Stats and Formatting

How many of us have heard something along the lines of “you have as much chance becoming a professional [insert sport here] player as you have of winning the lottery” ? Some of us may have even had parents or teachers crush that dream when we were still young enough to believe that is possible.

I am coming to the conclusion, though, that getting published is the same way. I have now seen two agencies say they take 1% or less of all people who query them. One agent said she gets 1,200 queries a month, ten months a year. That’s 12,000 query letters a year, but 120 or less will be selected for representation. Yes, you must have a good book and a good query, but there’s also an element of luck in there–meeting the right agent at the right time in the right market.

Here are some formatting rules that I have seen for submitting requested materials to an agent or publisher:

  • 8.5 x 11 page
  • Double-space
  • Left-justified (not full align, as it would be in a published book)
  • Put your name, page number and book title on the bottom of every page (use footer)

Most agents want the sample / synopsis (if they want it at all) pasted into the body of an e-mail. I have seen one agent ask for this to be double-spaced, left-justified, so if you have full formatting capabilities on your e-mail, do it. (I don’t think you need to double-space your query letter or bio, but yes on the synopsis and writing sample.)

I use to make proof copies of my books so I can let friends and family read them and, also, it makes proofing easier (for some reason it’s easier to catch typos in print than on a computer screen). If you want to format your Word document for print, here are the settings:

Print margin size:
Top: 0.6
Bottom: 0.6
Inside: 0.5
Outside: .75 

Mirror margins
Page size: 5.13 x 8

*Note – My old version of Word is on crack, and it confuses the inside margin and the outside margin. What you are really doing is setting the inside margin to be wider than the outside margin, in order to allow room for binding. If your word processor is not on crack, you will want to reverse those numbers.

Surfing the Internet is Good for Your Work Ethic

A recent study has found that taking a short mental break from work (like to read my blog, check Facebook, or update your Amazon wishlist) actually helps productivity. Of course this isn’t true if you spend three hours on the internet at a time, but if you can look at one thing for a couple of minutes, then return to work, it will make you more productive.

My husband mentioned a similar phenomenon the other day. He said that, as a trainer, he was taught that people can only engage their brains for 15 minutes before they start shutting down from information overload. So, if he’s in a training class, he lectures for 15 minutes and then has people do a hands-on activity or takes a break for questions. This allows people to lock in what they’ve learned and once the interlude is over, they’re ready for 15 more minutes of lecture.

One could reasonably assume this same thing applies to work environment. You can probably only concentrate on a task for about 15 minutes before your work quality begins to degrade as you get bored and your mind starts to wander. Taking a quick look at the internet (or getting up to get a cup of coffee, if you are so pedestrian) gives your mind a break, and then you’ll be ready to hit it for another 15 minutes.

Now that you’ve read this, go do 15 minutes of work!

Join the Standing Desk Revolution!

I rearranged my office at work Friday and rebuilt my standing desk in the process. I decided it might be time to post another update, as it’s been almost three-and-a-half months since I started spending most of my work time on my feet.

Yes, I still have my standing desk, and yes, I use it every day. No, I don’t want to go back to sitting. Here is a run down of the pros and cons:


  • I work in a law office, and I am the receptionist as well as paralegal, so clients see me standing at my computer. This seems to bewilder a few, and some have joked “Don’t they let you sit down?” I just tell people, “Standing’s better for your health than sitting all day.” Most people then nod at this, realizing it makes sense.
  • I do have some swelling in my ankles that I didn’t used to have. This is cosmetic, however. It’s not like it’s so bad that I can’t get in my shoes or my socks cut off my circulation.
  • Yes, my feet hurt at the end of the day. It’s summer in Tennessee, which means wearing sandals with dresses and skirts. And while I have good, padded Bass sandals, they’re still not made to stand in all day. I am careful to switch up my shoes every day or two between the sandals, tennis shoes, and some low boots with really good soles so I don’t ruin my feet. Even if you have good tennis shoes to wear everyday, I’d still suggest having a different pair to wear and alternate them. Your feet can get repetitive stress syndrome too, and changing your shoes helps keep your feet from being in the exact same position day in and day out.
  • I’m still working on a ghetto desk (although better than what I had before). I haven’t asked for a new one yet (not sure I can get one, since it’s clearly not a necessity).


  • My lower back pain/tailbone pain that I had four months ago is gone and has been gone. I know this seems counter-intuitive–you’d think I’d have more back pain, not less–but it’s true: sitting was killing my back.
  • I just noticed the other day that I haven’t had nerve pain in my left leg in quite a while. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I got pain in my left leg when I stood any length of time. I sort of felt like I had a catch in my hip socket, and if I could just move it the right way, it’d pop (it never did). This was accompanied by some nerve pain/aches down the front of my thigh, along with some numbness in the skin. I linked this to having taken a bad fall off my horse a few years ago and landing on that hip. When I first started standing at my desk, I just suffered this pain, because I was able to lessen it sometimes by sitting down or walking around more (whereas I couldn’t seem to ease my back pain, short of standing for long periods of time). But, at some point, my hip quit hurting without me noticing. Now I wonder if sitting wasn’t causing some sort of stress point which only manifested when I stood up.


I do not want to give up my standing desk. Mild foot pain and puffy ankles is a small price to pay to eliminate much worse pain in my back and hip. Also, now that I’m on the No S Diet, which just limits sweets, snacks and second helpings, I’m starting to notice some weight loss. I’m angling to be part of that statistic that people who stand all day have, on average, a 1.6″ smaller waist than people who sit all day.

I mentioned above that I rebuilt my ghetto desk when I moved my office around. It used to be a couple of boxes on top of my credenza, which held my keyboard and mouse, and a couple of smaller boxes on top of them for my monitor and a lamp. After 3 months, though, I was starting to get some box buckling and my monitor had a noticeable tilt to the left.

Here’s how it shakes down now: I have a small, half-round table up on paint cans (I told you it was ghetto). On top of this I have two empty storage boxes, which are topped with a scrap piece of drywall. I still have my piece of green velvet covering it like a tablecloth. My desk faces the door, and behind it is my tall filing cabinet–with my monitor and speakers sitting on top of it (it also hides mos. I have a lot more surface area with the piece of dry wall and it is very sturdy. And between it and the filing cabinet, I don’t have to worry about my stuff falling into my boxes. If I had known how fabulous a table top-like surface could be, I would have already scrounged a scrap of wood or something. Of course, my original box desk was just supposed to be temporary while I decided if I liked standing.

If I Had A Magic Wand


I can think of at least one person who needs to be turned into a newt right this minute. Once I de-stress, I'd probaby figure out how to use it for world peace–probably by turning other undesirables into newts. Not only will we have peace, but flies and other annoying bugs will be nearly eradicated.

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On finishing books


Most of the time, yes. It has to be a really bad book for me to give up on it entirely. I also avoid skipping chapters (in non-fiction), even if I just want to hurry up and get to the later chapters.

The last book I gave up on completely was "Your Inner Economist." It had an interesting principle: how to negoiate all sorts of situations (involving money or not) based on economic principals of what people are willing or not willing to do. However, the writing was about what you would expect from an economist who had no real training as a writer. Luckily I only paid a $1 for it at Books-a-Million.

I just finished reading "The Vanishing American Jew" by Alan Dershowitz–but only because I was tenacious. The information in it was good and interesting, but it needed to be shorter. Out of a little over 300 pages of text (not counting endnotes), I think 50 pages could have been cut. In places he took too long to get to the point, and in other places he repeated himself.

It makes me appreciate the necessity of keeping the books I'm writing ( trimmed down. I'm naturally wordy and when I start to write, it takes me a page or two to get warmed up; all the more reason to go back afterwards and trim.

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