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SJBell
05-25-2010, 02:37 AM
A few of the agents I've been querying have asked for 10-page samples with their queries. I can do this, but there's an issue- in manuscript format (12-point Courier, 1-inch margins, etc.) the first chapter comes out to about 14 or 15 pages. If I cut it down to ten, I'll be cutting off in the middle of the scene. Would it be acceptable for me to send the first chapter, or should I fiddle around with the format to try to squeeze it down? Alternatively, do I just cut it off mid-scene and not worry about it?

suki
05-25-2010, 02:56 AM
A few of the agents I've been querying have asked for 10-page samples with their queries. I can do this, but there's an issue- in manuscript format (12-point Courier, 1-inch margins, etc.) the first chapter comes out to about 14 or 15 pages. If I cut it down to ten, I'll be cutting off in the middle of the scene. Would it be acceptable for me to send the first chapter, or should I fiddle around with the format to try to squeeze it down? Alternatively, do I just cut it off mid-scene and not worry about it?

Send the exact number of pages asked for. If it cuts off mid-scene, that's fine (but finish the last sentence). But agents do know that when they ask for 5-10 pages they are likely to get a partial chapter. So, I always just cut off with the last full sentence that fit on the specific number of pages.

If that bothers you, to send it mid scene, and you just can't bring yourself to do it, then end the sample pages with the scene break before the maximum number of pages asked for, but do not send more pages than requested and do not "fiddle around" with the formatting.

ETA: Times New Roman 12 point takes up less pages than Courier, and TNR is perfectly acceptable. Format it with TNR with appropriate margins and 12 point and you might solve your problem. But if not, send it mid scene.

~suki

Terie
05-25-2010, 09:00 AM
Actually, I've heard editors and agents say repeatedly that an extra page or two is okay to get to a good break point, but 50% more than they ask for is too much.

First, try changing to TNR, which is perfectly acceptable unless the agent/publisher specifically requests Courier. See if that gets you down to 10-11 pages. If not, find a place on page 11 or maybe on page 12 that's a reasonable break (even if not the end of the scene), and send that.

Mishell
05-25-2010, 06:59 PM
I would suggest breaking at the first reasonable place BEFORE 10 pages. Better to leave them wanting more than to annoy them with more pages than they asked for.

Cathy C
05-25-2010, 07:13 PM
Actually, what I'd suggest is leaving it as Courier, with 1" margins but changing the font to 11 pt. It's still perfectly readable, larger than Times New Roman and should fit the full chapter in 10 pages. :)

If it doesn't, then cut it at off at 10. Some agents are picky about that and you don't want to just hope you get one who doesn't mind.

SJBell
05-26-2010, 12:21 AM
Thanks for the advice. I changed back to TNR and made a few judicious edits, and got it down to 10 pages. Sw33t. ^_^

jclarkdawe
05-26-2010, 03:36 PM
I know the OP has resolved her issue, but this keeps coming up, and the more I thought about this, the more I realized how not an issue this really is. There are only two outcomes here, and in either case exactly how many pages you send doesn't matter.

Either the agent starts reading your pages, and makes a decision to ask for more, and probably makes that decision to ask for more before the last page. Or they decide to reject and not ask for more, again making that decision before the last page.

I doubt the decision ever rests on the last page. And if you're that close on the decision that the last page mattes, you're probably not going to make it with your whole book.

Instead of worrying about exactly where 5, 10, 20 or however many pages the agent wants, worry about making them the best possible. That way you'll keep the agent wanting to read no matter how many you send.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

kaitie
05-26-2010, 04:52 PM
I agree, Jim, but I've also seen agents say that they feel it's dishonest when a writer sends a lot more pages than asked for because it feels like the author is trying to sneak their way in to having more. In email if it's just a couple of pages it probably wouldn't matter, but I would certainly not recommend someone send twenty pages instead of ten with the hope that the agent won't notice--particularly if it was a snail mail query. If the agent starts reading then catches on, that's one thing, but if they look at the little scrolly bar on the side and realize someone has sent a ton of pages it could annoy them before they even start.

Also, if someone were to try something like that, they'd probably be lying in the query letter. I always say how much I'm including when I include pages, and if someone says they're sending ten pages and then really includes twenty or more, the agent will realize that if they go on later. Maybe they won't care, but it's still dishonest. The other option would be to be up front and say "I included twenty pages" and then the agent knows you haven't followed the guidelines. (or just not mention it at all, I suppose).

I'm not saying the OP or anyone here is suggesting anyone do that, but I could see how an author might think they can pull one over on an agent without any consequence from your assessment, and I don't think that's the case. Considering that one of the main complaints from authors is that they feel agents don't ask for enough pages to make a worthwhile decision, I could see how people might be tempted.

I think in general it's best to just follow the guidelines but recognize that no one's going to be upset over an extra page or two (or less).

Cathy C
05-26-2010, 05:07 PM
I know a few agents who simply don't care how many pages they get so long as they get a good feel for the writing. But I know other agents who consider the guidelines a "test" to see if the writer can follow directions. Some agents have been really burned by authors who always try to color outside the lines (which turns into problems when said author starts playing fast and loose with contract guidelines too.)

:Shrug:

I'm one of those who are in the camp of "if it doesn't specifically say yes, the answer is no." But I work in law at my day job. And I also don't claim things on my taxes unless I actually have a physical receipt in hand--regardless of whether I "know" I put out the money. So I might be the wrong person to ask. ;)

JanDarby
05-26-2010, 06:49 PM
Something to remember, too, is that if the agent reads the whole thing, she WILL know how many standard pages it is equal to, no matter what is done to the font or margins.

I'm not an agent, but I've done some contest judging, and after a while, my brain knew exactly where the manuscript should have ended, and I'd start thinking (at least subconsciously), "shouldn't I be on the last page now?" And then if I compared the fonts and margins, etc. to the other submissions, it was obvious that some fudging had happened. And I was only reading half a dozen beginnings over a long weekend; it's got to be even more obvious -- like muscle memory -- to someone who could read that many every day.

The thing is -- one more page or five more pages or even a hundred more pages isn't going to improve your reception (especially if the recipient is irritated that you couldn't follow a simple request). In my experience, the strengths that appear in the first page of the submission are repeated throughout the submission, and the weaknesses in the first page are repeated throughout the rest of the manuscript. It's not like page one through eight are kinda' sorta' okay, and then all of a sudden page nine and ten are brilliant, and the agent just has to represent you. (And if it is like that, you're better off revising to make pages one through eight as brilliant as the last two.) No, what happens is the first page is good enough for the agent to keep reading, and the second page is good enough for the agent to keep reading, and so on, until the last page is good enough that the agent wants to see more. Doesn't really matter if that last page is number five or number twenty-five.

One of the best contest entries I ever judged was also the shortest. This was several years ago (and the author has since gone on to be published with a major publisher), and I can't recall the details, but I think the rules were "one scene, but no more than ten standard pages." I got everything from multiple scenes to what was probably 15 standard pages. The one that was brilliant, though, was one scene and only about five pages. The author's conviction shone through the whole thing -- she'd written a good scene, and she knew it, so there was no need to fudge anything.

Trust your writing (or revise until you do trust it), and then send exactly what the agent/editor asks for.

kaitie
05-26-2010, 07:13 PM
I'm not an agent (obviously) but I used to grade papers for my professors in college when I was a GA, and I agree that you could always tell. I could pick out all the little tricks people were doing, even when they thought they were being clever. It's like you said. When you see a lot of something done one way, you get used to how it should look. I know it always bugged me, so I can definitely see how it would bother an agent.

JSSchley
05-26-2010, 07:55 PM
I read Jim's comment differently. I don't think he meant "it doesn't matter so send as much as you want." I read it to be saying, "the agent will make the decision within the pages s/he asked for and sending extra isn't going to change that."

Personally, I agree with this. From all the reading I've been doing (which is a TON, do not mistake my Join Date and post count to be representative of how long I've been lurking!) it seems that agents know how much writing they need to make a decision about whether to request a longer partial or full. I view pages like an amuse-bouche—they just give a little taste of what's to be offered.

An experienced agent is probably going to know on page one whether she wants to see more, so why risk the ire of someone who is very picky about the page limit (and as a grader of many a paper myself, I agree--they will know)? The pages you send should be a gorgeous bite-sized chunk of your gorgeous writing. It shouldn't matter if you cut off mid-sentence, much less mid-scene.

jclarkdawe
05-26-2010, 08:19 PM
Ah, the wonderful act of confusion.


I agree, Jim, but I've also seen agents say that they feel it's dishonest when a writer sends a lot more pages than asked for because it feels like the author is trying to sneak their way in to having more.

In no way do I mean to imply sending more than the agent asks for. If the agent calls for ten pages, or five pages, or seven and a half, don't worry about where it ends. Just send exactly what's requested. Don't fiddle with fonts, don't worry if it's in the middle of the scene, make sure you finish the sentence, and send it. Don't try thinking that ten actually means eleven.

Ten pages means ten pages, and it isn't going to matter where it ends. The agent is going to decide before those ten pages are up to request more or reject, so the last page doesn't really matter.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe