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idempotent1729
08-17-2010, 09:22 PM
As a scientifically oriented person, I have a question about roundoff when sending sample pages to an agent as part of the standard querying process. When the first five pages are requested, it seems reasonable that one should at least round up to the nearest sentence. Should one also round to the nearest paragraph (assuming, say, paragraphs of 2-5 sentences)? If the first chapter is 6 or 7 pages, should one round to that and include those 7 pages? Thanks very much for any guidance!

Medievalist
08-17-2010, 09:29 PM
Round down, not up.

idempotent1729
08-17-2010, 10:06 PM
Thanks, Medievalist!

Ryan_Sullivan
08-18-2010, 02:36 AM
Most agents don't really care--they'd prefer you round to a natural break (i.e. end of scene, end of chapter). It's really not that big of a deal--they're not going to auto-reject you if you send 4 or 6 pages.

idempotent1729
08-18-2010, 09:08 PM
Thanks, Ryan! This is in fact what I did. One agent asked for 10 pages, another for 5, and my first chapter is 7 pages, so in both cases I just sent that. Then I was visited with doubts. Good to know that it was not a disastrous thing to do!

waylander
08-19-2010, 01:25 AM
If they read all 5 pages then they'll be happy enough with 7 and will be asking for more anyway. The great battle is to get them to carry on after the first page.

Julie Worth
08-19-2010, 01:37 AM
Most agents don't really care--they'd prefer you round to a natural break (i.e. end of scene, end of chapter). It's really not that big of a deal--they're not going to auto-reject you if you send 4 or 6 pages.

This is especially true if you're sending five pages embedded in email, as there are no page numbers to go by, and no way for the agent to know. The danger is, if you have 8 or 10 pages instead of 5, the agent may think it's a slow read.

Jamesaritchie
08-19-2010, 02:44 AM
This is especially true if you're sending five pages embedded in email, as there are no page numbers to go by, and no way for the agent to know. The danger is, if you have 8 or 10 pages instead of 5, the agent may think it's a slow read.

I embed formatted pages in e-mail, complete with headers containing the same contact info as in a print manuscript. This means page numbers, as well.

Julie Worth
08-19-2010, 02:54 AM
I embed formatted pages in e-mail, complete with headers containing the same contact info as in a print manuscript. This means page numbers, as well.

Really? I thought you just queried that one time and bam, you got an agent?

Jamesaritchie
08-19-2010, 06:58 PM
Really? I thought you just queried that one time and bam, you got an agent?

I did. But I still have to send my agent queries and sample pages that she uses to sell the book to a publisher.

Once you start selling novels, there's little point in writing another novel until after you have a contract.

Edited to say rarely a need. When I want to write something outside my norm, often for a new publisher, I do have to write the novel first. Either way, I always start with a query and sample pages that I, or my agent, use to attract the publisher.

Formatted e-mails make everything easier, and if you have MS Office, there never, ever a need to cut and paste anything, or to send unformatted e-mails because MS Word is the e-mail client, and everything I send anyone is sent directly through Word. Most other modern e-mail clients can also handle rtf format, though you do have to cut and paste when using one of these.

Medievalist
08-19-2010, 07:09 PM
I did. But I still have to send my agent queries and sample pages that she uses to sell the book to a publisher.

Once you start selling novels, there's little point in writing another novel until after you have a contract.

You do realize that this is not standard practice for most writers of genre fiction?

Julie Worth
08-19-2010, 07:11 PM
I did. But I still have to send my agent queries and sample pages that she uses to sell the book to a publisher.

Perhaps you didn't realize what the question was.

Jamesaritchie
08-19-2010, 11:18 PM
You do realize that this is not standard practice for most writers of genre fiction?

Which part? It's more or less standard for every genre writer I've ever known. All of them. And it's how every publisher I've dealt with works. You sell the second book based on a query, or an outline, not by writing it first and hoping it sells.

Some write and extended outline and use that to sell the next book, but the writer I know who do this are outliners, anyway, and use the outline to actually write the book. Others skip and sample page and sell on a very brief outline. Very brief. My "outline" is usually a paragraph or two written just as you write any other query letter. I include the sample pages because I've had editors tell me it gave them a better look, and they like knowing how the novel opens, the writing style, etc.

Now, if you have a book that truly flops, enough so that the publisher really isn't terribly interested in a second novel, you probably will have to complete a novel and have it judged as a whole.

But if you had to write a book before you sold it, we wouldn't all have that clause that states "Upon delivery of an acceptable manuscript."

I sign the contract, I get the first part of the advance, I write the book, deliver it, and assuming it is acceptable, I receive the next part of the advance.

Jamesaritchie
08-19-2010, 11:20 PM
Perhaps you didn't realize what the question was.

You're right, I didn't. But whenever sample pages are included, no matter the reason, I believe formatted ones are best. Sample pages do get printed and handed around, and agents often show them to editors. It's easier to do this if they're formatted.

idempotent1729
08-20-2010, 10:24 PM
Oh. I also just copy-pasted text into the body of the email, unformatted except for paragraph breaks. I was afraid that there could be many a slip twixt email server and host and that any formatting I attempted might become gibberish. But the printing-out point makes sense.

Medievalist
08-20-2010, 10:35 PM
Formatted e-mails make everything easier, and if you have MS Office, there never, ever a need to cut and paste anything, or to send unformatted e-mails because MS Word is the e-mail client, and everything I send anyone is sent directly through Word. Most other modern e-mail clients can also handle rtf format, though you do have to cut and paste when using one of these.

MS Word is not the email client; it's using Outlook. MSWord triggers a script that launches Outlook and Outlook is the email client.

Medievalist
08-20-2010, 10:38 PM
Which part?

This part.


Once you start selling novels, there's little point in writing another novel until after you have a contract.

It's a little odd.

Jamesaritchie
08-21-2010, 03:17 AM
MS Word is not the email client; it's using Outlook. MSWord triggers a script that launches Outlook and Outlook is the email client.

True enough. I should have said that, if you check the box in Outlook, MS Word becomes the e-mail editor. It means there's never a need to cut and paste, and you can send fully formatted .rtf files.

Jamesaritchie
08-21-2010, 03:52 AM
This part.



It's a little odd.

What's odd about it? With the exception of writers who have book that flop miserably, there is no reason to write the next book before getting a contract. Only the first third of the contract money is at risk, and track record takes this risk away.

You do have to tell them what the next book is going to be, and they have to agree, but why would any sane publisher make you wait until the book is finished, or the book way well go to a different publisher. That would be horrible business procedure.

And why would most second contracts out there have the "upon delivery of an acceptable manuscript" if the book were already written? It's also why second contracts have a delivery deadline.

It's no different at all than a two book deal, or a three book deal, or a ten book deal. You've only written one book, but the publisher gives you a contract for additional books. This can happen two books at a time, or, as with James Patterson, seventeen books at a time, or a single book at a time.

Big number contracts, such as Patterson's, ensure the writer is tied to that publisher essentially forever. Small number, two or three book deals, ensure the writer is tied to that publisher for two or three years. Single book contracts ensure the writer's next book goes to that publisher.

Money is usually paid out as the books are written, not all at once.

An outline, a synopsis, partial, etc., is nothing more than an excuse the publisher uses to give a writer a contract, and guarantees the writer's next book goes to that publisher.

I didn't even have to wait long before this started happening. After my first novel sold, I started working on the second. When my editor and I talked about the fist novel, and I told her I was busy writing the second, she was surprised, and said, "You know you don't have to actually write the second novel before we give you a contract? Just send me a synopsis of the book."

It's been this way ever since.

It's just not smart to allow a writer who's making you money finish a book that may sell to a higher bidder. The contract you have in hand should state that the publisher gets first crack at the next book, but the sale is never automatic unless that particular book is under contract. You're always free to look for someone who will pay more. A contract before the book is written means you must let the publisher have the book, if they like it.

Linda Adams
08-21-2010, 05:08 PM
True enough. I should have said that, if you check the box in Outlook, MS Word becomes the e-mail editor. It means there's never a need to cut and paste, and you can send fully formatted .rtf files.

That assumes the feature hasn't been disabled on the other end. Some companies do disable it as a form of virus protection.

ChaosTitan
08-21-2010, 05:34 PM
Once you start selling novels, there's little point in writing another novel until after you have a contract.

I'm going to jump in and say I half-agree with this, based on my own experience writing genre fiction.

Once you start selling novels is an interesting gray area, because everyone's experience is going to be different. Like many folks, I sold my first two novels based on the completed first novel and a paragraph description of the next. When it came time to option more, I sold books three and four based on the first three chapters of book three, and a paragraph description of book four. Because these were all to the same publisher, I didn't need a complete manuscript to get another contract. And yes, all of the contracts had delivery dates, so that I turned in the as-of-yet-unwritten novels in a timely manner.

However, when we went out with a second series, I had a completed manuscript, as well as paragraph descriptions of the next two planned books.

I'm not quite yet at a point in my career where I can sell something totally new based solely on a pitch. ;)


An outline, a synopsis, partial, etc., is nothing more than an excuse the publisher uses to give a writer a contract, and guarantees the writer's next book goes to that publisher.

I can't count the number of times I've heard other published authors say that the book they turned in was dramatically different from the original outline. And that seems to be the norm. Your editor wants to know you have a clear idea in mind, whether or not the idea translates exactly to the page.

The paragraph synopsis I gave my editor for book four is...well...sort of like what the book is turning out to be about....

Corinne Duyvis
08-21-2010, 06:41 PM
Oh. I also just copy-pasted text into the body of the email, unformatted except for paragraph breaks. I was afraid that there could be many a slip twixt email server and host and that any formatting I attempted might become gibberish. But the printing-out point makes sense.

Don't worry, this is what agents want. I've never heard of any agent who wants pages formatted the way Jamesaritchie does. It might work for him and his agent, which is swell, but the vast, vast majority of agents just wants plain-text queries.

Jamesaritchie
08-21-2010, 09:58 PM
I'm going to jump in and say I half-agree with this, based on my own experience writing genre fiction.

Once you start selling novels is an interesting gray area, because everyone's experience is going to be different. Like many folks, I sold my first two novels based on the completed first novel and a paragraph description of the next. When it came time to option more, I sold books three and four based on the first three chapters of book three, and a paragraph description of book four. Because these were all to the same publisher, I didn't need a complete manuscript to get another contract. And yes, all of the contracts had delivery dates, so that I turned in the as-of-yet-unwritten novels in a timely manner.

However, when we went out with a second series, I had a completed manuscript, as well as paragraph descriptions of the next two planned books.

I'm not quite yet at a point in my career where I can sell something totally new based solely on a pitch. ;)



I can't count the number of times I've heard other published authors say that the book they turned in was dramatically different from the original outline. And that seems to be the norm. Your editor wants to know you have a clear idea in mind, whether or not the idea translates exactly to the page.

The paragraph synopsis I gave my editor for book four is...well...sort of like what the book is turning out to be about....

The book I hand is is pretty much never like the one I get the contract for. The genre is the same, of course, and I keep the title, but I write as I go, not according to a synopsis or an outline, so there's no way the book I turn in is going to be much like the one I sell the editor on.

Any good editor understands this, and even expects it.

idempotent1729
08-24-2010, 06:26 PM
Don't worry, this is what agents want. I've never heard of any agent who wants pages formatted the way Jamesaritchie does. It might work for him and his agent, which is swell, but the vast, vast majority of agents just wants plain-text queries.

Thanks to everyone! Best of both worlds - I've learned some things and also feel basically reaffirmed that I haven't mortally screwed things up.

litdirt
09-14-2010, 06:42 AM
Hi there,

How do you format everything except paragraph breaks, as someone suggested?

Also, when you send the first five or so pages, do you have to send the title page? If so, do you smoosh it down, or, without formatting, it smooshes itself down?

Finally, I have been showing italics via underlining in TNR but am reading that is no longer necessary--that plain old italics are fine. Except that one agent I'm querying doesn't want long passages italicized, because it's hard to read apparently. But I have a couple of whole sections that are. What to do then? He seems to say that he wants emphasis shown via bold-type. But won't that get confusing as to what it's supposed to end up looking like, or am I jumping the gun?

This same agent wants the sample pages double-spaced. But that's pretty hard to do for seven pages. For ten agents at a time. Get my drift? Do I disregard that, or am I facing sure-rejection?