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[misc.writing] Writing FAQ (modified 07/2000), part 1/2

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Archive-name: writing/faq/basic-info
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Last-modified: 07/2000

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
misc.writing Frequently Asked Questions about Writing--
part 1

This document pertains only to writing questions often asked
in the misc.writing newsgroup.  See the misc.writing Posting
Guidelines at for information
about the social mores of the misc.writing community.  For
general questions regarding Usenet, please review the FAQs
in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup. =20

Part 2 of this FAQ lists organizations and sources of
information for writers.  This list is sorted by country and
includes (when available) a description of the organization

Modification--07/2000:  updates of listings for Canadian
writers' organizations

Questions answered in this FAQ:

1.0   What format should I use for a manuscript?
        1.1   What font should I use?
        1.2   What about photocopies?
        1.3   How should I format the first page and
following pages?=20
        1.4   How should I indicate that the last page of my
manuscript is the last page?
        1.5   How much of my manuscript should I include?
        1.6   How do I format a picture book?  What about
        1.7   How should I format a poetry submission?
        1.8   How do I count the words in my manuscript?
        1.9   What are the standard word counts for novels,
short stories, et cetera?
        1.10  What is the best length for a chapter?

2.0   Does posting my manuscript ruin its chances for

3.0   How do I use a pen name?  Is it the same as a
        3.1 Do I have to use a pen name?
        3.2  Can I register a pen name so no one else can
use it?

4.0   What about copyrights?

5.0   How do I find a market for my manuscript?

6.0   How do I submit my manuscript?
         6.1.1 What is a cover letter?
         6.1.2 When should I use a cover letter?
         6.2    What about simultaneous submissions?
         6.3.1  What is a query letter?
         6.3.2  What makes a good query letter?
         6.3.3  Where can I look at some query letters?

7.0   Is there a correct format for referencing material
from the Web, Gopher, FTP, Usenet, e-mail, other Internet
source ?=20
8.0   What's a vanity/subsidy publisher?=20
         8.1  Are they legitimate?

9.0   Do I need an agent?
         9.1  How do I get an agent?
          9.2  What do agents charge?

The following questions/answers are in Part 2 of the FAQ:

10.0  What professional groups are useful for writers?

10.1     Australia
        10.1.1  Australia Council=20
        10.1.2  Writers' Centres
        10.1.3  Australian Booksellers Association
        10.1.4  Australian Society of Authors
        10.1.5  Australian Publishers Association

10.2 Canada
        10.2.1  Canadian Authors Association
        10.2.2  The Writers Union of Canada
        10.2.3      Union des =C9crivaines et =C9crivains
        10.2.4  Periodical Writers Association of Canada
        10.2.5  League of Canadian Poets
        10.2.6  Canadian Society of Children's Authors,
                    Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP)
        10.2.7  Writers Guild of Canada
        10.2.8  Crime Writers of Canada
        10.2.9  Playwrights Union of Canada
        10.2.10 SF Canada
        10.2.11 Editors' Association of Canada

10.3    Great Britain
        10.3.1  The Writer's Guild of Great Britain
        10.3.2  The Authors' LIcensing and Collecting
        10.3.3  The Society of Authors
        10.3.4  The Poetry Society

10.3.5  Scotland (from the Writer's Guild of
           Great Britain WWW site)        Scottish Arts Council        Scottish Poetry Library        Scottish Film Production Fund        Scottish Society of Playwrights        Scottish Screen Writers Group  Byre Writers

10.4    New Zealand Society of Authors

10.5   United States of America=20
        10.5.1  American PEN
        10.5.2  National Writer's Union =20
        10.5.3  The Authors Guild
        10.5.4  Writers Guild of America
        10.5.5  SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers
and  Illustrators)
        10.5.6  North Carolina Writers' Network
        10.5.7  Mystery Writers of America
        10.5.8  Romance Writers of America
        10.5.9  Horror Writer Association
        10.5.10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of
                         America, Inc.
        10.5.11 Society for Technical Communication=20

11.0  Are there any on-line groups?
        11.1    Usenet newsgroup: misc.writing
        11.1.1  The misc.writing home page at
        11.2    Usenet newsgroup:  alt.writing
        11.3    Usenet newsgroup: misc.writing.screenplays
        11.4    Listserv:  The Fiction Writers Workshop
        11.5    Listserv:  Writer's Workshop
        11.6    Listserv: DOROTHY-L, for mystery fans and
        11.7    Listserv:  TECHWR-L, for technical writers
        11.8    WWW Page: Miholer's Screenwriting Resources
        11.9    WWW Page:  For The Love of It
        11.10   WORDPLAY: Professional Secrets for
        11.11   Bix, Compuserve, AOL, the WELL, GEnie

Ye Olde Disclaimer

   This article is provided as is without any express or
implied warranties.  While every effort has been taken to
ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this
article, the maintainer and contributors assume no
responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages
resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
The use of both American and British English spellings in
this FAQ is a result of the multiplicity of its authors.

Changes since last edition:

07/2000: Addresses and contact information in the second
part were corrected.

This document will be posted on or about Monday of each week
to misc.writing.  A current version will be to news.answers
and misc.answers on the third Monday of each month. Please
send corrections and suggested additions to Wendy Chatley
Green <>

1. What format should I use for my manuscript?


        All of the following rules can be broken.  However,
any time you break one of them, you run the risk of
irritating an editor.  To quote Strunk and White:

    "It is an old observation that the best writers
sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric.  When they do so,
however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some
compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation.
Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do
best to follow the rules."


        Manuscripts should be typed in black ink using a new
ribbon or printed on a daisy wheel, ink-jet or laser
printer.  Never write or print a manuscript by hand. Each
page must be doubled-spaced (one blank line between each
line of type) and each side must have at least a one-inch
margin.  Use white medium-weight business letter-sized paper
(either 8-1/2 x 11 or A4) and type or print only on one
side. Once the manuscript is typed or printed, do not
staple, bind, or otherwise attach the pages to one another.=20

1.1  What font should I use?

         A manuscript is not an opportunity to show off your
elaborate desktop publishing system.  Many publishers
specify a font or type size in their writer's guidelines and
only a fool would ignore such a requirement. Editors read
vast numbers of pages and anything that strains their
eyesight gets a deserved toss toward the reject pile.
        If no font is suggested then the writer should
choose one that does  not distract from the writing.  Serif
fonts, which have slight projections to finish off the
stroke in each letter, have been proven to be easier on the
eyes than san-serif fonts, which resemble block printing.=20

         Whether the font is proportional or monospaced also
affects how easy it is to read.  With proportional fonts
such as Times, the individual characters vary in width ("w"
is wider than "i.") With monospaced fonts such as Courier,
all characters are the same width. Proportional fonts make a
manuscript look more like a book and allow more words per
page but monospaced fonts give editors a more accurate feel
for the space required by the piece. =20

         Size also matters, at least for fonts.  The usual
size is "12 point" (also referred to as "10 pitch" or
"pica.")  Pitch refers to the number of characters per inch.
Point size refers to the relative height of the font; a
point is a typographical measurement very close to 1/72nd of
an inch.  Anything smaller than 12 point or 10 pitch and
editors might strain to read the words; use anything bigger
and editors may assume that you are disguising a too-short

         Although any legible font might be acceptable, the
safest choice is Courier 12.  Work printed in Courier 12
closely resembles typewritten work.  Familiarity with
Courier allows editors to quickly extract word count and
other important information from manuscripts printed in it.

1.2 What about photocopies?

        If you submit a photocopy, make sure it's clean and
clear; it also doesn't hurt to explicitly mark it "Not a
Simultaneous Submission" (if this is the truth), as some
editors assume photocopies are simultaneous.  NEVER submit
your only copy of a manuscript; tragedies do happen.
Photocopy the manuscript, back up the disk--not vice versa.

1.3  How should I format the first page and following pages?

First page header:

I. Wanna Write                            Approx. 2000 words
1000 Maple Street
Anytown, USA 00000

                   (about 1/3 of the way down the page)

                      Title of Story
                       Ima Pseudonym

 (Note that you use your real name, not your pseudonym, as
 the return address; the publisher wants to know who will be
 endorsing the check.)

Other additions to the header about which there is some

        Your Social Security number (Pro: Aids publishers in
record keeping when they cut you a check.  Con:  If they
need it, they'll ask for it.)

        A copyright notice (Pro: May be useful in
establishing legal claims to ownership of your work, should
problems arise.  Con: "This is a mark of the amateur;
editors have better things to do than steal story ideas.")
       Membership in writers' professional organizations  --
SFFWA, SCBWI, et al.  (Pro: Gets editors' attention in the
slushpile. Con: Doesn't help, doesn't hurt.)

  Rights offered (more important for articles/stories than
for books)

For the second-through-final page headers:

Writer's name/Title of Story                         Page X

        This shouldn't take up more than one line; shorten
the title to fit. Manuscripts *do* get dropped; if you
identify every page, you reduce the odds of your story's
being re-collated with the last third of  "Marshmallow Mud
Maidens from Madagascar". (Richard Curtis, the renowned
agent, feels it's a mistake to include the story title in
the page header, since this requires you to retype or
reprint the entire manuscript if you change the title.)

1.4  How should I indicate that the last page of my
manuscript is the last page?

        It may also be a good idea to put an "end of story"
marker on  the last page.  Use "# # END # #", "--FIN--", or
anything else you're confident the editor won't mistake for
part of the story.  (Some people think that this marker is

1.5  How much of my manuscript should I include?

        Research the rules of the market you're submitting
to.  For short fiction (less than 20,000 words), you
normally submit the entire manuscript.  For novel-length
fiction, many publishers prefer to receive a couple of
sample chapters and an outline; if the publisher likes your
sample, he/she will request the remainder of the book.

        Publishers won't normally commit to buying a
manuscript from an unknown writer until they've seen the
whole thing. DON'T submit a portion of an unfinished book,
unless you are certain that you can finish the book very
quickly (within a month) if the publisher expresses

1.6 How do I format a picture book?  What about

        Children's picture books are normally assembled by
the publisher, who buys a manuscript, then assigns an artist
to create the drawings. Historically, most publishers have
strongly preferred *not* to receive manuscripts with
illustrations; the feeling has been that it was too
difficult to accept one part of the package and reject the
other.  Author-illustrators generally earned their spurs by
illustrating the works of others, and were then allowed to
create their own books.  Some publishers are beginning to
accept (but not prefer) complete packages; check *Writer's
Market* to find suitable candidates.

        If you are submitting an unillustrated manuscript
for a picture  book, you should generally not attempt to
indicate page breaks, double-page spreads, etc., or give
detailed illustration suggestions, as these are the book
designer's and illustrator's domain.  Anything that you want
to appear in the picture should be part of the text.  One
obvious exception to this rule is irony: if the text reads
"Irene's room was always tidy", you're allowed to insert a
note like "(Illustrator: the room is  actually a pit.)"

        As always, you should read many different picture
books to get a feeling for the strengths and limitations of
the format.  Bear in mind that picture books are almost
invariably 32 or 48 pages long, including title page and
other front matter.=20

1.7  How should I format a poetry submission?

        According to the _Writer's Market, 1997 edition,
poems are submitted one to a page.  The format is
single-spaced with two lines between stanzas.

        An on-line source of information about poetry is the
rec.arts.poems FAQ

1.8  How do I count the number of words in my manuscript?

        Start at the beginning.  Point at the first word and
say "One."  Point at the second word and say "Two."  Repeat,
increasing the count by one integer for each word at which
you point. <g>

Now, some more professional answers:

        1. You could use the "Word Count" feature of your
word processor.  Note that all word processors do not use
the same algorithm to compute this--Word may give a
different figure than WordPerfect.
        2. You can multiply the number of pages in the
manuscript by 250. This gives a very rough estimate.

        3.  Figure that 1.5 typewritten/computer-printed
pages equal one page of a book (another rough estimate)

        4.  Count the words on five random pages of the
manuscript. Find the average number of words per page
(divide the count by five) then multiply this number by the
number of pages in the manuscript.

        You will be paid by the publisher's word-count, not
yours; the publisher's algorithm may differ.  (And padding
word-count is like double-parking in front of Police
Headquarters; you *will* get caught.)

1.9  What are the standard word counts for novels, short
stories, et cetera?=20

0 - 250 words:          Flash or sudden fiction=20
0 - 2,000 words:        Short-short story=20
2,000 - 10,000 words:              Short story=20
10,000 - 40,000 words:  Novella=20
50,000 - infinity  (or durned close to it):     Novel=20

A good length for a novel (by consensus of this newgroup) is
80,000 words.=20

Certain genre publishers require a maximum word count
because they produce a standardized paperback. Follow these

1.10  What is the best length for a chapter?

        It depends.  Although chapters of a standard length
(4,000 words, say) may be easier to outline, plan, count,
and edit, there are no rules on chapter length.  It is easy
to find huge novels divided into 20 or fewer chapters and
very slim novels with 45 or more divisions.

        When to end a chapter and begin another one is one
of the factors of story-telling.  Sometimes a chapter closes
where a story would end: following a brief cooldown after a
crisis resolution. This gives a feeling of accomplishment
for the reader and a sense of intermission.

        Sometimes the chapters close before the resolution
of a crisis, or after the introduction of the next crisis.
These chapter breaks give a sense of suspense--that events
are crowding in on the reader.

        Sometimes chapters are kept consistent in length to
establish a rhythm.  Sometimes chapters vary greatly in
length, giving the reader a sense of a kaleidoscopic world.
Other time, chapters end and begin with a change in Point Of
View, the scene's setting in time or space, or at a radical
change in mood.

        All depends on what suits the needs of your story.

2.0  Does posting my manuscript ruin its chances for

        If you post a piece of writing to a public
electronic bulletin-board or discussion group (USENET,
GEnie, FIDOnet, et al.), or mail it to a
generally-accessible mailing list (sf-lovers), you have
published it.  This means that you cannot sell "first
rights" to that manuscript to a magazine, anthology, et
cetera.  Furthermore, most publishers won't buy secondary
rights to a piece that has been published on an electronic
network.  (Sending E-mail copies of a manuscript out to a
few friends and reviewers probably doesn't constitute
"publication", but posting definitely does.)

3.0  How do I use a pen name?  Is it the same as a

        Pseudonym means "false name" (from the Greek for
false name, oddly enough).  To use one, simply put it on the
front page of your manuscript (see title page example in
this FAQ).  If your real name is in the upper left corner,
publishers will understand that you wish to be published
under a pen name.

3.1  Do I have to use a pen name?      =20

        No--unless your name is identical or similar to that
of someone already in print.  Reputable publishers will ask
you to select a different name or modify it to prevent

        For example:  There is a well-known author named
Jack Mingo. If this happens to be your name, you should
switch to "John Mingo" or add a middle name (Jack Xavier
Mingo or John X. Mingo.)

        Jacqueline Mingo, although obviously not Jack Mingo,
could be confusing to a reader who wonders if "Jack Mingo
got a sex-change" (e.g. the composer Walter/Wendy Carlos or
the author James/Jan Morris.)

        Publishers often have the final decision in this
matter.  =20

3.2  Can I register a pen name so no one else can use it?

        There is no clearinghouse for pseudonyms.  No one
assigns them nor does anyone keep track of them, with one
exception. Publishers who "own" a book series written by
contract writers under a standard author name (Mack Bolan
and Carolyn Keene are examples) will object to the use of
that name by someone else.  In this case, the name is a
trademark of the series and not an indication of the
identity of the author.

4.0  What about copyrights?

                                    *Nota bene*
The following answer pertains only to copyrights obtained in
the USA.  Elsewhere, YMMV (your mileage may vary.)  The
people who suggested the sites listed and the information
given may not be lawyers so expect this to be cheaper than
legal advice but possibly not as good.

With that having been said,

        You have an implicit copyright on any original
creative work that you produce.  This copyright is good as
soon as you write the words onto paper.

        You do not need to explicitly copyright fiction that
you submit to professional publications. Reports of editors
"ripping off" stories for their own uses are apocryphal.

        Sending yourself your story via the postal service
is not a way to prove that the story was written at a
specific time.  Postmarks can and have been falsified. This
won't stand up in court.  This also applies for
notarization, or any other method of timestamping a

        Since this is one of the most frequently asked
questions, I will repeat the answer--sending yourself the
manuscript and keeping that copy unopened will not protect
any rights--this is now a myth.

        There are discussions of copyrights at:

Bill Lovell, JD's Cerebalaw site:


Ivan Hoffman, JD's site:

The Librarians' Index to the Internet at UC Berkeley:=20

Dick Harper's All Arts Council:

or check with an attorney who knows copyright and patent

5.0  How do I find a market for my manuscript?

        Go to the library and read the current _Writer's
Market_ published  by Writer's Digest Books. It will tell
you which magazines and books are reading unsolicited
submissions, and what types of manuscript each market is
particularly eager for.=20

        There are some good on-line site--check the
misc.writing home page ( for
current pointers to them.

        When you investigate a possible market, don't just
read *about* it.  Read other books printed by the same
publisher; read previous issues of the magazine.  What the
editor honestly believes is "ground breaking, no taboos" may
be closer to "50's pulp fiction with swear words."

        Be precise in copying the editor's name, title, and
address. Check them against the latest information you have
available. Editors change publishing houses and magazines
frequently; they are not terribly amused by receiving
submissions addressed to their predecessors.

6.0 How do I submit my manuscript?

        Insert your manuscript into an envelope that is big
enough to hold the manuscript unfolded.  (That is, 9x11 is
fine; standard business-sized 4 x 9 1/2 is not, except for
VERY short fiction and poetry.)  With your manuscript,
include either a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) big
enough to hold the return manuscript, or a smaller SASE for
the publisher's reply, with a note that the manuscript need
not be returned.  Attach adequate postage to both envelopes.

        Exception to the SASE rule: if you're submitting a
work to a publisher in another country, consider sending a
disposable manuscript, an addressed reply envelope for the
publisher's response, and two International Reply Coupons,
available at the local Post Office.

        Wait.  Start writing something else.  Re-query (BY
MAIL) after twice the named latency period (a.k.a. the
response time.)  If the publisher doesn't reply after what
you consider a reasonable time, write a polite letter
withdrawing the manuscript from consideration and resubmit
it elsewhere.

6.1.1 What is a cover letter?

        A cover letter introduces you and your work to an
editor.  For most short fiction, a cover letter is optional;
many magazines don't really want one.  For non-fiction, it
is almost mandatory.  Of course, if you used a query letter
(see that section) to get the writing assignment, then a
cover letter may not be necessary; the editor already knows
what to expect from you.

        A basic cover letter is:

[usual date and header]

Dear Editor (Use the correct name!)

Enclosed is my article on Usenet cookbooks--10,000 words as
you requested in your letter dated 5 January, 2000.

[usual closing and signature]

        Do not use a cover letter to "sell" your story; if
an editor requested it, you've already "sold" it.  At this
point, your writing must do the rest.=20

6.1.2 When should I use a cover letter?

        Use a cover letter if the work was requested by an
editor (this reminds the editor that he or she wants its).

        Use a cover letter if you are submitting part of a
larger work (i.e., sample chapters and outline of a
completed novel.)   In a sentence or two, give the title,
genre, and length of the book.=20

        Use a cover letter if your work needs special
explanation.  If your article is time-critical (a piece on
the upcoming election primary that will not be useful if
it's shunted aside for a few months), note this in your
cover letter.

        Use a cover letter to introduce yourself and list
any *pertinent* information about you and your
accomplishments, if you are submitting "over the transom"
(i.e., without having obtained a request from the editor.) =20

        "Pertinent" means any major writing successes, any
professional or extraordinary expertise in the subject of
the submitted work, or any fame that you may have that will
help sell the work.  If you've have best sellers in another
field, mention them.  If you are the world's foremost expert
on chair caning and are submitting a piece on chair seat
repair, note that in the letter.  If you are submitting a
Young Adult novel about adopted children and you have seven
adopted kids, mention them.

        Be brief.  Do not mention anything that doesn't
directly highlight your story or article.  Don't tell your
life story.  Don't retell your story.  Don't gush or ramble.
Be concise and professional.=20

6.2  What about simultaneous submissions?

        One line of thought: Don't.  Yes, editors keep
stories for far too long, and yes, it isn't fair that they
can waste months of your time without leaving you anything
to show for it.  However, following the rules is the best
way to make certain that your manuscript is read.
        Another line of thought:  Do it.  The chances of
having two editors accept your work at the same time is so
remote as to be almost impossible (although it has

        A possible workaround: Submit works with a time
limit; say in the cover letter that if you have not received
a response by three months after the date of submission, you
will withdraw the work from consideration and will resubmit
the work elsewhere.

        If you decide to simsub (send simultaneous
submissions,) be honest and mark the submission as
simultaneous.  If you get caught simsubbing without noting
it on your manuscript or cover letter, your name will be mud
(and remembered, and passed on to other editors.) =20

        The _Writer's Market_ and the publishers' guidelines
will say which magazines/book publishers accept simultaneous

6.3.1   What is a query letter?

        A query letter sells your article, novel, short
story, or other work to an agent or editor.  You send a
query letter to get a request to write a piece or to save
you (and the editor or agent) the expense and hassle of
dealing with a manuscript that isn't wanted.=20
        Query letters are sales tools.  If you're trying for
an assignment, then the letter tells how and why you will do
an excellent job  for the editor.  If you're trying to place
a completed manuscript with a publisher or agent, then the
letter describes the book and your worth as an author.

        Queries bypass the slush pile.  Once an editor or
agent responds favorably to a query, then the article (or
book) goes straight to that editor or agent.  Your cover
letter (see whatever section number I give cover letters)
reminds the recipient of your query and response.

        Queries may be formal business letters or e-mail.
When you research the market and the publications before
writing your query, make very certain that the editor wants
e-mail before sending any.

        Some people tremble at the thought of selling
themselves or their work.  Don't think of queries in that
light.  What you are doing is stating facts about yourself
and about your novel or article.  =20

        Also, if you are pitching a novel--finish it first.
No one wants to get excited about a book that isn't ready
for publication--and no, they won't wait for you to finish
it. =20

6.3.2  What makes a good query letter?

        First of all--the correct editor's name.  Query
letters are sent to specific editors or agent *by name*.  Do
not send them "To whom it may concern:" or to "Editor:"
Look up the names in the Literary Marketplace, then call the
magazine or publishing house to see if the editor still
works for them; editors move around frequently.  Ask the
secretary to verify the spelling of the editor's name; this
slightly sneaky trick ascertains if the editor still is with
the magazine since, if the editor has left, the secretary
will say, "That person is not with us anymore."  At this
point, you ask for the name of the editor's replacement,
then send your query to that person.

        (Yes, the spelling trick is hard to pull off if the
editor's name is "Joe Jones" or "Sue Smith.)

        While you're doing this research, also make certain
that the editor or agent handles the sort of writing that
you want to sell.  Do not pitch a sailing article to a
needlepoint magazine or a romance to an editor who handles
only cyberpunk.

        Like cover letters, query letters are pithy and
to-the-point. For a novel, the letter states genre, word
count, and a very short description of the plot--no more
than three sentences.  Pretend that you're pitching it to
someone in an elevator; you have only as much time as it
takes to get to the next floor, where the editor will either
escape or will stay to listen for more.  Do not bore or
distract the editor; it spoils your sales pitch.

        For a non-fiction piece, the letter gives subject
and brief outline--again, no more than a couple of

        Many successful writers recommend including the
"lead" of your article in your query letter (a lead is the
first sentence or paragraph; it tells your readers what to
expect and "hooks" their attentions, making them want to
read the rest of the piece.)

        A lead should be a short attention-grabber.  Opinion
varies as to what is "short." Some say "two to four
sentences" while others will use a two-paragraph lead.  The
important thing is brevity--do not weary the editor.  If
your lead is boring, editors assume that all of your writing
will be not worth their time and money.

        Whatever its length, the lead must convey much
information in as few words as possible.  Craft your lead
carefully--open with a good hook.  Tell what your story or
article is about, then wrap it up with a strong close.  This
is your opportunity to show the editor what you can do; make
it good.

        Both types of letters should include pertinent
information about you--important writing assignments or
sales, applicable experience, training, or education.  For
example, if you are pitching an article about dugout canoes,
highlight your trans-Atlantic trip in the canoe that you
made from a cedar log with a ice cream scoop.

        If the editor does not know your work, including a
few "clips" (examples of your work) is acceptable.  Of
course, these should be professional sales to established
publications, not in-house newsletters, letters to the
editor, or other non-paid or vanity publication. =20

        Don't include information that doesn't pertain to
the article or book.  If the book is a historical romance,
the editor or agent will not care that you are a Mechanical
Engineering professor at Whassamatta University.  Again,
don't bore or distract the agent.

        However, if you have ties to the subject of the
article (you work for them, you wrote their advertising
campaign, you ran a recent PR campaign for them), this must
be mentioned in the query letter.  Otherwise, when they find
out (not 'if they find out'), you're toast.

        Note that sending out simultaneous queries is *not*
the same as sending simultaneous submissions.  You are one
step removed from publication and everyone has less invested
at this point.  If one editor expresses interest in your
completed work, then another responds to your query, simply
inform the second editor that someone else is considering
the work and ask if you may send it on if it returns to you.

6.3.3  Where can I look at some query letters?

        1. Any editor's desk <g>

        2. In Lisa Collier Cool's book _How to Write
Irresistible Query Letters_ from Writers Digest Books=20

        3.  Also Gregg Levoy's _This Business of Writing_
(Writers Digest Books) has a section on querying; note that
his sample letter runs two pages.=20

        4 "Attack of the Query Letter", part of _Freelance
Writing_ by Bev Walton-Porter  at=20

        See also "Attack of the Bad Query Letter" at and
"From Ether to Editor: How E-queries Make Your Life Easier"

7.0 Is there a correct format for referencing material from
the Web, Gopher, FTP, Usenet, e-mail, other Internet source?

        Like everything that concerns computing and the
Internet, there is no one standard format for citations.  A
thorough explanation, written by Janice R. Walker of the
University of South Florida's Department of English, is
available from:

MLA-Style Citations of Electronic Sources

        Examples for all Internet resources are given.  The
following  is her generic format:

 (Janice R. Walker (
Article =A9 J. Walker 1995, Last modified: 6 Sep. 1996.)

        The basic component of the reference citation I have
compiled is simple:

        Author's Last Name, First Name.  "Title of Work."
Title of Complete Work. [protocol and address] [path] (date
of message or visit).

To cite this FAQ's quote from J. Walker's article, the
citation is:

        Walker, Janice R.  "MLA-Style Citations of
Electronic  Sources."
(13 January, 1997).

8.0  What is a vanity or subsidy publisher?

        You pay a vanity publisher to turn your manuscript
into a book.  There is nothing wrong with this, per se--as
long as you realize that *you* are responsible for all the
costs of printing and binding.  The vanity publisher will
not market your book, store the copies, ship the copies
(other than to your address) or do anything else that a
royalty publisher will do after they buy your book.

(What's a royalty publisher?  One who buys your book,
markets it, sells lots of copies, and sends you the
royalties.  You do not pay them--they pay you.  This is the
goal for which most writers aim. Royalty publishers also
place books in bookstores, get them reviewed in newspapers
and magazines, send authors on book tours--things that
vanity publishers never do.)

        Subsidy publishers fall between these two types.  A
subsidy publisher asks that you pay something towards the
cost of printing and/or marketing your book; i.e., you
subsidize some or most of the publishing costs.  Subsidy
publishers sometimes will market your book and perform other
services, often for an additional fee.

        Note that many retail booksellers pay no attention
to the order lists from subsidy publishers.  Reviewers
ignore the books sent them by subsidy publishers.  Because
of this, even a good faith attempt to market your book by a
subsidy publisher may fail to earn any money.

8.1  Are vanity/subsidy publishers legitimate?

       It depends.  If all you want is your book printed and
bound, then a vanity/subsidy publisher might suit you well
(although a local printer may do the job as well or better
for less money.)  If your book appeals to a very narrow
market and you are willing to sell it yourself then a
subsidy publisher might fill the bill for you. However,
small presses, regional publishing houses, and university
presses often accept niche books.  Self-publishing, in which
you do the printing, binding, marketing, and all the other
chores, also might be a viable option.  Consider all the
costs and the work involved carefully before deciding.

        Several vanity/subsidy publishers masquerade as
royalty publishers.  They solicit manuscripts and accept a
writer's work just like the royalty publishers but their
contracts require you to pay.  Stay away from these
companies; charging to publish a book is not illegal but
duping people into paying for publication is wrong.

        A listing of duplicitous companies in this FAQ
undoubtedly would bring lawsuits.  As a general rule of
thumb, if the publisher fails to mention its fees up front
then run from them as fast as possible.  Reputable
publishers, like reputable agents, do not charge hidden

9.0  Do I need an agent?

        Markets that only accept submissions through agents:
        -- Mainstream fiction (not SF, romance, or mystery)
        -- Screenplays and teleplays (studios won't read
unsolicited submissions for fear of copyright lawsuits.)

        Most other markets still read their own slushpiles,
so you can cut out the middleman by submitting your fiction
directly.  If you're concerned about your ability to
negotiate, you can always get an agent after you've made the
sale through the slushpile.

        Markets agents aren't normally interested in short
fiction (not enough money in it).

Things agents generally won't do:
        -- Rewrite/edit your work (they don't have time)
        -- Handle several genres (e.g. romances and
screenplays and cookbooks)
        -- Serve as a crying towel

9.1 How do I get an agent?

        The easiest method: Sell your book to a publisher.
Then write letters to agents, asking them if they'd like to
earn their 15%.

        A somewhat harder method:  Send the book
over-the-transom to agents who are looking for new clients.

        A colossal waste of money:  Pay somebody an up-front
reading fee.  There have been a very few exceptions, but
99.9 per cent of all decent agents don't charge up-front
reading fees; they make their money by *selling* your book,
not by reading it.

         [The times, they are a-changing.  As the function
of slushpile weeding is shifting from publisher to agent,
many agents see reading fees as the only way to recoup their
costs.   It is still true that you should try to find an
agent who doesn't charge a fee first, and that you should
check the credentials of fee-demanding agents very carefully
-- make sure that their major source of funds is selling
writers, not reading manuscripts.]

9.2  How much do agents cost?

        Agents should not charge authors up-front fees for
copying, telephone calls, et cetera; this money should come
out of the agent's percentage of the gross.  The standard
agent's fee for fiction seems to have risen to 15 per cent.
Agents' fees for screenplays are reported to have remained
at 10 per cent.

End of FAQ--part 1

Wendy Chatley Green

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