Manuscript Format Checklist

Yay! You’ve gotten a request for sample pages!

Now how do you format them?

Follow this checklist.

  • Double space. Always double space. It’s easier to read.
  • Use a normal font in a normal size and normal color. Please.
  • Include a header. Your header should have: Your last name, your manuscript name in all caps, and a page number. Example: Nelson / WHY CAPTAIN AMERICA IS AWESOME  /14
  • The file name should include both your name and the manuscript title.
  • Put contact information on the first page.
  • Include the original query letter in the email when you send pages.

This makes it easier for the agent to keep track of who is sending what. We get a lot of manuscripts, so it really is nice to help us out by making it easy to tell which of the twenty Word documents we have open is yours. And it will make you seem more professional, so bonus points!


Query Critique 20

Alexz Stayer is a seventeen-yearold runner with a dream: to win a medal. Too bad she always finishes fourth. Every. Single. Meet. After six years of consistent losing, the probability of victory is close to zero. The odds get even worse when her coach pulls a disappearing act. Contingency of triumph. Certainty of pain. And a replacement coach with a wicked hot British accent, who devours books instead of doing his job. I’d make this into a complete sentence. The game is on!

HITTING THE WALL, my 40,000-word contemporary YA novel, explores how long one should pursue a dream (even if it’s unrealistic) before giving up. I’d avoid a “moral of the story is” line in the query letter. People tend not to like them.This novel would appeal to fans of Anna Katmore, Beth Choat and Simone Elkeles.

Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated,


The first thing I noticed is that this query letter is very short. You have more room available, so use it to establish conflict. And stakes. I’d like a little more indication what the stakes are. Yeah, it would be disappointing if she didn’t win, but what does she really stand to loose.

So ramp up the stakes and the conflict. Utilize the space you have!



Sometimes people ask me how I got my internship. The short answer is that I had a friend who was interning at the agency and recommended me when a spot came open. The long answer is a more involved story of how most of the cool publishing related things I’ve done are thanks to networking.

Although it may be cool to network with a published, big name author, I’ve actually found a lot more opportunity as a result of making friends with other beginning authors. They have more time and energy to network and become friends with you.

For all you know, they could be the published big name author in a few years. You’ll want that person who you made friends with when you were both starry-eyed dreamers to plug your book for you.

Besides, you’ll want them as critique partners. You’ll want to bounce ideas off of them.

Networking is easy, as long as you don’t approach it by thinking “what can these people do for me?” Treat networking like making friends. And it’s easy to make friends with other writers. You have lots in common, and lots to talk about.

Great places to meet other writers:

Twitter: I met one of my favorite CPs on Twitter. She asked on Twitter if anybody played violin, her MC played violin and she had questions. I responded that I did. We traded manuscripts, and what do you know. It was a match made in heaven.

Conferences: This isn’t an option for everyone, but take advantage if  it is. Writer’s at conferences are usually serious about their craft and make great CPs.

Camp NaNoWriMo: They have this cool cabin feature where you can meet other authors and strike up a discussion.

Book events: Does your local library have author signings? Does SCBWI do events in your area? Find out ,and attend if you can!

Online contests: Some contests are better than others for meeting people, but it is an option.

Wattpad: I’ve never really networked this way, but I know people who have.

Query Critique 19

Dear Ms Nelson:

They thought no one could hear them. I’m not a huge fan of ambiguous “they” in the first sentence. But they underestimated the deaf man. I think this might flow better as one sentence with a comma, but that may just be personal preference.
Dr. Marcy Adrian has dealt with death before. After all, she’s a physician.  It’s different when it’s family. Her deaf nephew, Jeremy, was really more of a little brother. And he was murdered in cold-blood. I don’t think this needs a hyphen.
Jeremy is found dead in the bankrupt offices of the Dallas-based technology company where he worked.  Later, she she being Marcy? discovers an email from him written just before his murder. The subject was an ominous warning; “Don’t tell anyone.”  The cryptic message was a link with a video, proprietary software and the words: “Your son holds the key.”

Jeremy’s employer is arrested and the bankruptcy trustee opens a parallel investigation looking for fraud. Marcy join forces and together they are led down a path of espionage, blackmail and ultimately, murder. This paragraph isn’t doing much for me. I don’t think it’s necessary. If I jumped right into the next paragraph I would still know what’s going on.

Against her better judgement, Marcy enlists in her son’s help to unlock Jeremy’s message. Delving into his life she finds he kept lots of secrets. No surprise — he worked for a surveillance firm. When she realizes some secrets were sold and the answers might lie in his lip-reading skill, she must set aside her own moral judgment and face the dark secret of their shared past.  That time, Jeremy was the only witness. This leaves me asking questions, but not the good kind. This seems too vague to be gripping to me. The “that time” is not something I’m aware of, so it doesn’t mean anything to me.
This time, the clock is ticking. What is “this time” referring to? As opposed to the other times she’s solved the murder of a relative? Jeremy’s last email is also embedded with a tracking mechanism that makes Marcy’s family the killer’s next target. And everyone has unfinished business. 

My 84,000-word novel, UNFINISHED BUSINESS, is set in Dallas with speculative elements like Michael Crichton and will appeal to fans of Stephen White and Kathy Reichs.  I’m a member of both Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.  I spent many years at an auction company specializing in corporate bankruptcy liquidations. I’ve also been a speech-reader (lip-reader) for twenty years. This is good to include. I’m currently working on my second novel, WORK IN PROGRESS.  I wouldn’t mention the second novel. Focus on the one you’re pitching. Also, somewhere in this paragraph, I’d like to see a specific genre. Mystery or Thriller or such.

Thank you for your consideration.