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Formatting Excerpts in Your Query

I often worry about how bogged down writers can get in the “rules” of querying. One agent tells you that a synopsis must be two pages while another requests ten and yet another despises any sort of synopsis. All of these discrepancies are enough to send an author to drink (Hemingway anyone?). They are also enough to prevent an author from querying — which is the worst thing that can happen.

In my blog post on how Query Mistakes Won’t Lead to Instant Rejection, I attempted to quiet some of the fears authors have, but I know that no matter how hard I try questions remain. This one from a reader is about attaching requested excerpts.

Thank you for this column. I have a question: Most agents request samples pasted into the email, to avoid viruses. Can you please clarify how you’d like these pasted excerpts formatted? If I copy and paste my double-spaced, indented manuscript as is, it sometimes looks funky after sending. Also, the page numbers fall off (headers and footers disappear).

I’ve read that for readability, agents prefer excerpts/sample chapters copied and pasted into email in plain text, single spaced, with a space between paragraphs. Is this correct? How about page numbers?

This is one of the many reasons BookEnds switched to Query Manager (ahem, agents take a look). With Query Manager, we avoid viruses, clogged email inboxes, spam, and other things that made email queries complicated. That being said, I do remember pasted samples and I do have suggestions.

The best thing you can do is create an email with your excerpts. Fix the spacing (single) and don’t worry about page numbers. No one expects them in an email. Then whenever you go to add an excerpt to your query you can simply cut and paste the properly formatted excerpt from your email drafts.

If agents are requesting excerpts be pasted into a query they know that the format will change slightly from the actual manuscript. It’s a given.

Happy querying!

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4 comments

  1. And even when you format in the email it can change at the other end, depending on their email service. Not much you can do except keep your fingers crossed I think.

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