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fullbookjacket
11-29-2008, 09:35 PM
I'm having a problem that I sure others have experienced.

More and more agents want e-mail queries, and generally ask for the first chapter or so pasted into the body of e-mail. No separate, attached documents accepted. Great, except that when I copy and paste my sample chapters (written as MSWord documents) into the e-mail, the formatting gets all screwed up. One paragraph will be double-spaced, the next might be single-spaced, all the paragraph first-line indents might get dropped, etc. It's a hideous mess, and I can't fix it in the body of the e-mail.

Anybody have some suggestions?

eqb
11-29-2008, 09:49 PM
The safest approach is to convert the excerpt into a format suitable for text only.

Copy the excerpt into separate document. Change *all* the double-spacing to single-spacing. Add a blank line between paragraphs. Change the underlined text to plain text surrounded by asterisks or the underscore character. An example would be:


This is the first paragraph of your novel. Note that the paragraph's first line is not indented. _Here is the second sentence, which is an underlined sentence converted to use underscore delimiters._

"Here is the second paragraph," she said. "Note that there's one blank line before it. Also, note that the text uses plain quote marks and apostrophes, not those fancy smart quotes."

Nandi
11-29-2008, 10:46 PM
I do the same thing Beth suggested. First, I make all those formatting changes on the chapter(s) in Word, and save it in rich text format (RTF). Then I paste it into an e-mail that I send to myself, to make sure something else hasn't gotten messed up ;)

When I send it to the agent, I include a sentence in the body of my letter explaining that the following chapter has been reformatted for e-mail. Probably not necessary, but it makes me feel more comfortable saying that so the agent won't think I'm clueless about the protocol for standard formatting.

Julie Worth
11-29-2008, 10:53 PM
This question comes up frequently. Here's my answer on a thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=118967) from a couple of months ago:

There are two ways to go. The safest is to reformat your chapter in Word by double spacing between paragraphs. (If you're using tab indents for paragraphs, use the replace all function to replace ^t with ^p. Alternatively, you can replace ^p with ^p^p.) Then copy and paste into your email. The single spaced format with double spacing between paragraphs is perfectly acceptable.

If you insist on double spacing with normal paragraph indents, email your query and appended chapter directly from Word. It may look horrible on the other end, however, depending on the software the agent is using.

eqb
11-29-2008, 11:43 PM
If you insist on double spacing with normal paragraph indents, email your query and appended chapter directly from Word. It may look horrible on the other end, however, depending on the software the agent is using.

It will most likely look terrible.

If the agent's mail reader displays only plain text, you lose double-spacing and underlining/italics, and any smart quotes get converted to weird symbols.


First, I make all those formatting changes on the chapter(s) in Word, and save it in rich text format (RTF). Then I paste it into an e-mail that I send to myself, to make sure something else hasn't gotten messed up.

RTF isn't plain text though. It contains just as much formatting as a regular Word document. You are far better off saving your changes to a plain text (ASCII) file. For a quick check, open the saved text file in Notepad.

Sargentodiaz
11-30-2008, 09:25 PM
I know this is dumb but what is ^p? Or ^t?
I use Works every day and I am constantly amazed by what's in it.
I did figure out how to take a Word WP and copy to Word Pad but that still leaves problems.

Julie Worth
11-30-2008, 09:37 PM
I know this is dumb but what is ^p? Or ^t?


^p is Word shorthand for the paragraph mark, and ^t is shorthand for the tab mark. You can use these in the find/replace box by typing them in, or by selecting from the drop-down list of the "special" button.

eqb
11-30-2008, 09:40 PM
I know this is dumb but what is ^p? Or ^t?


These are character-combinations specific to MS Word's search-and-replace functions. ^p is used to search/replace the end-of-paragraph marker. ^t is for tab.

Other word processors use different combinations (if they support searching for these special codes at all).

Cyia
11-30-2008, 09:46 PM
I pasted my excerpt straight out of wordpad (with the line breaks in place of indentions) and didn't have any problems.

eqb
11-30-2008, 10:12 PM
I pasted my excerpt straight out of wordpad (with the line breaks in place of indentions) and didn't have any problems.

That can work if:

1. You don't have any smartquotes, italics, or underlining, or
2. The recipient's email readers can show formatted text, and
3. The recipient has set their preferences to view formatted text.

Julie Worth
12-01-2008, 07:05 PM
That can work if:

1. You don't have any smartquotes, italics, or underlining, or
2. The recipient's email readers can show formatted text, and
3. The recipient has set their preferences to view formatted text.

I use smart quotes, italics, and sometimes I email directly from Word. Still, looking over the last thirty agent replies to queries, not one was unreadable, and ninety percent of the time the material was exactly the way I sent it. In a few cases the font was different, or there were extra line spacings, but most agents are seeing what I sent them. This may not be true for everyone, however, especially if they're overriding Word settings and accumulating hidden codes.

eqb
12-01-2008, 08:33 PM
... most agents are seeing what I sent them.

Repeats patiently:

It depends on what email reader the agent is using, and what their settings are. If they use plain text settings, or their reader does not handle formatted text, italics vanish and the smart quotes turn into weird characters.

I prefer to make sure that my excerpt looks the best it can, even if it takes a few moments longer.

Nandi
12-02-2008, 12:13 AM
[quote=Julie Worth;3014586]...looking over the last thirty agent replies to queries, not one was unreadable, and ninety percent of the time the material was exactly the way I sent it. quote]

How can you tell, Julie? Is it from what's at the bottom of your e-mail response from them, i.e. the inclusion of what you originally sent to them? If that's the case, then I'm in pretty good shape, too.

Julie Worth
12-02-2008, 12:27 AM
How can you tell, Julie? Is it from what's at the bottom of your e-mail response from them, i.e. the inclusion of what you originally sent to them? If that's the case, then I'm in pretty good shape, too.

Yeah. They all included the original query with their response. Of course, some of those who didn't respond at all may have gotten impossibly garbled queries--that's impossible to say.

Julie Worth
12-02-2008, 12:33 AM
Repeats patiently:

It depends on what email reader the agent is using, and what their settings are. If they use plain text settings, or their reader does not handle formatted text, italics vanish and the smart quotes turn into weird characters.


Of course, but my point is that those agents are in a vanishing minority. Less than five percent, probably. So your decision is, do you degrade the appearance of all your queries for the rare agent who doesn't know any better?

Nandi
12-02-2008, 01:19 AM
Heh, heh...so here I am, responding to a topic about formatting, and my response messed up! I couldn't get Julie's quote inside the little quote box. [Well, I thought it was funny.]

eqb
12-02-2008, 01:42 AM
Of course, but my point is that those agents are in a vanishing minority. Less than five percent, probably. So your decision is, do you degrade the appearance of all your queries for the rare agent who doesn't know any better?

We obviously disagree on "degrade" and "doesn't know any better", so I'll just walk far, far away from this discussion.