Friday, March 14, 2008


I've spent several hours this week on the phone and on the computer with a client who is the author of a nonfiction book. She is a brilliant author with an academic background. We worked together on her first book which sold quickly because it was a trade-oriented psychology book geared to a popular audience.

[Note: This client is "grandfathered" in to our agency. We were her publicists first and consented to represent her new book because of a long-standing and productive relationship.]

This new book is tougher because the topic is serious and borders on the academic. She's writing it with a co-author. It's also tougher because the "platform" bar is higher than it was when I sold her first book five years ago. (I wasn't even an agent then--I worked with an agent friend to make the sale.) Today, nonfiction authors looking for a quick sale need to be near-famous, with regular television appearances, regular radio interviews and/or print and public speaking venues. My author(s) have none of these things and their book is going to have to stand on its own merits. In other words, it's got to be perfect, or at least near-perfect to have a chance.

My client has been writing chapters and the formatting is all wrong. I asked her to please change it to meet current standards--double-spaced throughout, author name, title, page number at the top of every page, etc. I should have brought this to her attention earlier, but I didn't, so we've been making the changes this week to bring the formatting into line.

I just reread the proposal and the sample chapters again this morning and am pleased that it is now perfect. I can make new copies with a clear mind and begin my publisher pitches again.

The point of this ramble is this. Book writing has an element of "housekeeping" inherent in the process. That housekeeping includes all the boring stuff: grammar, punctuation, and FORMATTING. Make sure that your manuscript (or partial, or proposal) "house" is in order before you send it to anyone. You don't want to be rejected on the basis of sloppy housekeeping.


Adaora A. said...

Indeed. That would be horrible.

Good luck to your client, I'll drink to seeing her on OPRAH!

Anonymous said...

Since the topic is formatting, I have a question. A while back, I read that a manuscript should be typed in a monospace font, such as courier, and there should be 2 spaces between each sentence. The good folks at still tout this as proper. However, I have also read that a manuscript should have a proportional font, such as Times New Roman, and only one space between each sentence. With the proliferation of Word, this doesn't surprise me.

Which, if either, is the way to go?
Thank you for your time.

Kae and Jon said...

Dear Mike:

As long as an author double-spaces between lines, numbers the pages, has his/her name and book title on each page we're cool. Two spaces after each sentence is no longer mandatory. We're partial to Times New Roman, but we can't speak for other agents or editors. Keep it neat and tidy and you should be OK.