Indent-ured serve a 'tude

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm writing to request some more formatting advice for submissions. Is there leeway in the following? Or are any faux pas that would make agents or editors brand the submission as AMATEUR (and make KY yowl):

* Should the first paragraph of each chapter be flush left or indented?
* In the snarkives you indicate that page numbers should appear in the lower right; is it a big deal if a submission's page numbers are in the upper right instead?
* Does one include a title page with the approx. five sample pages attached to a query letter?
* On the title page, should a genre description appear (for ex, Mainstream Novel)? If so, should it go in the upper right below the word count?
* Should the word count for a novel be rounded to the nearest 1000 or 5000 words?
* In the query letter should the first mention of the manuscript's title be
in ALL CAPS? Only the first mention?

Does my obsessive attention to detail garner me the nitwit of the day award? Pour on the snarcasm (and pour yourself a well-earned pail of gin while you're at it). Actually, I've consulted many "how to format a manuscript" articles, and naturally they contradict themselves on these points, so I decided to approach your royal snarkiness for a sanity check.

The reason they all contradict themselves is cause there is no absolutely-no-exceptions-right-way to do this.

Plus, I don't care.

If you write well enough you can leave off the page numbers, lose your tab key entirely and describe it as "fiction to die for". If you write well enough you can spell my name wrong, and call me a man. If you write well enough you can think Killer Yapp is a cat.

Exquisite writing and storytelling trumps all.

There are some things I DO care about, and I put them on my web site. Follow the instructions.

There are some things I don't care about and say "follow standard formatting instructions". Generally you can use Writers Market as a template for formatting.

Why you're sending a title page in a query letter is beyond me, but again, I don't care. I don't look at them. I read your cover letter and if you don't sound like a total nincompoop, I read your pages.


Anonymous said...

Killer Yapp's not a cat?

Elektra said...

There should've been a category for best post title--this one (had it, you know, existed at the time) would have been right up there in top ten.

illiterate said...

"If you write well enough you can think Killer Yapp is a cat."

No, anything but that!

ktbuffy said...

Not to contradict the brilliant Miss Snark, but as another agent, I have to say -- yes, please, please put page numbers on your pages. And, for any writers out there who have agents, and are asked to send the entire manuscript via email, again, PLEASE number your pages. There's an assistant in our office whose bete noir (bete noirs? betes noir?) are manuscripts without page numbers.

Sure, it may not matter in the big picture on 5 or ten pages, but when you get to 300, and someone is printing them out somewhere... it matters.

a different anonymous said...

Killer Yapp's not a cat?


Barbara Ruth Saunders said...

I once sent off a query letter to one magazine editor's email box, and left the contact information for another magazine's editor at the top of the letter. I was shamed as soon as I realized. The editor, however, liked the idea enough to write back and ask me if the query was intended for her. I sold the piece to her. There's no real excuse for sloppiness. Realistically, though, the editor's primary concern is whether the piece suits her content needs. When I interned at a magazine, I came to understand why.

Kanani said...

Exquisite writing and storytelling trumps all.

The MS for To Dance On Sands was submitted to Stephen's Press LLC by an 83 year old dancer from Death Valley in ALL CAPS. From what I can guess, she saw it better as she was pounding it out on her old typewriter.

But I would't recommend that anyone else try it.