Lines, spacing and why you better oil up your "return" key

Here's my question. The always helpful JA Konrath put this note on his blog talking about how NOT to put the agent or editor off IMMEDIATELY by looking like an amateur:

Spacing. If I see big blocky paragraphs, more than 25 lines per page, no indenting, indenting 3 spaces or less (rather than 5), line spacing between paragraphs, or a story that begins on the first line of the first page rather than halfway down the first page, my subconscious says, "I don't want to read this" and my subconscious is usually right.

Indenting? I thought that went out with high button shoes. I thought paras were left justified, with an extra line spacing before them.

Am I really really wrong?

Indent five spaces (what my computer likes to call TAB) at the start of a new paragraph, and at the start of a new line of dialogue.

Indents are out and extra lines are in if you single space, say for example in a synopsis.

Like this sentence. It starts a new paragraph.
"And this one too," Killer Yapp chimed in, happy to quoted on the blog.

This form is for written queries ONLY. If you email, the form is different. There you DON'T include tabs, you uses spaces. The TAB command does not travel well among word doc programs. I can't tell you the number of manuscripts I tediously reformat so I can read them electronically. It's a f/ing pain in the finger. The problem is that programmers use TAB to move from one field to another, so you can't even search for it to replace it. And for all you computer hotshots out there, no tutorials please. I've spent quite enough time on the phone with Apple as it is.


Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Oh, my! You are an APPLE user! A Macophone! Oh, my!

I love Macs, but it came as the result of a long battle with them in the newspaper business (call it the Stockholm Syndrome). I do my ten pages per day on my Mac I-Book.

I hate Word, especially for graphic layouts, as I prefer QuarkXpress (which you or anyone else here has probably never heard of -- it's a wonderfully flexible page layout program that is the benchmark for most newspapers and magazines ... and maybe even book publishers.)

I do have Office for Mac, and I use it so that I can communicate with everyone else in the non-Mac world. I'm not THAT much of a Mac-fiend.

Anonymous said...

I think that of all my submission pet peeves, this is the peeviest. Where do people come up this that idea? Books are formatted with indents and no extra line spacing, so why should manuscripts be any different?

Formatting submissions as if they were blog entries or emails get automatic form rejections. Mark of an amateur. Any industry book will tell you how to format your manuscript. If you don't know, it means you haven't done the most basic of research.

Marlo said...

Careful, those rules may not apply to esubs. They often demand plain text format (single spaced, single line between paragraphs, underscores for italics) because otherwise things go utterly fubar when crossing programs. Especially if nitwits use html mail.

Anonymous said...

But...but...indenting three spaces instead of five is verboten? I swear to God that I Read Somewhere that manuscripts sould be formatted with 0.3" first line indents, which works out to 3 spaces in 12 pt Courier.

Three versus five matters? :(

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, I just discovered Joe Konrath's blog, and he's got some great suggestions there. But what is your opinion on the paper weight? Do you prefer 24# also? I've copied my comment to him here:

Joe, I used to submit all my stuff on 24# paper. But once Jenny Bent's assistant (at Trident) lost my submission and I had to get another to her fast. I handed it to her, saying something like, sorry, didn't have time to get thicker paper - and she told me, that's OK, this is better anyway. So I've been using 20# ever since - and I've got an ms. all printed and ready to go. Do you really think this issue is important enough to toss the printed ms?

JA Konrath said...

Here's deal with paper.

Paper that's a little heavier weight, and a little brighter, looks and feels better.

Will it be the difference between a rejection and an acceptance? No.

Does it make your work look better? Yes.

Try it yourself. Print out a story on 20# paper with a brightness of 90, then print out the same story on 24# with a 104 brightness.

If you're going to make filet mignon, serve it on your best China.

McKoala said...

Mactastic here too! It causes problems sometimes, but I can't kick that Mac habit. All those misspent years in advertising.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe. Wow, answers from you and Miss Snark on the same night! The moon just went into Gemini, so that must explain it. I love your filet mignon metaphor. Next time I get paper, I'll get the super-duper stuff. But I'm not going to throw away that manuscript - the next lucky agent who requests it, gets it. It'll still be the same filet; just served on my Micasa instead of my Lenox.

Anonymous said...

FYI from another mac user, just in case this saves you time, because it does for me: ^t is tab, ^p is paragraph. I do a search for " " (spaces) and replace with ^t (tab). Once you know these two, manipulation becomes really easy; when posting something written in Mac's word first, I write it regularly and then do something funky like search for "^t" and replace with "^p", which puts an extra space in between paragraphs. And getting something with extra spaces and tabbing is easy, too: just replace ^p^p with ^p^t.

It looks odd, but it works. I know you said no long computerese lectures, but it's saved me oodles of time as an editor, as well, so thought you might like the short-cut (if you didn't know it already).

Miss Snark said...

actually I didn't know that, thank you!!