Hello Miss Snark,
I was directed to your blog by a friend, and found it very helpful.
My question is this: when an agent says they want the first three pages of a manuscript, does that generally mean three pages single-spaced, three pages double-spaced, or the equivalent of three pages single-spaced: six pages double-spaced?
Thank you for your time.
It means three pages...physical sheets of paper. We're not trying to trick you. Pages means pages.
Some of you may think this is a joke, but I get at least one query a week from someone who has missed the "industry standards" part of the tutorial at Query School.
Before you query ANYONE you need to learn some basics. You need to get one of the many books on the fundamentals of querying like "Guide to Writer's Market" and read ALL the material about how to query.
Among the things you'll see are "musts" few agents mention on their websites cause we assume you already know it. Included among these are: double spaced, print on one side of the page, no screwy font.
I can and do overlook a lot of nitwittery in the slush pile. "Overlook" means I don't throw it out unread. It does NOT mean "I read it carefully".
If you show me you're ignorant of the basics, I may read one or two lines at most. I don't read single spaced pages. I don't read pages printed on two sides. I don't read oddly formatted stuff. I don't need to. I don't want to. Whether you think this is smart, or good, or mean, is irrelevant. It's how it is.
There are more of you than there are of me. There may be several agents clamoring for one or two really good writers but most of you will get ONE agent offering to take you on. Don't fuck up your chances by not investing time to learn the basics. It's not obvious to you now and it wasn't obvious to us either when we started out. We had to learn it; you do too.
This answer applies ONLY to paper queries. If you are querying electronically you do not double space. You also strip out all the cute little word processing tricks that put -> and =20 in place of all your returns and drives me to distraction on listservs.