Saturday, July 23, 2011

Query Letters 101 – Attachments

You’ve done your research and found out the specific guidelines for submissions set out by the literary agent or publisher your query letter is targeting. You’ve read these guidelines carefully and noticed that they vary from agent to agent, from publisher to publisher. So much so that you’re starting to confuse them in your mind.

Some submission guidelines ask for sample pages or sample chapters, some want a synopsis of your manuscript, and some just want a query letter alone. How do you know what to send? And what should your pages or chapters or synopsis look like?


First and foremost, your pages or chapters should adhere to the guidelines set out by your target reader, but there are standard rules that most agents or publishers will use.

As with your query letter itself, the manuscript has one inch margins and a readable font.
Novel manuscripts usually have title pages, although it won’t be fatal to your submission if you don’t include one (unless the guidelines say you have to). A title page has your name and contact information (address, phone number, email) in the top left hand side of the page. Centred in the page (both horizontally and vertically) is the title of your novel and below that “by [Your Name or Pen Name]”. Include the genre and number of words in your manuscript either at the bottom of the title page, centre justified, or at the top right hand corner.

Do NOT put a page number on your title page. Start with page one on the very next page, which will actually be the first page of your manuscript.

If you’re not using a title page, your name and contact information can go in the top left hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.

For the manuscript itself, remember that each chapter starts on a new page. The title of your chapter should be centre justified. The chapter begins either one-third or halfway down the page – chapter title followed a couple lines below by the text of the chapter. The text itself – that is, your writing – should be left justified (ragged right hand edges), not full justified (even right hand edges).

Text must be double spaced. Your contact information is single spaced. Confused yet?

On the top right hand corner of every manuscript page (except for the title page, if you’re including one) should have the following information: your last name, the title of your novel, and the page number. This appears in the header of your page. If your title is longer than a word or two, shorten it to the essential. So a title like “A Heart Full of Passion” may become Heart or Passion.

Example: Comargue/ Passion/ 1


Most synopses (yes, that’s a word – look it up) are one to five pages. Generally, agents or publishers want either a single page synopsis or a two to five page one. You should have both on hand. The task of preparing a synopsis will require a number of drafts anyway as you whittle your work of creative genius down to a skeleton of itself so you may find yourself with several lengths of synopsis in any case.

In general, the same rules about formatting a manuscript apply to a synopsis except that a title page is not required for a synopsis.  The title I use is simply: Synopsis for [Title of my book].  On the next line, I put: By Nan Comargue.

Now that you know how to craft a query letter and format your manuscript, you have no excuse not to submit your work.  Get out there!  Good luck.

Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at


  1. This is the information that I was looking fro years.You are doing a fine job.Keep it up.

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  2. Nice job, Nan! Also, it should be noted...NO FANCY FONTS. Stick with Times New Roman as a general rule because almost every computer has that font on it AND serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Book Antiqua, Courier New, etc.) are easier to read than san serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Helvetica, etc.). I have an editor friend who complains all the time how authors try to "dress up" their manuscript by providing graphics, decorative title pages, pretty script, etc. It's not appreciated because they have to go through the process of changing your fonts just so they can read it...IF they have the patience to do that.

    Again, great post!!

  3. Sorry...*sans serif* not *san serif*

  4. I agree. I am a Times New Roman girl at heart, although I will accept Courier and Arial into my life.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Hi Nan, you've gone a little quiet and I'm missing your posts.
    I hope you're well and will be back soon.

    In the meantime I've nominated you for The Liebster Blog award - showcasting interesting blogs with fewer than 200 readers. Pop over to my blog to copy the badge and check the rules.

  6. Hi Kate:

    Thanks so much for the nomination!!

    I have some blog posts stored up but I've had to take a break from blogging for a few months as my work has been super busy and I've been working on my first anticipated romance short story publication.

    Thanks again!