Being in the query trenches can sometimes be a long and tedious process. You write those letters, press “send” and then wait, jumping every time your email alert goes off. Yes, in this case patience can be a virtue (albeit a painful one). But then that day comes, you see, or hear, you have something in your inbox and there it is: A REQUEST!! Give yourself a minute to revel in it – enjoy it! After that, it’s time to focus on your next steps.
In most cases, the requesting agent will give you specific directions on how to submit. I can’t stress this enough – FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. If they ask you to make your query the first page, DO IT! If they ask for the first 50 pages, be honest and send 50 pages (not 75 or 100). Most agents say it’s okay to go over a little to get to the end of a scene or chapter, but don’t push the limit.
Sending your request:
- Be sure your manuscript is formatted correctly (see details below)
- Send as soon as possible. If the agent is requesting your manuscript, it’s still fresh in his/her mind. You want to capitalize on this!
- Reply within the email chain. This way the agent has a frame of reference for your work. If it’s a request from a contest or conference, make sure you write in the subject line: REQUESTED MATERIALS (with some reference point i.e. from XX contest or XX conference).
Now with requests several issues may come up:
1) You’re in the middle of more revisions, or you’ve gotten specific feedback from a contest or agent that you’d like to make.
Many agent interviews I’ve read recommend making the changes and then sending. It’s okay to send a short note to the agent acknowledging their request and letting them know you are making changes.
2) You already have an offer.
Let the agent know right away. Give them a chance to either bow out or offer to read within an allotted time (some recommend one to two weeks based on the conversation you’ve already had with offering agent).
If this is the first time you’ve gotten a request, again be sure to follow the directions dictated by the agent. They may have specific ways they want you to format your manuscript. If they don’t, and you have questions about how to indicate scene breaks, or what font to use, I recommend using the outline below from The Editor’s Blog:
- Twelve point, Times New Roman (or Courier New, if you insist), black font
- One-inch margins on all four sides
- Half-inch paragraph indentations (five spaces) (this tab is pre-set in MS Word) for the first line of each paragraph
- Double space; no extra spaces between paragraphs
- Align left (not justified). The right edges will not be uniform or even
- Number pages beginning with the actual story (don’t count or put page numbers on the title page)
- Indicate scene breaks by inserting a blank line and centering the number sign # in the center of the line
- Include your last name, your title (or keywords from the title), and the page number in the page header of every page except for the title page. Align the header to the right, so the information doesn’t interfere with the text of the manuscript. (Jones/Taming the Monster/1)
- Begin chapters on new pages (insert a page break). Center the chapter title, even if it’s only Chapter One (or Chapter 1), about 1/3 of the way down the page. Skip a couple of spaces and begin the text of the chapter.
- Center a number sign # one double-spaced blank line down at the end of the manuscript. Or simply write The End. You want agents and editors to know they’ve reached the end.
- Use italics for italicized words. (Former practice was to underline to show italicized words, but that’s no longer necessary unless an agent or publisher requests underlining.)
- Single space rather than two spaces after periods between sentences. If you forget this one, nobody’s going to turn down your manuscript because of it. It’s just a good habit to get into, especially for those of us who learned on typewriters and always added two spaces between sentences.
Include a title page
- Aligned left and single spaced, near the top of the page, include contact information: Your real/legal name, address, phone number, e-mail address. Follow with the word count. Alternatively, you can set word count apart by listing it at the top of the right side of the title page.
- About 1/2 the way down the page, centered, enter the full manuscript title (all caps or mixed caps); on the next double-spaced line, type by or a novel by or a story by; on the next double-spaced line, add your pen name or your real name plus your pen name—Alexis Chesterfield writing as Billie Thomas.
- Header information is not included on the title page. The title page is not included in page numbering.
Again, it is very important to make sure you follow specific formatting guidelines for two reasons:
First, you want to present yourself as being professional. A manuscript that is not formatted correctly can look sloppy, plus it shows you haven’t done your research.
Second, there are specific reasons the agent may have gone out of their way to give you directions. Perhaps they want to read your manuscript on an e-reader, and only by following their directive can they do this.
Overall, remember to celebrate this victory. You’ve worked tirelessly to write a great manuscript and an equally compelling query. A request is a great accomplishment, and you need to approach it with the same focus you would any other major project in your life.