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  • Guide to Literary Agents

Answering Your Questions III

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Q&A from Blog Readers, Queries and Synopses and Proposals, Synopsis Writing.

More questions come in concerning
agents, queries, and all the rest.
Questions from Dean.

Q: The query letter, as I understand it, is supposed to contain no more than one paragraph devoted to summarizing the entire novel. In the sample query letter you provide (in the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents), the paragraph, in this case, ends with three questions (intended to make the agent want to invite the author to submit a synopsis). So, I’m confused. Do I construct a single paragraph that summarizes the story in full or do I just tease the agent like this author did?

A: If you can pitch your novel in one paragraph, great. Some queries have two paragraphs, and that’s OK as well. Just make it concise and effective.
You do not want to summarize the entire story (e.g., bad guy dies at the end). You want to leave the ending open, much like you would see on the back of a DVD in a videostore. So, yes, you will tease the agent, though using questions isn’t necessarily the best way – it just worked for that query in the 2008 GLA. Most pitches I read don’t use questions such as “Will he make it to the island in time?” It all just depends…

Q: As the author of a fictional manuscript, should I prepare a short synopsis (3-5 pages) or forget about this and put together a much longer and more formal proposal if/when I’m invited to submit more information subsequent to the query letter?

A: Real quick: It’s a fiction manuscript. A fictional manuscript would mean that the manuscript itself does not exist!
Yes, start putting together a synopsis now. In fact, many agents request “a query and a synopsis.” To learn about writing synopses, see this previous post and this post as well.

Q: If I’m invited to submit the entire manuscript, should it be sent single-or double-sided? Single- or double-spaced? Is there a particular cover material and binding I should use? Is a title page required?

A: Double-space your text. I’ve heard some people say that they use a “larger font” such as Courier New so that it’s easily readable. You can do this if you like, but it will take up more pages and cost more. No title page is required but you can have a “Contact Page” where you have all your information as well as the title. Make sure you list all your contact info at the top of the first page of the manuscript (where the text starts). Number your pages and have a header.
Use single-sided text. You don’t need to bind it. Using a large black binder clip should be good enough.

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