Thursday, August 09, 2007

Email submission question(s) and other stuff...

As Erica points out, I mentioned on the Manuscript Mavens blog (in a comment) that I equated querying with interviewing and that I'd written a post on point but just hadn't actually posted said post. Well, you're gonna have to wait until next week until I post it because I still have to put in links and whatnots and right now I'm on a strict deadline: leaving for a long weekend in the mountains in just a little bit. So I'll be blog silent over the weekend (which, really, I guess isn't that different from when I am here and just lazy...).

This weekend will be a writing retreat of sorts for JP and I -- the mountains are always so inspiring! Although, since JP is hooked on Harry Potter, it might be a revision-input weekend for me and a reading weekend for him. Either way, utter relaxation!

So here are my submission question(s) (because we all know I love to sweat the details)... it's about emailing query letters. I'm assuming you cut and paste the query letter into the email and, like a business email, you put all your contact info right after you 'sign' your name. Then I'm assuming you do something like write FIRST FIVE PAGES in all caps and paste those in and then do the same with the SYNOPSIS (I want to put the pages first, I think they're my strength). I'm also assuming that you single space these things, but put in a double space (ie extra blank line) between paragraphs (for everything: query, pages, synopsis).

My first question: is that right? Am I supposed to format the email query differently? What do y'all do?

My second question: fear of gobblety-gook.* What I mean are, those weird symbols that show up in some emails where there should be a quotation mark or something else. How do I avoid this? Cut and paste from plain text? Convert the email to plain text? Don't email from Outlook? My account is gmail - does that add/delete any strange stuff? I'm just nervous here because Miss Snark used to harp on this issue and I'm not sure how to avoid it.

My third question: If they ask for 5 pages, can I just flub and send 5 pages and a few lines? I mean, they won't be able to tell... heck, what if those 5 pages cut off mid-sentence?**

My last question: anything else I should be thinking about with email submissions? Any tips, tricks of the trade, anything you can see that I'm missing? Did I just miss all those articles on the web directly on point?

I know, these are such minor things. And trust me, I really really am not one to overly sweat the small stuff (some sweating is appropriate). But the last thing I need/want is to get dinged for something stupid like sending an email with weird symbols if there was something simple I could have done to get rid of them.

Thanks for the help y'all! I can't wait to hear y'all's thoughts!

* Many of you may not know that "gobblety-gook" is actually a legal term such as "make sure that associate does not give you a memo filled with gobblety-gook"

** if that were the case I'd just finish the paragraph. But what about for snail mail submissions - do you just cut off mid-page when the guidelines say to send the first 5 pages? Or do you cut off the start of that dangling paragraph so there's a clean ending?


lacey kaye said...

/Lacey starts to wonder if her query letter emails were full of gobblety-gook...

Have fun on vacation!

Vicki said...

Great question Carrie. I hadn't thought about the gobblety-gook if the query went via email.

Hope you have a wonderful time on vacation. :)

Erica Ridley said...

Is that right? Am I supposed to format the email query differently? What do y'all do?

This depends on the agent you're querying. If they do not accept attachments, then yes, you're absolutely right. (And they want your pages before the synopsis, too.) If they *do* accept attachments (and some do!) then your query goes in the body of the email, and the rest goes in the attachment. (Again, I'd put synopsis last.)

Cut and paste from plain text? Convert the email to plain text?

Either of these will work. Sending a plain text email is your best bet.

If they ask for 5 pages, can I just flub and send 5 pages and a few lines? I mean, they won't be able to tell... heck, what if those 5 pages cut off mid-sentence?

If you're pasting into the body of an email, then no, they're not going to check it, so if you're off by a sentence, they won't care. That said, there are really only two important factors here: what they want, and what you want.
What they want: to get a flavor of your writing ability and style
What you want: to end on a hook, so they want more
This means, if your best omg-I-gotta-have-more hook is at the end of page four, I personally would not send five pages just for the sake of sending five pages. Equally, if said irresistible hook is at the 5.5 mark, then I would send 5.5 pages. (Even--I admit!--if they were paper/attachment style.) Even if you're not a rulebreaker like me, whatever you do, don't cut off at a putdownable moment. (And never ever ever cut off mid sentence/paragraph, snail mail or otherwise! End on a solid hook!)

Erica Ridley said...

(yes, yes, replying to myself *g)

Realized my autocratic dictatorship tendencies might've shown through in my previous comment, and wanted to point out to Carrie's readers who might not know me: everything I say is The World According To Erica and just my humble opinion. There are no rules in writing. These are my suggestions. =)

Patrick Alan said...

Email - plain text should keep it clean. I've been meaning to test this since I'm an email geek. Formatting sort of depends on what server you are sending from and to and you have no way of knowing that.

If you are using a free account - hotmail/yahoo/google then you'll get something added my them.

5 pages - upto 1250 words reasonable variance on either side will not get you in trouble.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I agree with Erica.

Regarding gobblety-gook:

Type out your query letter in a plain text editor like notepad. If you type it in word, it may still turn mushy when saved as txt. It needs to be in ascii text.

I always typed right into the webmail box to insure that it would work.

Celeste said...

Email submissions are kind of fun (if you can forget to stress out)!

I think most of your questions got answered, but when you have to cut and paste your sample and synopsis into the email, just mark them clearly. I write something like:

Title (or TITLE)
by My Name

It was a dark and stormy night and my guppy was playing dead...


Title (or TITLE)

A beautiful woman with a secret, a bewildered guppy, and a one armed serial killer team up for a gothic romance that will have you biting your nails and wishing you were Betta food!

Okay. Just playing. I would absolutely put my better piece of writing first and hope to snare their interest on that. Clearly this piece is bound to be a best seller people. Don't steal my ideas!!

Carrie Ryan said...

it was a dark and stormy night and my guppy was playing dead...

Cracked me up!!

Thanks for all the advice!! It does seem that the best thing is to type the query letter straight into the email. Although I'm terrified of making a spelling error this way.

Of course, looking at my agent list a little closer, I've realized that only three or four are going to be e-queries. The rest will be snail mail.

Dude, submitting can be scary stuff!