I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m not getting my hopes up.
Okay, maybe I’m getting my hopes up a little. Why? I got a nibble on a query letter I sent to an agent!
In this agent’s case, they originally wanted to see just the query letter. My sci-fi story apparently made it past that test, because late last night I got a request for an e-mailed synopsis and first 50 pages of my manuscript.
As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well. In fact, I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I tackled my manuscript and formatted it for e-mail submission.
If you’ll remember the “Herding Cats” video from a couple of days ago, that’s a bit what it’s like when gathering information on how to format a manuscript for e-mail. I also wrote a blog post about this some time back. My conclusion was to just send what the agent requested. In this case, the agent didn’t specify a format for either the synopsis or the manuscript, so I single-spaced the synopsis and fell back on a format for the manuscript that had been requested by another agent: double-space the manuscript. All 50 pages.
This is not the hell that it sounds like. Here’s how I did it, using LibreOffice and a rather powerful text editor called VEDIT Pro 64:
First, I made sure that all of the characters that don’t translate to plain text well—specifically em dashes and “smart quotes”—were replaced with plain-text-friendly alternatives. I used a “double-dash” for em dashes and told LibreOffice to use straight quotes, then did a find and replace for both. Note: you’ll have to dig into LibreOffice’s find and replace dialogue to get it to do a separate search for italicized em dashes and quotes. It’s under “Other options” at the bottom of the window—expand that, click on the “Format” button, then select “Italic” under the “Style” column on the Font tab (leave the other columns and tabs alone).
Next, I did a search in LibreOffice for any italics (using the same method as above, but with nothing in the “Search For” field) and replaced them with an underline before and after. The end result looks like _this_. That’s an understood code for italic text, from what I’ve read. I had to do it manually, one word (or section) at a time. Still, it didn’t take long.
After this, I exported the file from LibreOffice to plain .txt format. LibreOffice will complain about this—ignore it and export to .txt anyway.
This is where VEDIT Pro 64 (a.k.a. VPW64) came into the game. LibreOffice’s exported text put every paragraph on a single line, which was handy. What wasn’t handy was that it included the indents. Fortunately, VPW64 has a columnar marking function. Set the first mark, move to the end of the indent, and drag down the marking. Hit delete, and voila! No more indents. Just be careful that you don’t delete anything that wasn’t indented (not a big problem).
Now comes the tedious part—transforming the single lines into paragraphs. VPW64 has a “Convert 1-line to paragraph” function under its User menu. I had to do an Alt-U followed by a click on the Convert function for every line in the first 50 pages. This wrapped the single lines to the width of my window (which was 73 characters—play with it yourself in Notepad++, VPW64, Boxer, or whatever you use) and put a newline marker at the end of each paragraph line. Repetitive work, but thanks to VPW64’s speed, it didn’t take very long.
Finally, I double-spaced the text. This was the easy part: do a global search for the newline character and replace it with two newline characters. I tweaked one or two lines around the chapter breaks, but that’s about all I had to do outside of the search.
After saving, my 50 pages were ready to be pasted.
I use Thunderbird as my e-mail program. It has the same kind of “about:config” tweakability that Firefox has. In this case, I suggest you tweak the “mailnews.wraplength” setting to something between your manuscript’s line length and 80 characters. I set this to 75 characters, just to give myself a buffer on both sides. Once you’ve got this set, simply select the entire document (all 50 pages in my case), copy, and paste the text after your synopsis.
This is not a perfect method. I’m not even sure it’s what the agent wanted. For that reason, I give you two other links to other articles on formatting queries/manuscripts for e-mails. These were suggested to me by my Query critique group on Scribophile (Thanks!):
Questions? Comments? Other links? Please drop me a line on the Contact page!