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When an agent/publisher limits manuscript submissions to your first 50 pages, and goes on to say it should be double-spaced as an attachment, does that mean your first 50 pages from your single-spaced document converted to a double-spaced submission (with standard formatting requiring the half-empty first page), or first converting the manuscript to double-space and formatting it for submission, then cutting it off at the resulting new 50-page mark?

Do you see the confusion? I'm sure everyone in the industry knows the answer but it's not clear to a lot of us, especially as it's totally different if you paste the pages into an email instead of attaching. Then, apparently, you're allowed to single-space, but must block indent.

If we get it wrong, should we assume that's an automatic rejection?

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    In the US at any rate, there are standard formatting guidelines that go beyond line spacing. Font, left justify, how to indicate a scene break, use of italics/bold, header/footer/page count, title page (not typically in a query), and so on. It is my understanding that using unusual formatting for any of these can lead to a quick rejection. The industry standard formatting guidelines can be easily found on google and I imagine one can find if these are needed in Australia as well. Good luck. – DPT May 4 at 16:28
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    Welcome to Writing.SE Laurie. Please check out our tour and our help center. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 4 at 16:34
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To me, the answer has always been pretty clear: fifty pages that happen to be double-spaced, i.e. an amount that would be about 25 otherwise. What would be really confusing is if they expected people to know they really wanted 100. And such page-based requests are similar in practice with the word or chapter counts I've seen elsewhere.

  • That's what I'd finally concluded: 50 pages resulting from formatting and double-spacing. What threw me was a publisher's asking for the 1st 100, which is very unusual. It made me rethink and worry I'd gotten it wrong in previous submissions--either not sent enough or sent too much and got rejected for it. – Laurie Hall May 4 at 14:31
  • @LaurieHall No, some agents just want more than others (e.g. some say 1 chapter, some 3). Which agent wants 100 pages, BTW? – J.G. May 4 at 14:32
  • In this case, it isn't an agent, it's a publisher: Pan Australian MacMillan. See their guidelines for their First Monday of the Month submission. My first reaction was, "Oh, goody! I can send them nearly 200 pages!" (of my single-spaced ms). And then ... uh oh. It's the syntax and punctuation of the guidelines that render ambiguity. – Laurie Hall May 4 at 14:37
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Asking for a certain number of pages, along with particular formatting, can seem like a holdover from a pre-computer age. They forgot to update their requirements! And sometimes it is.

But another way to look at it is to imagine that the publisher will be printing it out. Many probably do. Others may only print out ones that make a final cut. And some may have those huge gorgeous monitors that show an entire easy-to-read page at once.

Whatever the physical machinations they do, consider that they don't want to read 50 pages like it was an email. Or that they want to imagine what your submission would look like in print.

So, format your submission in the standard ways you would use for a printed version. With whatever specifications they choose. Double-spacing is not what they'd use in a book of course, but it is standard for manuscripts so there's room to write notes and corrections. And to be easy on the eye.

The page count they're asking for is after you've done the required formatting. Good luck with it!

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