How to Format Your Novel Properly Before Querying Agents

How to format a novel 2So you’ve finally finished writing your novel and have edited the heck out of it. You’re exhausted, and probably over caffeinated and sleep deprived, but the pains of your efforts have been well worth it.

You cradle your newborn manuscript you’ve brought into this world. You’ve now reached the moment of truth–you’re ready to submit to agents.

It’s a scary thing sending your defenseless little manuscript out into the world. Agents and editors can be vicious, and the last thing you want is for your baby to get rejected. So before you start querying, it’s important you take the time to properly format your manuscript to give it it’s best chance of getting adopted by a publisher.

This is not a step you do not want to skip over! I know you’re itching to submit to agents, but wouldn’t it be a shame for all of your hard work to be for nothing because you were too lazy to do a little formatting?

“But do agents even really care about formatting? Aren’t they just interested in my story?” you ask.

Oh yes. Trust me, agents care. And they take notice of sloppy formatting. It will earn your manuscript a one-way ticket to the slush pile. Why?

First, poor formatting can make your story difficult to read. If an agent has a whole stack of manuscripts on their desk to sort through, they’re not going to take the time to struggle through yours. You don’t want to annoy the person who could get your story published!

Second, your formatting reveals who you are as a writer. If your manuscript is properly formatted, the agent will think “Oh, this writer knows what they’re doing. They’ve done their research and have taken the time to present themselves as a professional.”

But if your manuscript is a hot mess, it sends up a red flag and signals to agents that you’re an amateur and/or lazy. “Man,” they’ll think, “If the formatting is this big of a mess I don’t even want to know what the writing looks like. It’s probably a train wreck.”

Plus, it’s just rude to send an agent a sloppy manuscript! Don’t waste their time.

If the idea of formatting freaks you out, relax. It’s not as complicated as it sounds–and I’m here to help you out! I got your back. 😉 I’m going to show you how to format your manuscript professionally according to industry standards so you’ll get on the good side of agents. Ready? Let’s do this!

Proper Manuscript Formatting

Step 1: Always, always check the agent’s publishing guidelines first! Mostly they all tend to be pretty much the same, but sometimes they vary. So do your research and adjust your manuscript accordingly.

Step 2: Set your font to black, size 12 Times New Roman font. (Do NOT try to be artistic and make your manuscript stand out by using weird fonts).

Step 3: Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides.

Step 4: Create a title page. Type your name, address, phone number, and email in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, single spaced. Then, place the word count of your story under your email or at the top of the page on the right (round off the word count to the nearest thousand or five hundred). Optional: include your genre or sub-genre above or below the word count.

Next, about halfway down the page, type your story’s title and center it. The title can be capitalized normally or in all caps. Skip a line, type ‘by,’ skip another line, and type your name.

Step 5: On a new page, begin your story. You will start each chapter on a new page 1/3 of the way down (about 6 double-spaced lines), and center the chapter’s title (the title can be capitalized normally or in all caps). Then, skip two lines before starting the body of the chapter. The first paragraph of your chapters or new scenes can either be indented or left flush.

Step 6: Create a header on each page excluding the title page. It should include your last name, the title of your story (or keywords if it’s too long), and the page number. Separate your name, title, and page number with a / and align the header to the right. (Also, make sure your chapter lengths are reasonable. 12-17 double-spaced pages is a good range).

Step 7: Double space your entire manuscript.

Step 8: Make sure all of your paragraphs have a 1/2 inch indent. This is equal to 5 spaces, or make things easy on yourself and use the tab key 😉

Step 9: To indicate a scene break, insert a # between paragraphs and center it. Asterisks *** are also acceptable.

Step 10: To emphasize words, use italics. Don’t underline or bold your words.

Step 11: At the end of your manuscript, insert a # sign or type “The End” and center it. This lets the agent know there aren’t any missing pages.

Step 12: If sending your manuscript through snail mail, don’t staple or bind your pages in any way.

“Um, okay, great but what the heck does this all look like?” you wonder.

Well, allow me to show you.

The title page:

Title Page Example

The manuscript pages:

Chapter Example

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, if you look around online and see variations of the format above, don’t panic or get confused!

There can be slight variations, though nothing real drastic. (For example, some recommend Courier font, but others say it’s outdated. Really, either Courier or Times New Roman is acceptable). This format isn’t the one and only way to do it. I think that’s why writers get confused and stress out over formatting.

Just remember to always check the agent’s guidelines first. And as long as you are presenting your manuscript in a professional format like the one I’ve shown you above, you’ll be fine. Don’t sweat small variations you might see online.

You’re now ready to send out your beautiful baby manuscript! Check out my list of 100 YA agents to get you started.

Still confused? Have questions? Need help? Leave me your comments below!

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100 Agents to Submit Your YA Novel to Right Now!

100 agentsAre you looking for YA literary agents to submit your novel to? You’ve come to the right place!

I’ve rounded up a giant list of one hundred literary agents who are looking for the next great YA novel (which is going to be yours, right?).

The links will take you to the agent’s profile or submission guidelines so you can find out more. Some agents listed specific stories they were looking for so I included those here. If there’s nothing specific listed beside an agent assume they are open to all sub-genres (but of course always double-check and do your research as things may change).

And of course, before you submit your novel to any agent always edit it first! (Preferably multiple times. Until you want to cry. Or sleep for days.)

Giant List of YA Literary Agents

1. Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary

2. Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary–select YA

3. Eric Smith of P.S. Literary–seeking diverse YA, particularly Sci-Fi/Fantasy

4. Lydia Blyfield of Carol Mann Agency–seeking YA with strong hooks/modern themes. NO High Fantasy.

5. Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency

6. Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency

7. Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency–any, preference toward Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Romance

8. Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency

9. Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency

10. Luara Zats of Red Sofa Literary–particularly interested in retellings & contemporary. NO dystopia or paranormal/contemporary romance.

11. Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary

12. Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

13. Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

14. Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency–open to a wide range of genres, with particular interest in diversity, contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, and fantasy.

15. Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency

16. Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency–preference for contemporary settings, standout romance, strong friendships, & sibling relationships

17. Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency–any YA, but would love to see contemporary stories with Sci-Fi or Fantasy elements, retellings, and horror.

18. Louise Fury of The Bent Agency

19. Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency

20. Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency–open to mystery, fantasy, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre).

21. Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency–any, but favorite genres include historical fiction, suspense, mysteries, and romance

22. Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency

23. Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency–seeking “young adult fiction of all types except paranormal romance. I would especially love to get my hands on a creepy and/or funny contemporary young adult project. ”

24. Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

25. Kirsten Carleton of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

26. Holly Root of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

27. Scott Waxman of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

28. Reiko Davis of Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency–“Actively looking for young adult and middle grade fiction—whether it be contemporary, historical, high fantasy, or simply a story with a timeless quality and vibrant characters.”

29. Miriam Altshuler of Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency–“most interested in contemporary and historical YA… She loves dystopian worlds and great stories that have some fantasy to them…but that are not strictly in the fantasy genre.”

30. Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger Inc.–“She is consistently ranked among the top three YA and MG agents in Publishers Marketplace.”

31. Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.

32. Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–“particularly seeking contemporary, multicultural, sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, alternate history, retellings.

33. Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–contemporary YA, NO fantasy

34. Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency

35. Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–seeking contemporary, romance, and urban fantasy.

36. Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–particularly drawn to fantasy

37. Stacey Kendall Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

38. Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

39. Lauren Abramo of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

40. John Rudolph of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

41. Rachel Stout of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management–“Believable and thought-provoking YA as well as magical realism.”

42. Erin Young of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management–“Interested in all forms of young adult fiction, particularly fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism.”

43. Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management

44. Katie Reed of Andrea Hurst & Associates–any, but particularly seeking contemporary, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, retellings.

45. Genevive Nine of Andrea Hurst & Associates–seeking sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, retellings (classics, fairy/folk tale, myth), contemporary.

46. Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary–“currently very keen to find a powerful big YA fantasy (in the vein of Kristin Cashore) and unique contemporary, realistic fiction; also loves historical, so long as it’s got strong appeal to contemporary teens. ”

47. John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary–“Particularly keen to see fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories, contemporary realism, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy.”

48. Sandy Lu of L. Perkins Agency–particularly seeking Victorian historical thrillers or mysteries.

49. Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency

50. Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency

51. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency

52. Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary Agency

53. Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency

54. Amy Boggs of Donald Maas Literary Agency–“All things fantasy and science fiction, especially high fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk (and its variations), YA, MG, and alternate history.”

55. Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maas Literary Agency

56. Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberly Cameron and Associates

57. Pooja Menon of Kimberly Cameron and Associates–“looking for stories that deal with the prevalent issues that face teenagers today. She is also interested in fantasy, magical-realism, and historical fiction.”

58. Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary–“She would love to see a beautifully written YA set within other cultures and experiences.”

59. Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary

60. Jess Regel of Foundry Literary + Media

61. Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

62. Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

63. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

64. Frank Weiman of Folio Literary Management–endearing characters, strong voice, no paranormal

65. Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management–seeking “Contemporary, voice-driven novels that approach the universal experience of being a teenager from a surprising or an unlikely perspective.” Also, thrillers and mystery.

66. Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management–“fiction set in another country…I’d also like to see: Contemporary YA that’s not afraid to explore complex social issues, historical fantasy…and good, old-fashioned YA romance.”

67. Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary Management–“I’m attracted to realistic contemporary stories with a strong sense of voice…I’m also looking for YA mysteries, thrillers, horror, science fiction, urban fantasy, speculative, historical with a twist (alternate historical or historical with magical realism).”

68. Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency–contemporary YA

69. Kim Lionetti of Bookends Literary Agency–any except sci-fi or fantasy

70. Beth Campbell of Bookends Literary Agency

71. Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency

72. Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management

73. Stephanie Rostan of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

74. Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

75. Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown LTD

76. Jonathan Lyons of Curtis Brown LTD

77. Alice Tasman of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

78. Laura Biagi of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

79. Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

80. Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

81. Lauren E. MacLeod of The Strothman Agency

82. Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

83. Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary Agency

84. Lisa Rodgers of JABerwocky Literary Agency

85. Joanna MacKenzie of Browne & Miller Literary Associates

86. Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates

87. Katie Kochman of Don Congdon Associates

88. Maura Kye-Casella of Don Congdon Associates

89. Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio

90. Sarah Heller of The Helen Heller Agency

91. Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman

92. Emily Forland of Brandt & Hochman

93. Emma Patterson of Brandt & Hochman

94. Faye Bender of Faye Bender Literary Agency

95. Jason Anthony of Lippincott Massie McQuiken Agency

96. Folade Bell of Serendipity Literary Agency

97. John Weber of Serendipity Literary Agency

98. Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary

99. Ted Malawar of Upstart Crow Literary

100. Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary

You’re welcome. 😉

Now what are you waiting for? Get to querying!

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A Quick Guide to the Publishing Process

A QUICK GUIDEThe publishing process can seem confusing, complicated, and even mysterious to new writers. And it’s especially intimidating for young or new writers. I remember being a teen and not having a clue about how to get published or what publishers wanted.

I’m laying out a brief overview to help new and young writers understand the basics of the publication process. Of course there’s much more to learn, but here’s a simple guide to get you started.

Writing

Start with a finished, edited manuscript. Never ever ever send an unfinished story or (even worse) an idea for a story to an agent or publisher! Anyone can say they’ll write a story, but very few can actually accomplish the feat.

You have to prove that you can write a story, and do it well. So please, for the love of all that is good, do not send out your story unedited! Whether you edit it yourself or hire an editor, make sure it is well-polished.

Querying

Once your manuscript is finished and edited, you can begin querying agents. Sometimes you can send a query directly to a publisher, but nowadays most of them are so overwhelmed by submissions that they require you to be represented by an agent.

Basically, having an agent shows the publisher that your work is worth their time and helps keep you out of the slush pile (aka the rejection pile).

A query letter pitches your story and teases the agent. Your goal is to hook them so they will request more of your story. You will get rejected–and probably many times–but you have to remain persistent, even when you feel as depressed as a Time Lord without a TARDIS.

But take heart! Eventually, you will get a request from an agent to see more of your story. And if they like what they see, things are lookin’ good!

Agents

Once an agent has agreed to represent you, you’ve gotten over the first hurdle. You should be feeling a little something like this:

Revel in the glorious euphoria of your victory.

Since you will be working closely with your agent it’s extremely important to choose one you feel comfortable working with. I know it sounds crazy, but don’t be afraid to turn an agent down if you can’t stand her!

Your agent will help you navigate the treacherous publishing world and help get your story into the hands of publishers. Their insider-knowledge will be invaluable to you.

The agent’s job is to sell your manuscript to a publishing house and negotiate your publishing contract. They do not get paid until you get paid. If an agent ever demands payment up-front, hightail it out of there–it’s a scam!

Publishers

When you make it to this stage jumping up and down is called–preferably accompanied by screaming–because you’re a published author! A publisher has bought the rights to your novel and you’ve signed the contract your agent has negotiated.

In this stage you will work with the in-house editors to do further revisions of your book (though this does not mean you should neglect editing in the early stages!) and your cover will be designed. Marketing strategies will be discussed, and a release date will be set. Advanced copies will be sent out for reviews.

And then the moment will come when your novel officially hits bookstore shelves and your readers snatch it up. Congrats! You made it!

Now you better get started on book two! 😉

What part of the publishing process confuses or intimidates you?

Like what you read? Know someone who might enjoy it? Please share it with other writers! Thank you for reading!

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8 Stories YA Agents and Publishers Want Right Now

8 StoriesNo clue what to write next? It might feel frustrating, but you’re actually in a great position. How so, you may ask?

Well, you have the opportunity to consider what agents and publishers want before you become attached to a new story idea. Think of it as fishing with bait as opposed to tossing out a net and hoping for the best.

Knowing what the people who are buying the stories want will definitely be to your advantage! Here are 8 stories you can use to hook an agent or publisher right now.

#1: Diverse Protagonists

There’s a huge need for diverse books, and publishers and agent are eager to get their hands on some. YA is flooded with way too many protagonists who are white American females–we need to see some representation of other cultures!

#2: Strong Male Protagonists

I honestly can’t even remember the last time I read a book with a male lead. I can’t even name five…the only ones I can think of off my head are Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

There’s no denying it–YA is inundated with female protagonists. This is probably because the majority of YA authors are women. It may be challenging to write from a male’s perspective, but this is definitely something publishers are looking for.

#3: Stand-alone Novels

Believe it or not, we writers don’t have to make every story a trilogy. Publishers are actually getting worn out on trilogies and are looking for stand-alones, especially dystopians. The thinking behind this is it’s less investment on the reader’s part and frees up more time for them to read other books rather than commit to a whole trilogy or series.

#4: Fairytale Retellings

Fairytale retellings are really popular right now, and not just in books. There’s the t.v. series Once Upon a Time, and Disney is taking advantage of the trend with it’s recent film remakes: Snow White and the Huntsman, Malificent, the upcoming Cinderella, and the recently announced Beauty and the Beast.

If you can come up with a fresh twist on a classic tale you will definitely catch an agent’s attention.

#5: Steampunk

There’s not a whole lot of steampunk in YA, and I think that’s part of the reason why agents are looking for it. They’re getting tired of all the paranormal and even (dare I say it) dystopian stuff. It’s time to explore new territory.

#6: New Adult

This is a newly emerging genre, featuring characters aged 18-25 either entering or already in college. There’s not much NA out there right now because it’s so new, so agents and publishers are eager to find some captivating stories in this fledgling genre.

#7: Crime and Con Artists

There seems to be a spark in interest relating to crime, spies, con artists, and heists. Think Heist Society or the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

#8: Historical Fiction

With the avalanche of fantasy and dystopians out there right now, there’s not a whole lot of historical fiction. It’s definitely something agents are looking for, however. Especially historical events that haven’t been done a lot or bring a fresh, interesting take.

But What If…

So, what if none of these ideas are what you want to write? Don’t stress. Always write what you are passionate about, no matter what the trends of the market are or what agents and publishers are looking for. You have to love what you write above all else. And someone’s gotta start the next trend, right? 😉

What kinds of books would you like to see on the market?

Like what you read? Know someone who might enjoy it? Please share it with other writers! Thank you for reading!

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