Thursday, December 2, 2010

Formatting A Novel by DL Larson

While searching for a publisher/agent, I've discovered several things. One, it's harder than it should be; and Two, it is as exciting as it is exhausting. As I've searched through possible matches I realize each publishing house has more advice on how to format the manuscript to their specifications rather than dwell on good story content.

This confuses me. I've spent months, no, years developing my characters as I progress through my series. I have two series, one historical and the other a sci-fi action romance. I love my characters and have spent endless hours making sure I have given them life on the pages. But in order to send my work out I have to re-format my work, knowing it may well never get read.

Perhaps it's my age and my education that is slowing me up. When I was in secretarial school, many many years ago, I typed all day long, creating one perfect page after another on an electric typewriter! Okay, I'm sure you're chuckling thinking, how old is this gal! But the consequences of an imperfect page meant a zero in the grade column for the day. So when a publisher requests only one space after a period instead of the old standard of two, I break out into a sweat. I would be considered completely incompetent if I ever handed such an abomination into my instructors. And this double spacing between paragraphs nearly sends me howling into the night. What is that? If the premise of one space after a period is to conserve space on the page then for heaven's sake why the double space between paragraphs? I'm at a complete loss why one would chose to do such a thing.

So instead of working on my REAL work, I'm fretting over things that shouldn't matter all that much. When searching for a publisher/agent, a standard for ALL houses should suffice. Double spaced, one inch margins, 12 font that is easy to read. Period. What is so difficult about that? Why all this fuss about other stuff?

Now this about sending my work via on-line brings up another confusing matter. Some won't open an attachment and my novel will be dismissed without pause if I'm foolish enough to send it in such a way. THEN, others want my manuscript only as an attachment, which I think is the easier method to control. At least this way, the work usually stays in the format I put it in. Some want my name on every page, others don't want my name, only the title. Again, why is this so important for considering my book? Every book I've read usually has both on every open page, the author on one side, the title on the other balanced between page numbers. How does this factor into the work they should be reading? I'm hoping they get beyond the header and read the content, but lately I'm worried I haven't passed the "follow these instructions correctly or else." I've probably slipped into the "or else" column and don't realize it because I'm more worried about the content of my story than persnickity formatting. I would think specific formatting would come after a contract has been signed, not before.

Formatting a novel is usually done at Chapter One, which means the last chapter will be formatted just like the first one. Please tell me that's what others do. I don't change formats mid-stream, and I can't imagine any writer who does. So again, why all this fuss over personalized formatting when searching for publication?

Lastly, then I'll shush, I find pretending to know the publisher rather silly. I'm looking to sell my book, yes, but that does not mean I have to spend endless hours figuring out who the publisher is. I look for matches, yes, I don't want to waste anyone's time. I send my work out to those who I believe would be interested in my work because of what I saw on their website or some other venue. If they are interested in historicals, then I'm ready to delve deeper and see if they are looking for the type of historical I write. If they are a professional and I'm a professional, isn't that enough to make contact? Do I really have to say I loved their last book published? Do I have to say I noticed they enjoy bike riding as much as I do? Or some other social connection when in fact this is a business query and the getting to know you can come later rather than before we've talked over what brought us together, namely my book! I really don't understand this tactic of familiarity when contacting another professional. It rings false to me and a little desperate, and really, do publishers need to be coddled in such a way? I keep hearing how busy they are, so I'd rather stick to business and chit-chat after business is taken care of.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Morgan Mandel said...

Formatting is totally confusing these days. When editing your manuscript it helps to keep it double spaced. That used to be the norm everywhere, but times have changed.

Many publishers, or Smashwords, or Amazon, go for single spaced, and want indentions instead of tabs. It's best to look up what that publisher wants and do it. Of course, if you're submitting to several places with different rules, it's a real pain.

Morgan Mandel

Deb Larson said...

And that's what is so time consuming. Constantly changing things to accomodate a publishing query. But I'll forge ahead!!
Thanks for sharing