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View Full Version : Question for Agents: Double-spaced courier? Really? In 2015?



onthefence
09-23-2015, 03:39 AM
Question to agents rescinded.

Becca C.
09-23-2015, 04:16 AM
This is a question for agents who deal with nonfiction book proposals.

I would like to know how you feel about receiving a proposal that's beautifully formatted, like a magazine or brochure. Tasteful layout, liberal use of photos and illustrations of the people, places, and things mentioned in the book. Sure, a little larger than normal vertical spacing between lines of text, but, in the end, a crisp 21st-century design that helps you absorb the author's vision in a professional presentation. A nice layout doesn't mean neglect the content: the proposal needs an overview, market analysis, competition analysis, author bio, chapter summary, and sample chapters.

Contrast that with what apparently many agents still insist for proposals: plain text, and only text, in a double-spaced, Courier font, as if you just hauled out your trusty Smith Corona 1944 typewriter, and typed the whole thing in, never making a mistake.

To me, the latter is quaint and outdated. And hurts the book's chances. To me, the former, when done wisely, not in a flashy manner, but really professionally done, can only help. The goal is not to obscure weakness in the writing or subject-matter. The writing has to be outstanding, I get it. But to me the goal of the proposal is to help SELL THE BOOK. Not only to you, but to publishers. You don't see publishers pumping out Courier-font, text-only Fall and Spring catalogs of their latest books for sale. No, they go all-out with glorious 4-color presentations. Because they are SELLING.

So. Agents. What do YOU look for in a proposal? Are you 20th century, or are you 21st?

My bolding.

I think that says it right there. If the agent wants it that way, anything that isn't that way is going to be, well, not what they want.

Keep it simple and stick to the agent's submission guidelines.

onthefence
09-23-2015, 04:44 AM
...

sgcassidy
09-23-2015, 04:51 AM
If it's the price of admission, it could be worse.:Shrug:

buz
09-23-2015, 05:04 AM
This is a question for agents who deal with nonfiction book proposals.

I would like to know how you feel about receiving a proposal that's beautifully formatted, like a magazine or brochure. Tasteful layout, liberal use of photos and illustrations of the people, places, and things mentioned in the book. Sure, a little larger than normal vertical spacing between lines of text, but, in the end, a crisp 21st-century design that helps you absorb the author's vision in a professional presentation. A nice layout doesn't mean neglect the content: the proposal needs an overview, market analysis, competition analysis, author bio, chapter summary, and sample chapters.

Contrast that with what apparently many agents still insist for proposals: plain text, and only text, in a double-spaced, Courier font, as if you just hauled out your trusty Smith Corona 1944 typewriter, and typed the whole thing in, never making a mistake.

To me, the latter is quaint and outdated. And hurts the book's chances. To me, the former, when done wisely, not in a flashy manner, but really professionally done, can only help. The goal is not to obscure weakness in the writing or subject-matter. The writing has to be outstanding, I get it. But to me the goal of the proposal is to help SELL THE BOOK. Not only to you, but to publishers. You don't see publishers pumping out Courier-font, text-only Fall and Spring catalogs of their latest books for sale. No, they go all-out with glorious 4-color presentations. Because they are SELLING.


Cool, how bout I send you an entire full-color Sears catalog that you didn't ask for in an email attachment, see how long it takes you to load it :D

If the agent wants it that way, it doesn't hurt the book's chances. Not sending the thing to the agent in a format they want it in hurts your chances.

PS. Times New Roman is also acceptable. ;)

Sage
09-23-2015, 05:10 AM
How does it hurt you to submit in CN if that's what the agent wants?

How does it hurt you to not submit in CN if that's what the agent wants?

It's a matter of perspective.

Cyia
09-23-2015, 05:16 AM
A couple of years ago, I had an agent request a manuscript printed out and bound in a three-ring binder, no back and front printing, please.

If you like the agent, then assume they have their reasons for their preferences and do them.

If the request is for a single agent, then open your document, search ". " and replace with ". " which will add the second space. Go back and replace "Mr. " with "Mr. " etc for formal names that don't need the extra space. Between that and switching the document to Courier font, it shouldn't take you three minutes. Save the file as a new version to keep your originally formatted one intact, and then mail it off.

Simple.

Roxxsmom
09-23-2015, 05:17 AM
I haven't run across an agent that stipulates courier or other monospaced fonts in their submission requirements, but I'm subbing fiction queries and sample pages (most us agents want these in e-mails until/unless they request more material, then they say double-spaced TNR usually). No idea about non fiction proposals, but if an agent says they want courier, then that's what I'd give them. I'm guessing double spaced is what they're asking for because it's easier for them to read and insert comments. As for why they still want courier for non fiction? I don't know, unless it gives them a more accurate way of estimating how much space the text will take up?

If they don't specify what format they want for fiction subs, I'd assume standard manuscript format, which allows times new roman these days.

And if an agent makes a special request for formatting, I assume there's a reason they want it that way.

onthefence
09-23-2015, 06:23 AM
...

beckethm
09-23-2015, 06:32 AM
I am not an agent, but I can think of several reasons why an agent might prefer an unadorned, standard format proposal to a glossy brochure.

First, a proposal or query is meant to demonstrate your writing skills, not your desktop publishing skills. If it were me, I'd be skeptical of any proposal that looked too slick. I might doubt whether the content lives up to the image.

Second, I assume that agents who see dozens of these every day are used to skimming for the information that matters most to them. Having a bunch of graphics cluttering the page could make their jobs harder.

Third, I understand that many agents review queries and proposals on smartphones or tablets, on which all that careful layout will get scrambled. Why waste the effort?

buz
09-23-2015, 06:35 AM
Let me reiterate since it seems to have been missed: I queried 50 agents who do nonfiction. NONE of them had the old-skool double-spaced Courier (or Times Roman) requirements. None articulated ANYTHING in the way of requirements in terms of formatting; their requirements all had to do with substance. ALL of the agents so far who want the proposal want a hardcopy, so a big attachment isn't an issue, and even if one did want an electronic version, I'd share a private DropBox link first.

If an agent (and again, has not happened yet, and I'm done querying) ever requests a very explicit format, I'd abide by it if the agent is important and a major player (tons of recent deals, to major houses). If it's some nobody out in Witchita well then I just might pass.

If this is about a something that you haven't actually ever encountered, what is the point of this?

Sage
09-23-2015, 06:42 AM
Let me reiterate since it seems to have been missed: I queried 50 agents who do nonfiction. NONE of them had the old-skool double-spaced Courier (or Times Roman) requirements. None articulated ANYTHING in the way of requirements in terms of formatting; their requirements all had to do with substance. ALL of the agents so far who want the proposal want a hardcopy, so a big attachment isn't an issue, and even if one did want an electronic version, I'd share a private DropBox link first.

If an agent (and again, has not happened yet, and I'm done querying) ever requests a very explicit format, I'd abide by it if the agent is important and a major player (tons of recent deals, to major houses). If it's some nobody out in Witchita well then I just might pass.

Well, first of all, your last post specifically says that you wouldn't send to an agent based on their formatting preferences, so you can see where the confusion lies.

And, secondly...what's your point again? You haven't had this problem and you're no longer querying, so you started a thread about the problem? :Huh:

Roxxsmom
09-23-2015, 06:54 AM
Let me reiterate since it seems to have been missed: I queried 50 agents who do nonfiction. NONE of them had the old-skool double-spaced Courier (or Times Roman) requirements. None articulated ANYTHING in the way of requirements in terms of formatting; their requirements all had to do with substance. ALL of the agents so far who want the proposal want a hardcopy, so a big attachment isn't an issue, and even if one did want an electronic version, I'd share a private DropBox link first.

If an agent (and again, has not happened yet, and I'm done querying) ever requests a very explicit format, I'd abide by it if the agent is important and a major player (tons of recent deals, to major houses). If it's some nobody out in Witchita well then I just might pass.

I guess I'm not sure what you're asking then. I thought you were asking why most of the agents you'd been researching still wanted things in courier new.




Contrast that with what apparently many agents still insist for proposals: plain text, and only text, in a double-spaced, Courier font, as if you just hauled out your trusty Smith Corona 1944 typewriter, and typed the whole thing in, never making a mistake.

So. Agents. What do YOU look for in a proposal? Are you 20th century, or are you 21st?

If none of the agents you've researched or queried ask for this format, why do you think many agents still insist on this format?

mccardey
09-23-2015, 07:00 AM
What a very odd thread....

chompers
09-23-2015, 07:03 AM
Granted, I don't write non-fiction, so I'm not familiar with proposals, but I am confused how a PROPOSAL submitted in plain font will hurt the BOOK'S chances? Wouldn't that be like saying a query in plain font would hurt the book? It's not the final product or even close.

onthefence
09-23-2015, 04:26 PM
...

Jamesaritchie
09-23-2015, 05:09 PM
I think you do whatever an agent or editors says you should do. Not doing this will not only harm the book's chances, it may kill them completely. As an editor, I simply don't have time for writers who think guidelines are merely suggestions.

As for Courier, yes, really. I prefer it. If you want to use TNR, go ahead, but I won't like it.

If your book depends on anything other than content and quality, it's dead in the water. I don't need a special font, or special formatting, or anything else not in the guidelines to judge content and quality.

mayqueen
09-23-2015, 07:23 PM
I don't think it's resistance so much as not understanding what you're asking. Are you asking why agents might prefer the plain, unadorned standard form of submission? Are you asking if you should submit a submission package formatted with pictures? I'm just not sure what your exact question is.

The other thing is that agents do drop by here and answer questions, but most of the answers you're going to get will be from other writers. That's just how AW works.

onthefence
09-23-2015, 07:36 PM
...

buz
09-23-2015, 08:08 PM
I dunno, the exact question posed in the original posting that started this thread makes it pretty clear to me what I was asking: do agents still prefer plain double-spaced proposals or are they open to receiving carefully-designed, moderately-illustrated, desktop-published documents. Simple question, seems to me.

Covering up a question with a rant tends to obscure it, as does using phraseology that is more accusatory than inquisitive.

ETA: I interned for two different agents who dealt with nonfiction. One of them accepted proposals with pictures and the kind of thing you're talking about, but received a variety of formats from authors she has solicited, some plain text, some just...random pages. (This is from people she solicited materials from, mind.) Another liked just text. But this was a few years ago, and the two represented very different kinds of things.

If you're genuinely interested in this you might hunt around a few different agency websites to see if they have specific guidelines or suggestions for proposal formatting (some do; some don't).

mayqueen
09-23-2015, 08:40 PM
You're new here. I was trying to throw you a bone to clarify exactly what you were hoping to get out of posting this thread. But by all means, keep being snarky if you prefer to be combative toward other members.

BenPanced
09-23-2015, 08:53 PM
I dunno, the exact question posed in the original posting that started this thread makes it pretty clear to me what I was asking: do agents still prefer plain double-spaced proposals or are they open to receiving carefully-designed, moderately-illustrated, desktop-published documents. Simple question, seems to me.

As iterated a few times upthread, agents want to read your writing. They don't want to see how well you can format your proposal in InDesign; that's up to a publisher to decide or for your portfolio if you're going for a graphics arts job interview. You'll find some agents who don't want an attachment (a Dropbox link might be pushing it; I've never heard of this request being made for a submission) and request your writing sample be pasted right at the end of your email query, so you'll need to keep it as small and simple as possible. If they can't open your email because their computer can't handle the formatting or they don't have the application necessary to open an attachment? Automatic form rejection and a curse upon your firstborn for wasting their time.


If it's some nobody out in Witchita well then I just might pass.

And way to go, smack-talking agents who don't operate out of New York, Los Angeles, or another coastal city.

sgcassidy
09-23-2015, 09:03 PM
I'm new also. I'm confused, why not send them (the agent) anything they ask for? If the want it in Sanskrit, then send it that way. I owned a couple of Jewelry stores and when I asked my managers for something I expected it to come in the format I asked for. When I worked for other people I gave them information the way they wanted it. Aren't agents entitled to the same thing? It's a business deal/proposal so why go in to it in an adversarial way? Times courier, who cares? All it takes is the push of a few buttons to change font and or line spacing. If this was thirty years ago then I might be resistant because it would be a lot of work, but today, what? Thirty seconds. Just give 'em what they want.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-24-2015, 07:18 PM
I'm glad you never had to sully your proposal with Courier. IT'S THE WORST.

onthefence
09-24-2015, 07:20 PM
...

Aggy B.
09-24-2015, 08:42 PM
If you were trying to sell a film script you wouldn't send a prospective agent a short film - you would send the script. If you were looking for work as a comic book cover artist you wouldn't send them a script. If you were looking for a record deal you wouldn't send in just sheet music. Looking for an agent for non-fiction means you are selling your words and manuscript. That's what you send.

Not a fancy layout, because that's something the publisher will handle (and each publisher will likely approach differently). You send in the TNR or Courier manuscript/proposal because that is what you have to offer that an agent is interested in. Words. A concept or subject that is new and exciting and relevant.

And most importantly it's what they are asking for. I know you keep saying that these agents haven't been specific, but I'd bet most of them ask for a non-fiction proposal. If you Google that you'll find a pretty specific format. (Just like you would if you Google "standard manuscript format".)

It is, of course, your book. If you really want to do what you want then no one is stopping you.

Thedrellum
09-24-2015, 08:51 PM
By the way, onthefence, an agent did finally respond to this thread. She said she hates Courier. This information, of course, is only useful really when it comes to submitting to her.

Since she didn't comment on the rest of what was said, it could be that she agrees with the majority here on AW. Or it could be that she expects you'll find her preferences when you find her submissions page. The truth is that no matter what any particular agent says, that's pretty much only verifiable and true and useful for that agent.

I know you feel beaten up on this thread, and I'm sorry about that. Stick around and lurk and I think you'll find a lot that's useful.

TerryRodgers
09-24-2015, 09:54 PM
Forget the font. Didn't anyone else notice the 50 queries sent in less than 3 weeks?

kenpochick
09-24-2015, 09:57 PM
I think people have answered that you send whatever the agent wants, and people have explained that text is what you're selling. The publisher will decide what it looks like. Many agents read samples on ereaders and lots of formatting could screw everything up. You've already gotten your answers, but I just wanted to add, that your "question" flat out insulted agents and editors, and they do come here. (One of them answered here) I wouldn't want to be black-balled at the query stage...just saying.

kenpochick
09-24-2015, 09:58 PM
Forget the font. Didn't anyone else notice the 50 queries sent in less than 3 weeks?

I missed that. YIKES!

blacbird
09-25-2015, 02:02 AM
I think you do whatever an agent or editors says you should do. Not doing this will not only harm the book's chances, it may kill them completely. As an editor, I simply don't have time for writers who think guidelines are merely suggestions.

As for Courier, yes, really. I prefer it. If you want to use TNR, go ahead, but I won't like it.

If your book depends on anything other than content and quality, it's dead in the water. I don't need a special font, or special formatting, or anything else not in the guidelines to judge content and quality.

Directly and accurately to the point. And as for the bolded: Double-spaced Courier 12-pt. leaves plenty of room for editorial notes and remarks. I do a lot of academic editing, and I much prefer Courier 12 to anything else. Even TNR, which is too pinched and hard on my eyes; I tend to miss things more easily in TNR than in Courier.

Follow what your intended editor wants, and if no preferences are stated, assume that the standards (Courier or TNR) will be appropriate. Let the typesetters worry about the publication formatting. Theoretically you'll get galleys, and have an opportunity to make suggestions/adjustments at that time.

caw

zarada
09-25-2015, 03:13 AM
This is a question for agents who deal with nonfiction book proposals.

I would like to know how you feel about receiving a proposal that's beautifully formatted, like a magazine or brochure. Tasteful layout, liberal use of photos and illustrations of the people, places, and things mentioned in the book. Sure, a little larger than normal vertical spacing between lines of text, but, in the end, a crisp 21st-century design that helps you absorb the author's vision in a professional presentation. A nice layout doesn't mean neglect the content: the proposal needs an overview, market analysis, competition analysis, author bio, chapter summary, and sample chapters.

Contrast that with what apparently many agents still insist for proposals: plain text, and only text, in a double-spaced, Courier font, as if you just hauled out your trusty Smith Corona 1944 typewriter, and typed the whole thing in, never making a mistake.

To me, the latter is quaint and outdated. And hurts the book's chances. To me, the former, when done wisely, not in a flashy manner, but really professionally done, can only help. The goal is not to obscure weakness in the writing or subject-matter. The writing has to be outstanding, I get it. But to me the goal of the proposal is to help SELL THE BOOK. Not only to you, but to publishers. You don't see publishers pumping out Courier-font, text-only Fall and Spring catalogs of their latest books for sale. No, they go all-out with glorious 4-color presentations. Because they are SELLING.

So. Agents. What do YOU look for in a proposal? Are you 20th century, or are you 21st?

sorry, but if you're so confident in your book design, why bother querying at all? just go self-publish and let the agents focus on projects they might actually care about themselves, without your masterful guidance?

mccardey
09-27-2015, 09:18 AM
Hostile forum. Really regret asking a question to agents.Agents are just hostile people...


ETA: I'm joking! I'm joking!!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-27-2015, 06:50 PM
By the way, onthefence, an agent did finally respond to this thread. She said she hates Courier. This information, of course, is only useful really when it comes to submitting to her.

Since she didn't comment on the rest of what was said, it could be that she agrees with the majority here on AW. Or it could be that she expects you'll find her preferences when you find her submissions page.

Haha no, I just had started to write this long elaborate response and then realized that it was a pointless waste of time. I don't rep adult non-fiction anyway, so I'm sure that whatever opinions I have on this topic (THOUGH BRILLIANT) would not have made the original poster any happier.

And I do hate courier. (But if somebody sends it to me, I just change it. It takes two seconds.)

InkStainedWench
09-27-2015, 06:51 PM
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we call a flounce.

shakeysix
09-27-2015, 07:33 PM
As a final, if trivial, point I would like to say something in defense of Wichita. Once it was a rough and tumble cowtown. Nowadays it has grown into a blustery modern city with all the fixings: traffic, an opera and its own serial killer. It is a pretty city in the center of things, but not exactly cookie cutter perfect; a little scrappy around the edges, like a worn saddle blanket, well used moccasins.

Wichita may not be on a coast but being smack in the center of the country has to count for something. Granted, it is not a hotbed of literary activity but Kansas does have a long, strong, literary heritage.

I think the most amazing thing to be found in Wichita is good manners. They are getting to be a scarce commodity in a world where everyone thinks it has to be his way or no way. --s6

BenPanced
09-27-2015, 11:55 PM
Yeah, way to go, onthefence. Deleting your posts. Classic move. :Thumbs:

ZachJPayne
09-28-2015, 12:13 AM
If I ever become a literary agent, I'm going to stipulate that manuscripts need to be sent in 24pt Papyrus. Just because I can. Takes all of 2 seconds to change the thing to something readable, and it weeds out people who can't follow simple instructions.

Personally, I type my stuff up in Book Antiqua, which is my favorite serif font. If I need to change it, I change it.

evilrooster
09-28-2015, 01:03 AM
I think we'll just close this and let it sink into obscurity.

Onthefence, I would suggest that in future if you have a question, you ask it in a somewhat less...editorial fashion. It's also useful if you thank people for taking the time to answer your question, even if you don't like the answers you get. Online conversations are so often mirrors: what attitude you get from others turns out to be a reflection of the attitude you brought with you.