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Submission Format and Writing Technique Matter

Knowing the proper submission format and writing technique is just as important as writing a great plot. It matters. It matters to agents, editors, the production staff, and to readers. There is a reason we have things like commas, rules for dialogue, and spacing after a period (only one please). These rules help us read with ease and ensure continuity when books are sent to the printer.

On our video for when an agent offers representation, a reader asks:

As an agent, do you care about the format? I’m getting ready to start querying, but my manuscripts are formatted like scripts (because I initially envisioned them as graphic novels). I have decided to leave them like this, since they will have to be rewritten over and over anyway. But do you think that could piss some people off or they’d think I don’t have the will to work hard just because I didn’t correct it before querying?

My concern with your question is that it isn’t just about the proper format of a book. It seems to me that you aren’t formatting the book because you don’t see it as a completed project. Anything you submit to an agent should be complete, revised, edited, properly formatted and, I suppose, ready to go to the printer. Revisions will always be done and formatting, writing, and plotting will be altered and fixed. That doesn’t mean however that agents and editors are expecting a rough draft. They aren’t. They expect that the book is perfect and they are only working with you to make it more perfecter (yep. I did that).

If you don’t know proper writing techniques or formatting take time out from writing to learn them. If you know your book needs work, hold off submissions until the work is done.

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3 comments

  1. It still surprises me when I see this kind of attitude, I know it probably shouldn’t, but I’m old.

    In such a competitive world why would you want the professionals you wish to work with, see anything but you’re very best work?

  2. You don’t want to give any agent a reason to reject you. Think about the hundreds of submissions they receive. If they have a polished, formatted manuscript and they have a semi-polished, not-correctly-formatted manuscript which will be the first they reject?

    Especially if they don’t accept screenplays, they may think you’ve submitted to the wrong person and not even read a word.

  3. As I see it, it’s really simple. Writing is your job, your career. If you were submitting an application form and C.V. would you send in something that wasn’t complete, where you had written answers outside the space provided and not bothered to punctuate? If you did, would you be surprised if you didn’t get an interview.

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