Jan
21

Things I Learned AFTER I Hit "Send"
(Part One: MS Outlook hates you)

I drowned my misery in Tostitos rolled chips and salsa con queso dip.  *ALL of it*

So it’s been three weeks since I sent my first submission to an agent for consideration – and (somewhat predictably) it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.  First off: no, I did not receive a reply from agent #1, which translates to a “no thank you” as per his submission guidelines.  But I’ve learned a few things since I hit the “Send” button a few weeks back...

SUBMISSION FORMAT
As background, each agent wants their submissions in a particular format and with very specific content.  In the case of agent #1, he wanted an email query letter (which is essentially a cover letter about your submission), a two-page plot synopsis (including spoilers), and the first four chapters of the novel – all pasted into the body of the email itself (no attachments). 

I’m sure when he (or his assistant) is combing through the slush pile of his inbox there are likely some, perhaps MANY, submissions where they don’t even bother to scroll past the first few paragraphs before they hit "Delete"…  But of course, my hope was that he would devour my entire submission and immediately come begging for more.

Generally, the proper formal manuscript format is considered to be indented paragraphs, double-spaced, with specific margin settings, headers and footers, etc… but I wasn’t exactly sure how one should deal with this when cutting and pasting content into the body of an email.  For example: should you maintain the double-spacing and indenting while foregoing the margins? Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but naïve-me-from-three-weeks-ago suspected that this particular approach would be best. So I turned to Microsoft Outlook because, in my mind, cutting and pasting from MS Word into Outlook would likely yield the best results, retaining the double-spacing, etc. 

Perhaps you see where this is going. 

I sent myself a few “test” emails to make sure all was well, and off it went!  But the one thing that didn’t occur to me was to review those test messages in some other type of email program or a browser interface like Gmail or Hotmail.  When I did think to check the message in my Hotmail account the next day, the browser rendered the paragraphs entirely differently than the Outlook client had, adding a ridiculous amount of white space everywhere.  

After a brief (but epic) pity-fest, I checked with my writing mentor for some direction on formatting for email submissions:

(HARD-LEARNED) LESSON #1:  Copy and save your email submissions into a basic text editor, like Notepad, to strip away any latent formatting tags from MS Word and DON’T maintain the double-spacing that a traditional manuscript uses.  Instead, format the content like a standard email: single-spacing overall, no indents, and an extra line between each paragraph.  If/when the agent asks for a partial or full manuscript as an attachment, then that's when you dazzle them with your perfectly formatted file.

So with that first submission under my belt (and likely immediately discarded upon sight by the agent, **sigh**) it was time to search out my next set of victims – err, I mean "blessed bearers of all my hopes and dreams." And there, amidst the myriad of "You Are Not A Snowflake" articles, like this little gem, Google led me to a glorious treasure trove of information.

[Click here for Things I Learned AFTER I Hit Send: Part Two.]

JK Rowling's first query was rejected

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One Response to "Things I Learned AFTER I Hit "Send"
(Part One: MS Outlook hates you)"

  1. A. Lee Ripley
    A. Lee Ripley on 23-01-’16 16:58

    Found this blog post, from agent Sam Morgan, that mentions similar cut-paste woes when querying via email.
    “Email clients and word processors don’t often get along and I know what looks good in a .doc file will then look pretty decent in your browser’s gmail but then if I happen to look at it in Outlook – BOOM – French wingdings.”

    ha ha! For more from this post see: http://righthandofdarkness.tumblr.com/po..

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