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Thread: Formatting email submissions

  1. #1
    Fictionista midgedear's Avatar
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    Formatting email submissions

    Most agents want the first so many pages or chapters sent in the body of an email. I spend hours formatting my manuscript only to have it hacked to pieces in the emailing process.

    Do agents understand and ignore these formatting nightmares or do they expect the same kind of clean, crisp formatting that is sent in an attachment or by snail mail?

    I've spent hours and hours trying to correct the errors. I've even typed the three chapters into the body, but that's so time consuming and repetitive. Even then, sometimes you hit a wrong key and bam! It discharges into cyberspace too soon, or it gets screwed up anyway.

    I have searched the internet and although most of the articles I've come across explain the reason for formatting errors in emails, none explain how to fix them.

    Suggestions anyone?
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  2. #2
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    You don't really format your manuscript when you paste it into the body of an e-mail. You can't possibly control how it will look when the recipient gets it, because it all depends on their e-mail settings.

    You paste it in single spaced and add an extra return between paragraphs. (It's easier to paste the stuff into a separate word processing file so you can globally change all the returns to two returns, then copy and paste that into the body of your e-mail.)

    Then you can add an underscore before and after any italicised text, _like this_.

    Publishing folks know how to read this. If they want, they can just copy and paste from your e-mail into a document of their own and format it the way they want.

    Easy peasy!
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  3. #3
    sky with diamonds
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    Most email programs respect formatting. Certainly gmail does. Maybe just a gmail account for queries?

  4. #4
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucy View Post
    Most email programs respect formatting. Certainly gmail does. Maybe just a gmail account for queries?
    I'm talking about the recipient's e-mail client. The sender has absolutely no control over how the recipient has their e-mail client set up.

    For example, I have my web-interface one set up to ignore html. Everything comes in as plain text. Doesn't matter how much anyone prettifies their e-mail, it gets displayed to me as plain text.
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  5. #5
    resident curmudgeon
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    MS Outlook has full RTF formatting capability, and Gmail also does a good job.

    I often have to send fully formatted short stories in the body of an e-mail.

    Any good agent or editor uses professional quality software, usually MS Word, and they will receive formatted e-mails. If they couldn't, they wouldn't ask for material in the body of an e-mail.

  6. #6
    Recovering Canucks Fan Becca C.'s Avatar
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    I recommend copy-and-pasting into the email from a plain text file, or a word processor that isn't as format-screwy as MS Word. This is why I use Apple's Pages instead of Word.
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  7. #7
    Fictionista midgedear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    MS Outlook has full RTF formatting capability, and Gmail also does a good job.

    I often have to send fully formatted short stories in the body of an e-mail.

    Any good agent or editor uses professional quality software, usually MS Word, and they will receive formatted e-mails. If they couldn't, they wouldn't ask for material in the body of an e-mail.
    This gives me great comfort. I've sent some to myself from gmail to yahoo and they were awful! As much as I try to keep up, I'm afraid I'm just not one of those tech savvy people. But, James, are you saying I can check my gmail settings to at least minimize corrupt formatting? Or, should I not worry about it at all?
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  8. #8
    Agented YA Writer Ryan_Sullivan's Avatar
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    Really, it's what's in the pages that matters more than how they're formatted. If you're writing is brilliant, they probably won't pass because the formatting is a bit off.

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  9. #9
    not napping... brainstorming! TudorRose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by midgedear View Post
    But, James, are you saying I can check my gmail settings to at least minimize corrupt formatting? Or, should I not worry about it at all?
    I don't think tinkering with your own settings until it looks perfect in all the versions you send yourself is the way to go, as you still have no guarantee of how it will appear on the agents' screens, especially if they happen to read your query on a blackberry/iphone etc while stuck in traffic in a cab. I'd set the email to plain text if you have this option--no indenting, no italics, and try to avoid "curly quotes", em-dashes or any other auto-formatting/special characters that Word might have applied to your ms. As far as I know your pasted sample should look something like this extract--single-spaced with an extra return between the paragraphs.
    Last edited by TudorRose; 07-21-2011 at 01:21 PM.

  10. #10
    resident curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by midgedear View Post
    This gives me great comfort. I've sent some to myself from gmail to yahoo and they were awful! As much as I try to keep up, I'm afraid I'm just not one of those tech savvy people. But, James, are you saying I can check my gmail settings to at least minimize corrupt formatting? Or, should I not worry about it at all?
    You have to start with a perfectly formatted RTF story, and then you have to set Gmail to retain the formatting.

    When you send yourself an RTF e-mail, it should retain formatting. If it doesn't, you're opening it with the wrong program.

    Look, formatting is often not important when dealing with a query or a few sample pages. The general rule is that if only the agent reads it, use standard block formatting, which means no indents and a space between paragraphs, as we do here.

    But if it's something an agent might use to attract an editor, such as a synopsis and sample chapters, then formatting counts. It's all in what the agent wants, and how she wants it.

    How something looks when an agent open it in a Blackberry means nothing, but looks often do matter, especially when an agent uses your synopsis and sample chapters to attract an editor.

    What matters is how something is formatted when an agent or editor opens it in Outlook or Word.

    I've had to send complete manuscripts in the body of an e-mail, and formatting counts when you do this. But because I use MS Office, as the agents and editors do, all formatting is preserved on my end, and because they're RTF, they can be opened with all formatting preserved.

    Too many writers think you can't send and receive perfectly formatted e-mails, but you can, and it's been a reality for a decade. You just have to have professional level software, and know how to use it.

    I don't really know how much software out there can now do this, but I know MS Office has been able to handle it for many years, and I also know that most agents and editors have and use MS Office for this reason.

  11. #11
    Fictionista midgedear's Avatar
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    James, sir! You are the la-bomba! Thank you, really.
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