn't have thought that all my mark ups might still be visible. Thanks Lennon. And I think I have forgotten to send a title page, sheesh.

Casey? You just scared me! I have no idea how to clean up document properties.

What else do I not know what I don't know? It boggles the mind.

BJ Muntain said...

#3 drives me crazy. So many people add a copyright notice because they were told it was helpful/necessary. They argue when I tell them it's not.

Anyone in the publishing business knows once something is put into readable form (digital or paper), it's copyrighted. They're not going to steal your stuff, because a) it's not worth it, and b) they won't get more.

It IS important to put a copyright notice on web content, because nasty people think anything posted online is fair game.

QUESTION about #6: I hadn't heard of this. Is that only with linked links, or even just typed-in links like my website in my contact information?

kathy joyce said...

All, markups are always available. They will be visible if the receiving computer has them turned on. A couple of keystrokes turn them on or off. This is not a thing to worry about. If an agent sees markups, she'll turn them off. If she wants to see them, she can turn them on. If the work is good, or not, no one will care about the markups. Cross that worry off the list!

BJ Muntain said...

Regarding document properties: It's just stuff added by Word/OpenOffice/etc/whatever to keep track. No one cares but the program. The draft number Janet mentions in #1 is often in the file name. I've lost count of my edits/revisions/versions, so I always use the date. So much easier trying to find mynovelJuly2017.doc than mynovelversion108.doc, especially when you can't remember how many versions you've done.

Regarding cover pages: Generally, the first page of your manuscript will have your contact info in the top left corner, then somewhere in the second third of the page, your title, name/pseudonym, and then the novel. A separate cover page isn't necessary.

BJ Muntain said...

And I'm sorry. I'm obviously having problems with numbers pre-caffeine. When I was ranting on about the copyright notice, I called it #3. It should have been #4.

BJ Muntain said...

Okay. Because I can't stop commenting on these:

#2: There are short story writers and magazines/e-zines who insist you need to list what rights are for sale when you send stories to zines. I don't do that, unless the zine says you have to. Most (good) zines will state in the submission guidelines what rights they're asking for, and you just need to accept that or negotiate once your story is accepted. Unless your story is a reprint. Then you tell them what rights are still available. But you're selling your story to that zine. Like Janet said, she's not buying your novel. She's signing YOU.

Kregger said...

So, if I snail mail my 20-point Comic Sans, triple spaced 1000K treatise on kale with a bottle of Glenmorangie, it's frowned upon?

Claire Bobrow said...

I skipped straight from Casey's and Colin's comment to here because...

I read a post by a kidlit agent who said it's helpful to review your document properties before querying. This agent reads on an e-reader, where the ms title defaults to whatever was listed in properties. If your properties are full of unhelpful gobbledygook, that's what the agent will see, too, and it's difficult to distinguish one ms from another.

So change your properties to make the title and author match what's on your actual ms. Get rid of anything else. That's one agent's opinion, anyway.

Colin Smith said...

Claire: Well... at the query stage, unless directed by the agent in question, you shouldn't be sending document attachments (or any attachments, for that matter). So the submission would be a requested submission. Perhaps the agent said "it would be helpful" as opposed to making it an absolute requirement because, since the agent requested the material, they will be a little more forgiving of such things, not wanting to assume the author is aware that the eReader has messed up their doc name.

My point: helpful, but not something to spin the rodent wheels over. :)

Casey Karp said...

Thanks, Clarie! I knew there was a good reason to clear the properties. Though to be honest, I do it mostly because I tend to copy documents and the properties often have things like working titles. Or in some cases, working titles of other books.

kathy, not necessarily so. At least with some versions of Word (and, I presume, other programs) you have to explicitly turn on markup before the program will start tracking the changes. If I don't turn it on (and I don't), they won't be there no matter how the other person's software is set up. Ditto if you do an "Accept all changes," which essentially tells Word to throw away the revision history.

Rosanna, it's going to vary from program to program. But if you can find them in the first place (try the File menu), every program I've tried has had a button to clear them on the same screen or dialog.

BJ Muntain said...

Interesting (re document properties). My Word program only puts in my name. Everything else is empty. No gobbledygook whatsoever. I'll have to see what happens when I get my new(er) computer set up, to see if a newer version of Word does anything different.

Casey Karp said...

Bother. Claire, not Clarie. Time for me to shut up before I insert my foot any deeper in my mouth.

Claire Bobrow said...

Casey: no worries. As you may recall, I recently tried to re-arrange the spelling of Cecilia's name ;-)

Colin: good point - as usual!

Back to the topic at hand, I had a minor heart attack when I read #6 on Janet's list. It hit me that the manuscript I submitted last week as part of a workshop application included a link in the backmatter. Yikes! It was a pdf, though, so maybe I didn't crash anyone's computer?!

Robert Ceres said...

Phewww! The first six mistakes I haven't made.
I save a one-off version for a full request, and prefer to send files as a PDF. That way what you see is what you get.

BJ Muntain said...

Robert Ceres: If an agent uses an e-reader, though, PDFs are notoriously difficult or even impossible to read. That's why most agents prefer Word-standard documents.

Joseph Snoe said...

Good for me. I would have gotten those six right. I'm more creative in my screw ups. The ol' last-second-change screw-up being my favorite.

Robert Ceres said...

BJ Mountain, Oh noooooo!

Joseph Snoe said...

Reading all the comments, I'm now concerned about headers. Include or not for electronic submissions? Yay or Nay?

I've read somewhere that every page of a submission should have a header that gives author's name, book title, page number. For example (Please excuse the lack of adequate spacing):

Joe Snoe Escape from Brazil p. 123

I definitely see the reasoning for paper copies. Is it recommended for email submission, or is the header distracting to readers?

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: The most common format for headers I've seen is:

Snoe/ Brazil/ 123

on the top right. Don't assume the agent won't print it out, especially if she wants to make editorial comments as she reads. Which is very likely if said agent has a collection of blood-red pens specially for such a task... :)

Karen McCoy said...

Very helpful info. I was very lucky to receive my first full request a few weeks back, and, I am relieved to say I didn't do any of Janet's "don'ts." I didn't do the header thing though. Hopefully that's not a dealbreaker. The only headers I have are Title and Karen McCoy, with page numbers at the bottom. The agent asked for a Word Doc, so that's what I sent. The file was titled 2017_Book Title_McCoy.

The Sleepy One said...

New goal: to call all my drafts crazy numbers, like "BestBookEver-Draft-89769862" just to mess with the heads of anyone who reads it.

sophistikitty said...

It breaks my heart to have to change to TNR.

OK, perhaps that's overstating it, but I love my Palatino Linotype, and much as I know that doesn't actually affect the content of the book, it feels less beautiful in any other font.

BJ Muntain said...

Joseph: Yes, having a header with name, title, and page number is the industry standard. It could probably work in the footer, as well. As long as those three things are on every page.

BJ Muntain said...

sophistikitty: Is that font universal? That is, does it look the same on all screens (including e-reader screens)? That's why TNR and Courier are popular - they're standard, and they always look the same.

Some agents do prefer Courier. Here's a tip for anyone planning on querying Donald Maass: He likes Courier, and he was impressed that I used Courier for his reading pleasure. It didn't help him choose to represent me, but I like impressing agents.

Generally, agents who have been in the business a long time (say, pre-internet) might prefer Courier. Most agents (younger and older) prefer TNR.

Steve Stubbs said...

I do have one question about the copyright notice. I have no intention of suing anybody (Pirates take note.) But have always thought it would be well to document date of creation in case someone else comes along later and tries to claim credit for my work.

In my business there are loads of people who sit and stare at the wall all day, then, when anyone does anything useful, they jump up and try to take credit for themselves. No, I would not do this, but it is an accepted way to get ahead and is very effective when done properly.

There are lots of people who have sued the Michael Jackson estate claiming they wrote and sang all the songs and now they want Jackson's money transferred to them.

When Margaret Mitchell published GONE WITH THE WIND she was sued eleven times just in the first six months and refused to write anything else. That was during the Depression and people were scheming to get money.

Movie companies are routinely sued by people who claim they had an idea for a movie and somehow own the exclusive right to it and now claim they are entitled to millions of dollars. I won't mention names. Who knows who those people are going to sue next?

I know people who publish eBooks who say others edit their pdf files to make it appear the eBooks were their work in the first place.

Dan Brown was sued by someone who published a book with a similar theme to THE DA VINCI CODE and who claimed he owned the IDEA, not merely the words in which it was expressed.

As Tarzan famously said to Jane, "Gosh, Janet, it's a jungle out there!"

Is it bad form to register and establish date of creation as an application of the CYA principle? Is that a career ending path to the Carkoon blacklist and the oblivion of the unpublishable and unmentionable?

Ardenwolfe said...

Kind of surprised this even needs to be brought up.

BJ Muntain said...

Steve Stubbs: Your work is copyrighted as soon as you put it in a readable format (digitally or on paper). Your computer keeps pretty good records of when it was put into a digital form. If you're really worried, save the first draft in a few different places and never touch it again, so you've always got a copy (or 3) that have the date of the first draft imprinted on it digitally.

I think Janet might have some fresh words about whether to register it yourself (that's normally the publisher's job.) I'm sure she's spoken to this - I'll go look.

Julie said...
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Julie said...
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BJ Muntain said...

Regarding paying to have your work copyright protected, Janet has one post here on Copyright.

As she says in this post: "Some writers think they should copyright their work to prevent plagiarism or theft, but copyright doesn't prevent that at all. Registering a copyright only means you can collect damages if someone does plagiarize your work."

BJ Muntain said...

Oh, by the way, that post I linked to before? It also says: "To complete a copyright registration, you need the name of the publisher, the year of publication, and two copies of the book to lodge with the Library of Congress. At the query stage, you don't have any of that."

AJ Blythe said...

I think I'm okay with all those points *wipes brow*. However, checking properties isn't something I'd thought of doing (at least I know how to do that).

sophistikitty said...

BJ Muntain: I think so, but I couldn't say for sure. It works fine when transferred to a Kindle, at least.

I suppose I've just got to wait for the day everybody starts coming round to my way of thinking and embraces my font! I'm not going to risk immediately pissing off an agent by refusing to change from it, anyway.