Done! And two hours before deadline, you think with exhausted relief as you close your laptop. After three months of hard work, you just completed the revisions requested by your editor at New York’s latest imprint: Guillotine. You gaze out the window of your favorite Brooklyn coffee shop and wonder if the morning dew has lifted from the grass in Central Park. Eleven o’clock is still two hours away. Maybe I should deliver my manuscript in person. Then I’ll go lie down in the park, eyes turned toward the sky as the blades of grass tickle my soul, welcoming me back to the real world.
Ugh! Better not, you remember. Your agent, a smarmy British fellow named Dudley Faber, didn’t get you the best contract terms. I should have dumped him when I found out his real name is Vincent, and he’s from from New Jersey. The contract provision specifying “complete removal of one digit from the tardy author’s hand or foot” per every hour of lateness was particularly troubling. I’ll finish my drink and send it by email, you decide.
For unsolicited submissions, most literary agents prefer email queries with sample pages pasted into the body of the message. Email submissions save time and trees, but if sample pages are requested with a submission, it’s better to ask for that material as an attachment. Here’s why:
An attached file is the only way to maintain the integrity of the submitting author’s work. Emails are sent and received via one of three formats: HTML, rich text, or text only. When the email formats don’t match, the sender’s email loses its intended styling (and Gmail restyles everything, grrr!). Pretend George R.R. Martin doesn’t have an agent, and he queries you, but your email program renders his sample material completely awkward because it eliminates his use of italics to express first-person thoughts. In evaluating Martin’s submission, you would assume that he doesn’t know the difference between first- and third-person narration. Oops. Good writers format their work appropriately, so why let an email program ruin a potentially great query by butchering its format?